11 June 2010

Splice 2009 - REVIEW

Hollywood history is full of films that depict man's quest to create life by transgressing human reproduction. James Whale did it in his 1931 adaptation of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein". Roman Polanski evolved the idea in "Rosemary's Baby" and Larry Cohen took contemporary paranoias and brought them to life in "It's Alive". Vincenzo Natali's "Splice" falls somewhere within the same category of mad science and moral/ethical conundrums however, that's about as far as the comparison can go (IMO).

Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) are two rebellious scientists/lovers who are put in charge of developing a protein by splicing together genes from several different species. When their project goes horribly wrong, they are given an ultimatum, get it done or get out. They decide to ignore all moral, ethical and legal ramifications and secretly add human DNA to the sequence. What they end up with is a creature that rapidly transforms from a nasty little slug type thing into a beautiful winged chimera. Aside from the wide set eyes, she basically looks human from the waist up whereas the bottom half of her looks like something straight out of David Twohy's "The Arrival".

Elsa does her best at being a "protective mother" to the creature she's named Dren (Nerd spelled backwards) but Clive is not as enthusiastic about keeping this dirty little secret. The mother/daughter bond between Elsa and Dren (Delphine Chaneac) progresses nicely until she becomes too much to handle and when the threat of being discovered becomes too great, they move her to an old farm house once owned by Elsa's abusive and now dead mother. Poor Dren is locked away in the barn and left to play with her Barbies and costume jewelry but eventually, this is not enough and she becomes restless, flying into fits of rage, breaking things and running away.

Elsa soon becomes fed up with motherhood and switches back into scientist mode, proving that the psychopathy of the parent can in fact be transmitted to the child. BUT, never fear! The protective parent role is now being played by Clive, well sort of, and he comes to Dren's rescue... sort of. As the bond between parents and child switch, the danger level rises and it becomes clear that the experiment is over. One way or another.

Once again, I'm left wondering how movies are categorized these days. The way Splice was advertised, I expected an in your face SciFi/Horror. For me, this means I'm gonna get some freak, human/animal hybrid that runs amuck, killing and eating people... or eating them alive... or just killing people... kinda like Aliens. Instead I got something that played out more like a SciFi/Drama/Suspense. Maybe the last twenty minutes or so bumped it up to a Thriller but the only horror I found in the story were the actions of two selfish people trying to make a name for themselves without any regard for anything or anyone.

The effects were brilliant, as was the direction and the idea itself was refreshing in this current world of remakes and 3D. The story line didn't seem contrived at all. Everything that happened served a purpose in that it moved the story forward.

So, why am I so conflicted with this film? I'll tell you... I didn't get the complete 180 of either Brody or Polley's characters. Normally it's a transition that you would expect to see but... nope... totally different from one scene to the next. Talk about a bi-polar mess! Even Clive's brother Gavin (Brandon McGibbon) flip flopped like a slinky on a staircase and he was only in 4 scenes, IF THAT. The only consistent character was that of the chirping, purring science experiment and even William Barlow (David Hewlett) started off as an asshole and ended the same way. Consistency people, consistency!

I absolutely hated the fact that Natali gave in to the predictable ending syndrome that affects so many films today. In my opinion, the last five minutes were a complete waste of film but of course, we have to be left wondering "Hmm, will there be a sequel?" Well hell yeah... isn't there a sequel to everything nowadays?

All in all, I found Splice to be fresh and entertaining. I'm not sure that it could scare the pants off anyone over the age of 10 but it's most definitely a nail biter. The innocence of Dren will suck you in and keep you watching, if for no other reason than to root for her.

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