Elsa (Sarah Polley) and Clive (Adrien Brody) a young and ambitious couple of scientists (a punkier version of Marie and Pierre Curie) make a great team, both in private life and in their professional field of gene splicing.
The duo has been contracted by a pharmaceutical cooperation to develop a new amorphous Hybrid species spliced from numerous genes of several animals. When Elsa proposes to take the experiments to the next level and to use Human DNA, the company, afraid to be maligned by the press quickly pulls the plug.
However Elsa won’t give up this easily, and they continue their experiment in secrecy, splicing compatible human and animal DNA under the agreement, that their new species should never reach full term.
Their experimental species hatches faster than expected; the result is a two-legged mouse-like creature, which seems to be suffering from rapid aging. Due to Elsa’s sympathy for the creature (or perhaps just for the scientific glory) she convinces Clive to let it live, assuming that it will be dead soon.
Within a few days the new species, now called Dren develops into an almost human looking little girl (apart from a tail with a stinger and the lack body hair). The couple continues to observe it and start dressing it in human clothing while Elsa becomes more and more like a mother to Dren.
When Dren becomes too big they hide her at Elsa’s old family farm and things start to turn ugly for everyone.
Vincenzo Natali’s “Splice” goes further than merely exploiting the cloning scare (which anyways died down a lot during the last decade) but rather works as a metaphor against child abuse and the unethical treatment of living beings.
As soon as Dren matures into a more curvy being (Delphine Chanéac) Clive begins to sexually lust after her.
Elsa fails to see the signs, instead she becomes jealous that Dren might like Clive more than her and slowly changes her motherly tone, starting to emotionally abuse her while keeping her imprisoned in the old run down farm.
Elsa and Clive might not necessarily be bad people, but it’s obvious, that they were not meant to be parents, and both are incapable of raising a child (especially one with special needs like Dren).
Dren has to adapt to her environment, undergoing both a mental and evolutionary change in order to survive, leading to a shocking finale.
Polley is excellent (A rare case where the female “Hero” is actually more menacing than “the monster”). The standout performance however comes from Delphine Chanéac, despite not having any lines (I loved the fact that Dren does not speak) and being hidden behind make-up and partial CGI. She conveys Dren’s emotions wonderfully and makes her character compelling and interesting.
The film is not without it’s flaws; the ending seemed a bit rushed (They could have easily added another 20 minutes to build into the finale and allow it to breath easier)
The Photography for most part is nothing to write home about – I have expressed my dislike for this cold green look that 80% of all Horror films today seem to have adapted already in the past. It is overused and ugly aesthetically, yet this glossy hospital look actually works better here (since many earlier scenes take place in a lab) and Natali does give us an occasional flavour of colour (mainly red – such as Polley’s jacket and red couch pillows placed in the background).
One of the best new Horror/ Sci-Fi films I have seen in quite a while, Natali’s direction is strong and the script is in equal measures disturbing and a darkly funny.
Also how can I not love a film that features two creatures named “Ginger and Fred”? (4-4.5/5)
© Salem Kapsaski