Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Movie Review: Splice (2010)

Splice (2010)

Directed By:
Vincenzo Natali

Clive: Adrien Brody
Elsa: Sarah Polley
Dren: Delphine Chaneac


Yeah, Well, That's Just Your Opinion, Man

Splice concerns the exploits of a pair of rogue hipster scientists whose hobbies include music, sewing work-inappropriate patches to their lab coats, and genetic manipulation. Thanks to Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polly), a multinational pharmaceutical company stands to make billions on Fred and Ginger, two funky-looking monsters that hold the key to making medicine that will cure disease and make money. Naturally, Clive and Elsa want to go farther.

Farther means slipping some human DNA into their already complicated stew, and hey, why not? Fred and Ginger are doing fine, and there's plenty of space in their research facility that's going unnoticed and unused. The result of their experiment is Dren, who, in addition to looking a little bit like every animal thrown into the pot (a distinction Fred and Ginger don't share), is decidedly human, exhibiting consciousness and a rapidly-growing intelligence. She can spell, draw, show appreciation for gifts, and give Clive the eyes.

The movie is half-interesting and, not knowing if it should focus on Dren or her parents, chooses Clive and Elsa and makes a mistake. The two move Dren out to the farm that Elsa grew up in, and we learn that Elsa didn't have a very happy childhood. That manifests in her treatment of Dren. She is first obsessed with the creature, calling it a child and taking the guard off of its stinger as an infant. As it becomes obvious that Dren doesn't have much in the way of affection for Elsa, she goes full-blown mad-scientist, stripping Dren of the humanity she'd previously given her, strapping her to a table, and amputating Dren's stinger. It may be worth noting that "Elsa" is one letter removed from "Ilsa," the she-wolf of the S.S., who castrated men after sleeping with them.

Just as the movie starts to get really interesting, everything is thrown headlong into your typical monster-in-the-woods sequence, which, if you were paying attention, will have been made obvious even before Dren gets what she really wants from Clive. Splice even ends with a sequel-baiting scene typical of most horror movies, which wasn't really what the film was until it needed an ending. Or maybe it had a different ending, but not the kind that'd satisfy an audience looking to a movie like Splice for monster-based hacking and slashing.

Which is too bad, because Splice was very close to making up for its slow start and misdirected attention. Instead of making Dren a memorable character in her own right, what limited development she receives and a great amount of the plot revolving her are thrown away for the chase finale, clumsily absolving Clive and Elsa of their sins and casting them as the victim of a dumb, violent mistake.

Classic monster movies almost never made this error. Dracula seemed almost as horrified at what he was going to do as his victims. Frankenstein's monster, being chased with torches and pitchforks, merely wanted to be accepted and allowed to live in peace. The Wolfman, howling sadly at the moon, was a good man victimized by circumstance. Unlike these characters, Dren is never let out of the barn her parents lock her up in. Her humanity is discarded and she becomes the monster in the woods, belonging to a movie where a gang of drug-fueled, sex-starved teenagers take a wrong turn on a backwoods road. None of those movies have gone anywhere interesting for a few decades now, and, in the end, neither does Splice.

1 comment:

  1. Pity. It has just come out in the UK and the trailer looked interesting as does the talent involved. But your review makes me think it ends up losing anything unique and becomes something along the lines of Species. Perhaps enjoyable for the first time but no repeat value.