Splice returns to the age old lesson of science fiction horror: don't play God. No matter how good your intentions, you'll eventually unleash an enraged super-beast that will cut a swath through everyone that you hold dear. In this way, Splice, like so many other films, mimics the classic Frankenstein story. However, unlike all of those other films, Splice is not a mindless, gore-stricken creature feature, but rather an intelligent thriller.
Elsa (Sarah Polley) and Clive (Adrian Brody) play scientists, genetic engineers to be exact, who successfully combine animal DNA and create hybrid animals. On the high of their success, they want to move forward and throw human DNA into the mix, which their company strictly forbids and instead transfers them to other, tedious work. The mad scientists that they are, they continue their research in secret and thus Dren is born - a human/animal hybrid.
This is usually the point in the film where the story sheds any semblance of science fiction and goes all-out horror as the monster begins wreaking havoc on the human race. But Splice isn't like, instead spending a lot of time on Dren's upbringing. The term "horror" almost seems misleading for a film that spends such a large chunk of its screen time moving at a slow, non-violent pace; but that isn't to say it's boring.
On the contrary, it's fascinating to watch how Elsa and Clive raise Dren, bickering and disagreeing like real parents with a real human child. And then there's always the ethical dilemma floating in the air. Is Dren dangerous? Should she be destroyed before this goes any further. The question is there, but as they grow more attached to their creation it gets harder and harder to acknowledge. The tension is thick.
After a while, albeit a good while, you too will fall for Dren. Despite having a venomous stinger on her tail and razor sharp teeth, she seems too curious and scared to be dangerous. But she's like a child, and children are emotionally unstable. And if this one has a temper tantrum, you might not make it out alive.
And like that, we know what these characters feel. We're rooting for Dren to be a success, but we know deep down that it won't happen, and that when everything goes South it will be a monumental disaster.
Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody are both good actors and their performances lend credibility to the whole thing. There are times, early on in the film, when Dren is just a featureless thing, but because Elsa and Clive treat it will love and admiration, we begin to as well. French actress and model Delphine Chanéac is disturbingly memorable as Dren, a role in which she nailed the childlike innocence while remaining curiously terrifying. It doesn't hurt that she's very pretty, which turns the creepiness of the whole thing up a few notches.
Splice is a wonderful science fiction horror that certainly doesn't skimp on the science fiction. It's creative, it's well-acted, and it's tense. The only downside is that in the creation of Dren, the priority seemed to be to craft an excellent horror movie monster, rather than a believable product of science, but as I said before, excellent acting makes it all real.
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