Looking at the poster above, you would think the new sci-fi horror flick Splice was some kind of cloning-era mish-mash of Alien and Species. Based up the trailers, you would think that too. On the surface all would point to this. Well, golly, who knew you would be so wrong?
The film opens with a terminally hip power couple turned scientists-du-jour (Oscar winner Adrien Brody and indie film darling Sarah Polley) working for a pharmaceutical company (headed by a cold and demanding French woman played by Simona Maicanescu) splicing away to create a new species that can be used for the harvesting of therapeutic and disease curing genes. Upon threat of being shut down and not allowed to continue their experiments, Polley’s character has the awful idea to splice in some human DNA on the sly — just to see if they could’ve done it, you know, that old song and dance. The result — you guessed it — is a fast growing super-freaky French mutant (Delphine Chaneac) with wings and a long-tailed stinger who likes to play Scrabble.
But lurking underneath the guise of this well-worn Frankenstein-style think piece is a depraved little piece of American Gothic hullabaloo complete with hysterical women and family secrets. Here we have character development and back story the likes of which this genre is not accustomed to, and while at first refreshing, it quickly slips into super dark territory. Color me surprised…and talk about a botched and misleading marketing campaign. To delve into the truly bizarre nature of Splice would be to give away too much, but if you were like me and feared they had given too much away in the trailers, they didn’t. You should be fearful for a whole myriad of other reasons when delving into Vincenzo Natali’s undeniably disturbing, somewhat ridiculous and well acted fright fest.
Don’t go in expecting a tightly wound story attacking the ethical and moral dilemmas of genetic engineering. These questions are raised, but only within the far-fetched premise of the film’s set-up. Fiendishly that set-up leads to moral and ethical questions surrounding parenthood – in any day and age, in any form or species. You see, as we learn the truth behind Sarah Polley’s character’s past and motivations, we end up with a story about child abuse within a dysfunctional family. It just so happens this family is made up of mad scientists, and their misbegotten child is a genetically engineered monster. Yup, Splice is that old story.
Why some people do what they do…we may never know. And why one of the greatest forms of entertainment will always be lurking to see what people do behind closed doors…well…as the evil French pharmaceutical company lady in this film might say, c’est la vie.
Like a bastardized female-centric Eraserhead by way of Jerry Springer, Splice is a slick, sick piece of subversive trash.
Written by David H. Schleicher