By Dave Campbell | June 2, 2010
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Writers: Vincenzo Natali, Doug Taylor, Antoinette Terry Bryant
Starring: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chanéac
Splice begins with us meeting “rock star” genetic scientists Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) who specialize in the splicing of DNA of different animals species to engineer new hybrids…they are also a couple. In order to stay step ahead of others in their field, Clive and Elsa’s next step is to introduce human DNA into their hybrids in order to revolutionize the science of modern medicine. However, Newstead Pharmaceuticals (who funds their research) forbids them in taking this controversial next step.
As rebellious as they are brilliant, Clive and Elsa conduct their own secret experiments with the end result producing a creature they come to call Dren, which is the anadrome of their research company N.E.R.D (Nucleic Exchange Research and Development labs). Dren is a spectacular and oddly attractive humanoid creature that exhibits uncommon growth and intelligence which leads to many unexpected physical developments as she rapidly matures. As Clive and Elsa’s dreams start coming true before their eyes, Dren begins to become unmanageable as her various adult animal instincts begin to take over and unleash their darkest desires, truths, and fears.
It’s pleasing to see Warner Bros. step up and take a chance on a film that obviously needs to be seen, but pushes many social and “morality” buttons. You’ve got to hand it to the brave souls that have such a passion for genre films, that they face the possibility of putting their heart into a film that may never receive distribution because mainstream studios usually don’t understand how to market them. Luckily for us and the filmmakers, the Sitges and Sundance festivals created enough buzz to start a bidding war between The Weinstein Company, Newmarket Films, Apparition, First Look Studios, Samuel Goldwyn Films and Dark Castle Entertainment, with Joel Silver’s Dark Castle Entertainment (Warner Bros. affiliate) ultimately claiming victory.
When you take a talented director in the world of dark science fiction who has influences ranging from fine artist Patricia Piccinini, director David Cronenberg, Ridley Scott’s Alien and Frankenstein it’s easy to see how Splice was born. However, it’s Vincenzo Natali’s ability to know his elemental influences and then separate from them that allow him to make a fresh engaging world for his own visions to thrive. Since his feature debut Cube, Natali has been a strong contributer to the sci-fi/fantasy genre and now delivers a modern, mostly scientifically accurate take on the classic Mad Scientist/Frankenstein tale. Splice is a thriller in the sense that it is shocking and pushes limits rather then being a thriller in the scope of horror. Not to say that the film doesn’t have moments of horrific outcomes, but the trailer would lead you to believe that you’ll be watching a horror movie – but you really won’t be.
With a running time of 104 minutes, Splice seems to breeze by, leaving some unanswered questions; some which make the film stronger by allowing the audience to ponder and others that left me wishing that they had expanded on them further. Given the outrageously heavy subject matter of the film, Natali was very strategic in casting Adrien Brody (Clive), Sarah Polley (Elsa) and French actress Delphine Chaneac (Dren) while bringing in Howard Berger for makeup/FX, and up-and-coming French composer Cyrille Aufort to make everything physically, emotionally, and environmentally believable. Without solid talent from all directions this is the kind of film that could have ended up as a direct-to-DVD release seen by little, but thankfully due to the well crafted writing and proven chops from Natali, all the right pieces came together for a memorable and shocking experience.
Be sure to check out my exclusive interview with the director of SPLICE, Vicenzo Natali: Vincenzo Natali (SPLICE) | Interview