Canadian director Vincenzo Natali scored a cult hit with his first feature film Cube (1997). Made on a small budget the clever sci-fi thriller involved strangers trapped in a cube-like maze. Sticking with the sci-fi horror theme, but with a vastly improved (but not astronomical) budget, Splice is a project that Natali and his producer friend Steven Hoban, have been mulling around since the late ‘90s. The story plays with tropes that have existed around scientific experiments for centuries and is in many ways a modern interpretation of the Frankenstein story. Using ideas of genetics and cloning that brings with it ready understood moral subtext, Splice is a mix of schlocky B-grade fun and borrowed Cronenberg-esque exploration (read: The Fly).
Splice introduces us to two celebrity genetic engineers (they make the front cover of magazines) Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley).They have been successfully splicing together DNA from different animal species, creating strange tongue/slug/phallic looking hybrid creatures that could hold the key to cures for animal diseases. Funded by an (evil) pharma corporation who want to see money returns for their investment, Clive and Elsa’s plans for more experimentation are halted to try and work up some pharmaceutical benefits from their research.
Driven by a higher cause- Science for humanity- Elsa and Clive, after some prodding, embark on a secret experiment splicing human and animal DNA- du-dun-dunnnnnnnnnnn. The discourses on the morality of messing with nature are as old as the hills, and as such we know from the beginning of the film nothing good can come from it.
Frankenstein’s monster of the piece, DREN (Delphine Chaneac) looks predominately human, but has some interesting faun-from Pan’s Labyrinth’s legs (thanks to executive producer Guillermo del Toro) and some peculiar additional animal anatomy. But of course the real monsters of the piece are the full-humans, who obviously failed Ethics 101.
Natali’s does make some interesting points looking at the current practice of delayed child-rearing by young professionals. Our two central characters are too busy to have their own children, yet inadvertently make one anyway whom they have to raise during the film. Canadian actress, Sarah Polley has been a fabulous asset to films since her breakout performance in Egoyan’s Sweet Hereafter, and teases the emotional aspects from Splice’s script. Brody is pretty good at playing cocky so sits well in his part of rock n’ roll scientist- getting to wear some of the most patterned suits ever made.
Splice is most enjoyable when it embraces and revels in its science-experiment-gone-wrong cheeky horror persona. Segments of this film are hilarious (hopefully intentionally) with completely over-the-top gore and general inappropriateness. But when the film tries to bring up its serious side, it is all too easy to think of films that tackle the subject matter with more inventiveness and original thought than this.
It’s time for you to make up your own minds- Schlock horror or sci-fi with more than just a cheeky grin? We have 10 in-season double passes for Splice to give away to Trespass’ Australian readers. In order to be in running, you must be subscribed to Trespass’ fortnightly newsletter. If you aren’t already, you can do so here. After that, simply email your name and postal address to firstname.lastname@example.org by 17th August. Make sure to put ‘Splice’ in the title of the email.
Splice is released nationally on the 12th August
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Cast: Sarah Polley, Adrien Brody, Delphone Chaneac, Brandon McGibbon, David Hewlett