Screen Rant's Vic Holtreman reviews Splice
We first mentioned Splice way back in November 2007. Guillermo del Toro (Blade 2, Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth) was producing and Vincenzo Natali (director and co-writer of the cult classic Cube) was set to direct. It took a while to make it to the screen, premiered in Spain last November and had its real debut at Sundance this year. And now U.S. theater goers finally have their chance to get totally creeped out by it.
Right from the start, you'll be wondering what you're in for with some of the creepiest opening credits I've seen in a film. Splice stars Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley as Clive Nikolai and Elsa Cast, a scientist couple who are at the forefront of genetic engineering. Their latest creations are "Fred and Ginger," a pair of living, amorphous blobs from which proteins can be farmed that are invaluable in creating medications for diseases prevalent among farm animals. They were created from spliced together genes from a number of different animals.
The pharmaceutical company which employs them (which surprisingly is NOT portrayed as the prototypical "evil corporation") needs a big win for the board of directors and stockholders. They want to move to the next level with the current research but Sarah and Clive want to jump ahead to what THEY consider the next level: Introducing human genes into the splicing program.
David Hewlett (best known from Stargate: Atlantis) is the supervising scientist and both he and the company president are against the idea due to both the risks and the ethical implications (especially how the press and public would react). Our pair of scientists are terribly put out by this news, in particular Sarah - who has made up her mind that she wants to move forward. Apparently she has Clive wrapped around her finger because despite his extreme reservations he goes along with her plan; hesitating and faltering at the last possible moment in which he can stop the entire experiment.
What follows starts out weird, moves to along to "creepy" and eventually ends up at "oh... DUDE!!"
At first the creature looks like no more than a misshapen organism, but as it grows it begins to look like a deformed infant and as it ages into a child it become a bit less deformed in some ways but more unsettling in others. While they struggle to keep it hidden from co-workers, Elsa becomes more and more attached to the creature, which while looking partially like a little girl, resembles more of a wild animal that someone tries to adopt and tame.
As Dren (eventually played by Delphine Chanéac) matures, the film really keeps you guessing as to what will happen next - which way it will turn, what will or can they do with the eventually fully matured woman/creature and at what point will things go horribly wrong (and boy, do they).
Vincenzo Natali does a fine job with what seems to be a fairly low budget, but the CGI effects that combine with live action to create Dren from infant to adult must not have been cheap. The low key way in which it was shot makes it feel somewhat cold and very real-world. Adrien Brody is always up to whatever acting task comes his way and Sarah Polley is convincing as the scientist with a hidden agenda hidden behind "mommy" instincts.
Really the first two-thirds to three-quarters of the film outshine what comes after. It's not that what comes towards the end is bad - it's just that the film goes from unique and engrossing Sci-Fi to more of a conventional horror film. Of course with that final act comes a thing or two that the viewer will probably find quite unsettling.
Splice is a hard movie to describe as far as for a recommendation - it's a cross between horror and Sci-Fi, and while it's not terribly gory, it IS unsettling and definitely deserves its R-rating. It tells a story that you'd think has been done to death, but approaches it from a new and surprising angle that is... well... I'm not sure refreshing is the right word, but you get my drift.
So I'll leave you with that, and another look at the trailer for the film to help you decide.