"Splice" Review 5 out of 5 Stars
Fri, 04 Jun 2010 07:37:03
Splice has the perfect formula for terror.
The film stirs up a dark concoction of ambiguous moral dilemmas, the destruction of a relationship and the dangers of playing God. The scariest part of Splice isn't its main monster, Dren, it's the realization that the "human" characters are far more depraved than she could ever be. There are elements of the movie's two rogue scientists—Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley)—in all of us, which makes director Vincenzo Natali's film more of a commentary on human nature than anything else.
Clive and Elsa are two hotshots in their field. They've spliced together a myriad of disparate organisms and given "birth" to two new entities, the blob-y Ginger and Fred. However, they've yet to add human DNA to the mix. In an attempt to revolutionize medicine, they give it a shot against the better judgment of their funding pharmaceutical company. The two of them could go to jail, but Elsa's insistent. She clings to the thought that after the world sees Ginger and Fred they'll "want to see what's next."
So they splice DNA from an anonymous female donor into the animal hybrid in secret and the result is a new creature—Dren.
Initially, Dren simply resembles a scared child. She's quiet and skittish, climbing the walls of the lab frantically and frazzled. The moments where she first comes to life are packed with tension because with her oversized head, tail and strange legs—Clive and Elsa (and the audience) have never seen anything like her. Our inherent fear of the unknown is played upon but in a classy, sophisticated fashion. Natali doesn't go for simple quick scares, we get to know Dren and we also get to know Clive and Elsa.
Elsa instantly forms a bond with Dren coddling her like a baby in the lab, but Clive has his suspicions. Those suspicions lead to one especially harrowing sequence in the bathtub, but to reveal more would be ruining the evil magic that is Splice.
Dren grows up fast, and as an adult she's played by the entrancingly brilliant Delphine Chaneac. She's too big to hide in the lab any longer so Clive and Elsa lock her in the barn of Elsa's childhood home. That's when everything really derails…
Splice's scariest moments come at the most unexpected times. Dren often acts like a child, but a sudden movement or even Chaneac narrowing her gaze can spark palpable fear. You can't trust her, but she's so uniquely beautiful that you want to, just as much as Elsa does.
Elsa has her own demons, which Natali reveals in subtle fashion—showing a tattered mattress on the floor of the frigid farmhouse in Elsa's room which was just as her mother left it. The tension builds between Elsa and Clive once they're in the farmhouse because the trust they had in the beginning breaks down. At the same time, Dren has become stronger than the both of them. The lies that become revealed are just as heart-wrenching as the film's bloodier moments, which are vividly hypnotic due to Natali's unique aesthetic—check one "unveiling" sequence for proof.
Natali knows how to conjure unease. The lab that Elsa and Clive work in feels cold as the camera circles around the sterile décor. The barn and farm are cracked and empty from real sadness. It seemed like Elsa and Clive at least had each other, but the gap widens as Elsa, becoming very motherly, gets closer with Dren even as she "misbehaves." Meanwhile, Brody and Polley's performances are top-notch. They think they're doing the right thing by playing god here and given the possibility Dren could open the door to all kinds of cures, it seems right, but is it?
The film never tells the audience what to believe or who to side with. Clive and Elsa both have skeletons and demons that come out as the story unwinds. It's easy to connect with them because they're so flawed and genuine.
Splice is the scariest film of 2010 because it feels so real and so otherworldly at the same time. It's a groundbreaking game-changer of a movie that plays on all kinds of fears. Refreshingly, Splice wasn't derived from pre-existing material either. The movie came from a script Natali co-wrote with Antoinette Terry Bryant, and it's solely a new vision.
In the end, Splice will make you think, as all great, original horror (and cinema) should.
5 Out of 5 Stars
Check out our exclusive Splice cast video interview with Adrien Brody and Delphine Chaneac here and below!
Will you be seeing Splice?