Tuesday, February 8, 2011


For the longest time, I was planning to not see Splice. The movie I saw laid out before me in the trailer was that of the folly of science, creating a humanoid being that turns out to be a (literally) man-eating seductress who does not let such petty problems as biology get in the way of getting her freak on with the bumblig science guy, and then eat him. Nothing new, nothing really interesting, soft science all around, what has humanity wrought, etc etc.

I am, however, taught, yet again, not to judge a freakish decidedly not-entirely-human humanoid on it's cover, and to sort out my goddamned metaphors, for that matter. What convinced me to give this one a chance was, believe it or not, the director. Vincenzo Natali, the man responsible for both Cube, which is one of my favorite horror movies of all time, and Ginger Snaps, which I wasn't crazy about, but definitely is good, in that "what is it with Canadians and horror" sort of way.
No, no, not like that one .... Rowsdower
I call this movie a horror movie, but I'm not so sure on the definition of that, but I'll get into that after the recap. The movie follows two scientists, Clive and Elsa, played, respectively, by the flaming passion in human form that is Adrian Brody and Sarah Polley. The two find themselves struggling to get continued corporate funding for their genetic research, this sorta degenerates into a B-plot, though, as they create a human/animal gene grab bag which matures quickly into a... being they name Dren.

Actually, most of the movie isn't really about the funding or ethics of the whole thing, although it gets brought up occasionally, and ends up showing a pretty big part of things towards the end, I wouldn't say that's what the movie is about. No, you see, since Dren, the human-esque girl's creation was unplanned, probably unethical and  overall something the bigwigs at Financing IffyMoralsCorp would not approve, our two scientists, who are together, for the record, raise the strange tadpole-scorpion-winged-something as... well, their daughter, and this is where the movie grows interesting. Lurking in the background, we're given more than a few hints that's Elsa's childhood was less than stellar, and that her mother had this whole control issues thing which her daughter may or may not have gotten herself. It doesn't come fully into play before the end, but when it does, it's easily the most unnerving scene in the movie, and better than the quote-unquote climax by far.

As one might glean from the recap, this movie is rather light on the horror. It's more of a Soft Sci Fi story, using this cloning to explore how the characters act around life they, in the quite old-fashioned semi-godlike fashion, created, and how their character flaws end up fucking them all over. Good times. One could argue that Adrian Brody doesn't as much act as he's just... there, but on the other hand, his dispassionate presence sorta fills a role in itself, so I guess it actually works here. I don't know why I tend to notice how hard Brody is not acting, especially how he easily acts circles around... say... Mark Wahlberg, then again, I'm pretty sure a ten-sided die can act better than Mark Wahlberg.

At any rate, what I consider the biggest flaw of the movie is that the ending's sorta... not right. Horror-wise it pretty much does it right, we have a murderous beast with sexual undertones (or overtones, some might argue) chasing people through a forest. However, I just can't get into it. Partially because the tonal shift, the family situation at the scientists' place escalates until Elsa straps Dren down on a table and cuts her poisonous stinger tail off. This scene is easily the most tense and, in a certain degree, frightening scene in the movie. Although it has never been explicit, it's quite obvious that Elsa's mother was, as we say in the business, quite mad,  and it seems that here, Elsa has followed suit. Sure, there's a perfectly good reason for cutting that thing off, it's a goddamn liability on account of being poisonous and deployable like a proper scorpion stinger what speed is considered, but that doesn't change that Elsa dehumanizes Dren, who she up to this point treated like her own daughter. In another movie, this might have been the sign that Elsa saw Dren as the abomination she truly was, but the way it's played, I really think you're supposed to think this was a seriously dick move. Point is, after all that, the actual wham-ending just feels... tame, although that too contains some unpleasantness, including Elsa's "comeupance" if one can say that without sounding like there's some seriously wrong with you, but it just doesn't feel like it's supposed to be scary or suspenseful, it's just to mop up the loose ends after the movie's two big scenes. Which isn't to say that it comes out of nowhere or doesn't do a good job, because it, respectively, is foreshadowed, and does tie off various loose threads to some degree, at least.

All in all, I liked Splice, it was much better than I had expected, and a weak last 5-ish minutes really did not detract from the characters, SFX and just plain copious amounts of thought that was put into this movie. This is probably a good movie to show people who do not like horror movies, although you might not recruit all that many people through this one, as it's fairly open about not being much of a horror movie, when you look away from the trailer, that is.

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