- Cast:Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley
- Release Date:August 12, 2010
- Running time:104 minutes
- Film Worth:$13.50
- FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
A compelling and intelligent horror film which twists genre conventions to deliver something excitingly new.
The horror genre is one often fairly derided as being devoid of real ideas, or any kind of guiding moral compass. When any genre hits rock bottom, however, it provides an opportunity for the few fine films bobbing around to really make their presence felt.
Conjuring up memories of the earlier, fiercely cerebral (but horribly bloody) work of writer/director David Cronenberg, Splice is the best film tossed up by the horror genre in some time. The film's impressively glacial tone and ringing cacophony of fascinating ideas comes courtesy of Canadian director Vincenzo Natali (who co-wrote the probing screenplay with Antoinette Terry Bryant and Doug Taylor), who marked himself as a major talent to watch with his labyrinthine 1997 debut Cube.
With Splice, Natali happily proves that Cube was no false dawn: this is a chilling, bitingly intelligent and wholly compelling work that twists the conventions of the horror film - and the monster movie sub-genre - and comes up with something completely new.
Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) and Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) are modern science pin-ups: they rock hip, funky threads, they've appeared on the cover of Wired, and they've got the kind of big, bold ideas that could literally change the face of the world as we know it. They're also in a highly combustible personal and professional relationship, with the calmer, more reasoned Clive usually having to rein in the defiant, headstrong Elsa.
Charged with running a genetic laboratory at a large corporation to develop a protein using animal gene splicing from several different species, the pair are operating on the edges of their scientific field. As Clive wrings his hands on the sidelines, Elsa charges ahead with their pioneering work, and fuses together animal and human DNA, jumping ethical boundaries and breaking all manner of laws in the process. The result is an entirely new organism. Growing at a rapid rate, Clive and Elsa christen this strange female creature Dren, and harbour her away from their fellow scientists. Beginning as nothing more than an experiment, the innocent, curious Dren soon becomes a surrogate child for Elsa, but eventually starts to drive a wedge between her and Clive. As that wedge widens, the film heads boldly into barely imaginable dangerous new territory.
While the film's scientific cause-and-effect themes are as old as Frankenstein, their presentation is freshly minted here. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley - two of the finest actors of their generation - are excellent here, playing up their characters' cockiness in an unbridled display of pride coming before a fall. They're also not afraid to make their characters unlikeable (and thus deeply human), with the audience wavering about where their allegiances and sympathies lie at every turn.
It is in Elsa's relationship with Dren (superbly played by a CGI-aided Delphine Chaneac) that the film is at its most fascinating and ultimately moving. Refracting her own issues with her troubled mother, Elsa starts to play up a parental role with her creation, leading her down a dark emotional road potholed with physical and spiritual danger. As Clive starts to take a different interest in Dren altogether, the film explodes outward thematically again, becoming a strange parable for child abuse and social responsibility.
Smartly directed with subtlety and restraint, brilliantly performed by a superb cast at the top of their game, and never getting caught up in the tripwires of its own considerable ambitions, Splice is the very definition of intelligent horror.