Starring: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chanéac
Directed by: Vincenzo Natali (“Cube”)
Written by: Vincenzo Natali (“Cube”), Doug Taylor (“They Wait”), Antoinette Terry Bryant (debut)
Similar to the half-human-half-animal creature it prominently features, the sci-fi film “Splice” is a hybrid in its own regard. Part creepy morality thriller, part typical monster movie, “Splice” has a lot of identity problems, but manages to overcome its flaws by staying inside the realm of scientific fascination long enough before it decides to take too many silly, bizarre twists.
The film begins with Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley), two hotshot genetic scientists who are making groundbreaking progress in their most recent experiment. Combining genes from an assortment of animal species, they have created a new ambiguously-shaped living mass that could be the key to curing the world of disease.
When Clive and Elsa ask permission to move onto the next phase of their experiment where they will start splicing human and animal DNA together, they are immediately met with opposition from those who have been financing the project. With far too many moral issues involved, the duo are prohibited from moving forward and, instead, asked to continue with the experiment at hand by synthesizing proteins. Apparently that idea is quite a yawner for a pair of geneticists, who would rather be shaking up test tubes and wondering what will pop up.
The scientists, however, refuse to stand idly by and wait for society to deem their work ethical. While Clive plays the role of worry wart, it is Elsa who is the driving force behind the unauthorized experiment. It is only fueled by curiosity at first, but when the embryo they create begins to accelerate in development and is “born,” both scientists must come to terms with the consequences of their actions.
The outcome of the experiment is Dren (Delphine Chanéac), a human female with numerous animal features – hind legs, wings, a tail with a retractable spear tip. Elsa raises Dren like her own child. It takes Clive longer to accept her as anything more than a specimen in a laboratory. As Dren’s intelligence grows, so does her realization of her dissimilarity and her frustration in being locked up like a lab rat, which causes her to rebel like any teenager would if they were grounded and sent to their room for no reason.
In the first half of “Splice,” director Vincenzo Natali (“Cube”) mixes ideas rather well from films like “Frankenstein,” “The Fly,” and even “E.T.” There is an underlying sense of dread throughout the film as we watch these geneticists ignore their principles in favor of pushing the boundaries of science. It’s during these scenes when “Splice” is at its most disturbing.
The third act (marked by an awkwardly staged sex scene), takes “Splice” into an entirely different direction and far from the deep-seated themes that make the first hour a unique addition to the genre. When Natali has the opportunity to push the story into uncharted territory, he instead pulls back and underwhelms us with something better suited for a “Jeepers Creepers” sequel.