Director: Vincenzo Natali
Cast: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chaneac
Screenplay: Vincenzo Natali, Antoinette Terry Bryant, Doug Tayor
104 mins. Rated R for disturbing elements including strong sexuality, nudity, sci-fi violence and language.
Splice came and went back in 2009, but I remember seeing it for the first time. Back in college, I received Netflix in the mail (see kids, there was this thing called DVD…) and it was one of the early films in my queue. The films in front of it were all claimed so I received the next thing on my list. Splice, not being very popular, moved up the queue quick, and I received it. I didn’t know what to expect. I really dug the trailer but high concept films like Splice never see to go all-in and embrace the concept, especially in studio horror. Studio horror was usually clean and manufactured for the most part, particularly in the 2000s. How would Splice fair?
Clive (Adrien Brody, The Grant Budapest Hotel, Fantastic Mr. Fox) and Elsa (Sarah Polley, Mr. Nobody, Dawn of the Dead) are two gifted genetic engineers trying to push the scientific barrier for DNA splicing, but when take their latest experiment goes too far, they find themselves raising a peculiar new creature unlike any in existence. Now, Clive and Elsa are on a dangerous path that causes them to keep secrets and protect a creature that is growing in ways they cannot expect.
This concept, while not being entirely new, is executed nearly perfectly. The film, from Vincenzo Natali (Cube, In the Tall Grass), asks questions, pushes the concept as far as it goes, and has a sense of style that works very well. Brody and Polley are both believable in their roles, and they have great chemistry together. Each of these two leads go through some pretty grueling circumstances along this uncomfortable narrative, and I followed along for all the unethical and disturbing events to follow.
Perhaps the most surprising performance is from Delphine Chaneac (The Pink Panther, The Brice Man) as Dren, the creation. The character was created with the use of makeup and visual effects over the actress, but her performance is able to shine through because of the choices made from the effects team and Natali to allow Cheaneac to showcase her acting underneath it all. Her eyes are real but widened on her face digitally, she chose to perform in heels and have her legs digitally replaced, and she shaved her head in order to not have more CG work done to her.
Splice is character-driven horror that isn’t for everyone (there are some particularly shocking moments as the film heads to its climax), but I appreciate the ballsy way that Natali tackles the material and just goes there. He’s the kind of director who leaves you wanting more and leaves you asking questions, even if he doesn’t ever give you the answers, and Splice is one of his most daring pictures. Seek this out if you missed it.
-Kyle A. Goethe