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Ben Austwick [Film Festival 04.30.10] movie review scifi horror drama

Year: 2009
Directors: Vincenzo Natali
Writers: Vincenzo Natali & Antoinette Terry Bryant & Doug Taylor
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Ben Austwick
Rating: 9 out of 10

Since seeing a preview clip at last year's London Frightfest I've been pretty excited about Splice. A sequence showing a beautifully animated creature somewhere between cute and scary being chased round a laboratory promised a special effects-laden, action packed and jumpy bit of sci-fi, but there was a niggling feeling that such a stylish-looking film might be a bit lacking in content. Thankfully nothing could be further from the truth - Splice is one of the most rounded and accomplished science fiction movies in years.

Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley play Clive and Elsa, romantically involved geneticists working for Nucleic Exchange Research and Development (NERD), a company that manufactures genetically modified medicine. The couple are very much the golden boy and girl of the organisation, their protein-manufacturing GM creatures - a pair of convincingly weighty giant CGI maggots - promising a lucrative revenue stream for what we come to understand is a company on the verge of bankruptcy.

The pair's lofty status at the company gives them a cavalier attitude to their work as they slob around the lab in their jeans, tossing around valuable biological material with barely a nod to basic hygiene. This is played for effect, taking advantage of Brody and Polley's very physical acting; doubles as an ever-so-slight comedic dig at the way science is portrayed in the movies, best exemplified here in a Microsoft error message that pops up when two sets of genes can't be spliced together, much to the audience's amusement; and is also an essential plot device, as Clive and Elsa's overconfidence leads them to embark on a taboo and illegal project - the splicing of human genes with those of their previous creations.

These layers of meaning give the film an unusually rich and detailed feel, and often turn around incongruously straight, Hollywood-style scenes which are later revealed as essential to the film's wild plotting. This is especially true in the second half of the film, when Clive and Elsa's genetically modified creation - now given the name Dren - develops into a humanoid, and the effective CGI creature of before is replaced, for better or worse, by Delphine Chaneac in prosthetics. A sequence where she undergoes a makeover and is taught how to dance is groan out loud awful, until you see the darkly funny place it leads us and realise just how cleverly written it is.

Throughout its length Splice will take a premise and run with it to its logical conclusion in a series of brilliant comedy set pieces, a technique reminiscent of Sam Raimi at his B-movie best, while always sticking close to a tight, twisting plot and never straying into the extraneous. Every part of the film – the CGI maggots, Dren's chaotic birth, NERD's financial problems, even Clive and Elsa's relationship itself - eventually explodes in a plot-changing punchline. The latter is so well handled the incredulous sequence of events is totally believable and absorbing, great acting bringing some emotional grounding to the film.

The dynamics of bringing another humanoid into Clive and Elsa's relationship, as Dren becomes a surrogate child and then more to the couple, is the engine of the film as each and every possibility it throws up is covered in Splice's fast-paced style. This does mean that the premise is eventually exhausted, leading to a disappointingly straight ending that - unlike pretty much everything else in the film - you can see coming a mile off. I suspect though that this nod to convention might have helped get Splice the Warner Brothers distribution deal it has just landed, in which case it was worth it. The more people who see this clever, complicated, darkly funny piece of pure entertainment the better.

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Hiddnfox (12 years ago) Reply

I couldn't disagree with this review more. I saw this film at Sundance this year and it was (almost) the worst thing I saw. The move was terribly predictable, The story line excitement was meh. The worst was the way they ended it. Could've ended soooo many better ways. Was obvious they wanted to set-up a sequel. If you have 2 hours to waste then watch it. If you are looking for something new and scary don't bother.


Andy (12 years ago) Reply

I'm with Hiddnfox, really disliked Splice. It can't decide what it wants to be. 4/10


Ben Austwick (12 years ago) Reply

I thought this one would be pretty divisive, it remnded me of Drag Me to Hell which was a love it or hate it movie too.


Nena (12 years ago) Reply

Well, certainly looks good. But if it's anything like Drag Me to Hell I will hate it..


Morgan (12 years ago) Reply

I'm dying to see this movie and this review conforms my ideas that this will be a very good movie


rbk (12 years ago) Reply

@Hiddnfox -- "Could've ended soooo many better ways." - go ahead, I'm listening. Not a perfect movie but I enjoyed it. WAY better than a lot of Hollywood dreck, that's for sure.


Emma (12 years ago) Reply

I thought the movie was sweet and I loved the twisted darkness that was incorporated into it. I personally enjoyed it more than I did Avatar.

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