January 27, 2011

Rabid Rewind: Splice

starring Sarah Polley, Adrien Brody, Delphine Chaneac
directed by Vincenzo Natali
screenplay by Vincenzo Natali, Antoinette Terry Bryant, & Doug Taylor
Warner Bros. (2010)

I remember quite a few years ago there was some weird cult/organization that held a press conference, during which they declared they had successfully cloned a human being. Of course, it wound up being a hoax, a recruitment video basically that the media was all to eager to facilitate. But the idea that a human had been cloned so early in the twenty-first century felt disturbing. What made it all the more disturbing was who was claiming responsibility. So, how about a movie that uses that as a kind of jump-off point?

Two young scientists (Polley and Brody) are the rockstars of genetic engineering, with their next feat an entirely new species spliced together from the genetic material of several animals. Their goal is to eventually find a way to cure human disease, while the corporation they work for is driven by less noble goals--profit rules all for the higher-ups footing the bill. So, when the suits tell the scientists that they are shutting down their lab so they can concentrate on more menial duties in deriving the genetic material that will garner the desired profit, they secretly go into business for themselves and splice human DNA into a brand new organism. A hybrid creature they come to call Dren (NERD, the company's name, spelled backwards).

It's kind of like Species, but so much better. Where the 90s movie didn't really delve into any subtext, and relied heavily on action sequences, Splice is a far more intimate and contemplative film. It isn't just a morality tale about genetics and cloning, but also about the relationships formed and tested between the two scientists and what essentially becomes their daughter, Dren.

And Delphine Chaneac as the CGI-accentuated monster, Dren, practically steals the movie right out from under Polley and Brody. There's very little dialogue on her part--almost none now that I think about it--so her performance relies on facial expressions and body language. Considering that her face is altered through CGI and the lower half of her body is digitally rendered, her performance shines through. And in the latter half of the film, that performance gets very disturbing.

I have read and heard negative reviews for this film, I honestly can't imagine why. I guess there are some viewers sitting down to watch this movie and expecting Alien, but this is nothing like that movie. If you want to harken back to a classic horror film, maybe take a look at Cronenberg's The Fly. Better yet, watch this movie without preconceptions and just let the story hit you. I'll bet you'll walk away impressed and possibly a little shook up.


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