Genetic engineers Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) specialize in splicing DNA from different animals to create incredible new hybrids. They are close to achieving sustainable life, the implications of which could revolutionise science and medicine. When the pharmaceutical company that funds their research forbids using human DNA in a hybrid, Clive and Elsa decide to conduct their own experiments behind closed doors. The result is a highly intelligent creature they call Dren (Delphine Cheneac), whose development and physical attributes are both extraordinary and terrifying. As Dren grows at an accelerated rate, Clive and Elsa begin to lose control - of her and themselves.
Review by Louise Keller:
Sci-fi horror turns feral in this misguided story about genetic engineering that morphs into more of a monster freak show than a story with genuine thrills. With its issues about morality and playing god, Splice has plenty of potential, yet writer director Vincenzo Natali takes his script far beyond the realms of credibility into frenetic melodrama. He first grappled with the concept in the late 90s, reportedly shelving it when visual effects could not match his vision. Now that technology has developed to levels that make his film possible, it is ironic that the balance of Natali's story is compromised.
It begins well, when we enter the highly specialized scientific world of the genetic 'Splice Masters' Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley), who have a passion for creating a new species in the lab as well as a passion for each other. The early scenes are a mix of gripping and disgusting as we watch in fascination at the creation of two new life-forms that look like large, wobbly gooey blobs. It is at this time we get a glimpse of what makes the central characters tick.
Polley's Elsa makes it clear while she may not think twice about creating a new life form using human DNA, she is not at all sure about having a baby. There is a brittleness and underlying hysteria to Elsa and while there is an implied back story, it is never properly explained. Clive (Brody) is a far more sympathetic character and it is credit to Brody that we believe pretty much everything that happens to him, even when we are watching in a mixed state of shock, horror and disbelief - especially in the later scenes.
Production design is excellent as is the music which couches us in a bed of discomfort. Things start to go wrong (for the characters and for us, the audience) after the arrival of Dren (Delphine Cheneac), the bald, wide-eyed creature with bird-like legs. (Yes, her name is an anagram of the word Nerd, which she writes with letters from the scrabble board). Dren wears a dress, is given a Barbie doll, dons make-up and even dances with Clive, in a scene that begs belief. By then, Clive and Elsa are way beyond the point of no return along the moral highway, where right and wrong are indistinguishable turns in the road to hell. As is the preposterous direction in which Natali takes us, his audience.
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CAST: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Cheneac, Brandon McGibbon, Simona Maicanescu, David Hewlett, Abigail Chu
PRODUCER: Steven Hoban
DIRECTOR: Vincenzo Natali
SCRIPT: Vincenzo Natali, Antoinette Terry-Bryant, Doug Taylor
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tetsuo Nagata
EDITOR: Michele Conroy
MUSIC: Cyrille Aufort
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Todd Cherniawski
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 19, 2010