Splice is not the sort of film I would normally watch because, even though it is billed as a science fiction horror, it is the horror part that I don’t particularly care for. If you were of a mind to search my archives, you wouldn’t find many (if any) horror films in my film reviews. However, the idea of scientists creating life in a modern setting appealed to someone like me who was trained as a scientist and has worked in an actual lab rather than what is shown in cinema.
Splice is the story of two ‘superstar’ scientists, Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley), who have been successful in splicing animal genes to create new hybrids. They want to splice human genes but the pharmaceutical company that funds them wants to make money from the new animal hybrid products and bans them from continuing their research. Of course, this doesn’t deter them, and they eventually create a female hybrid of human and animal genes who they name Dren (a backward reading of NERD, the name of the pharma company), who grows and learns at an accelerated rate. Dren is also strange – bald, extended ankle sections, a prehensile tail, the ability to change parts of her body (as you can see in the poster), prone to mood swings – and she has to be taken to a remote location, in this case the farm where Elsa grew up, to keep her away from danger. And that’s when things get even weirder …
The first two-thirds of the film are good – the build-up, the interplay between Clive and Elsa, the development and growth of Dren, the atmosphere created by director Vincenzo Natali, the drama caused by Dren on the relationship between Clive and Elsa. Delphine Chaneac, who plays Dren, gives an amazing performance as the CGI-enhanced creature with feelings and weirdness; it’s remarkable, eerie and strangely enchanting, and is one of the best parts of the film. The last third of the film changes from the intelligence of the earlier sections to a more traditional horror film, with violence and blood and betrayal and shocks that you can see coming. It was disappointing after the smarts and humour (there is a hilarious gross-out scene where two earlier successes of Clive and Elsa’s animal hybrid programme had turned violent after the female one had turned male and they tore each other to pieces in front of an audience), to see it degenerate into something more generic. When certain events happen in the last third with an almost depressing inevitability, it detracts from the enjoyment of the rest of the film, and leaves you feeling disappointed with how it all turns out.