Devil’s DVD Advocacy: Splice
“What’s the worst that could happen?” is a reoccurring question in Splice, and can almost be answered with “something extremely disturbing and/or gross.” This is not horror as we’ve come to define the genre in the age of slashers and torture-porn, but horror in the truest sense of the word: a story designed, not to scare, but to horrify. There are very few–perhaps 2, all told–jump scares in the whole movie, but the entire story is building a sense of disgust and unease throughout.
Splice is the fourth feature-length film from director Vincenzo Natali, who is perhaps best known for his 1997 psychological sci-fi thriller Cube. He does a great job of creating what seems like a very in-depth world with what turns out to be a very small cast and only 4 locations. Adrien Brody, Adrien Brody’s Nose, and Sarah Polley star as geneticists Clive Nicoli and Elsa Kast, who specializing in splicing bits of DNA from different organisms together in order to createnew organisms, specifically to harvest chemicals and proteins for pharmaceutical use.
Because they have achieved that goal, they argue that they should try using human DNA because of the potential medical benefits, but are instructed to move on. Going against orders, they use the human DNA anyway, not intending to let the experiment go anywhere, but next thing they know, they have Dren on their hands, the creature shown on the poster. Nothing at all goes wrong, Clive and Elsa are lauded as scientific geniuses, and everyone lives happily ever after. I’m kidding, of course.
Adrien Brody is capable in his role, but he’s not given all that much to do; not that he’s a background character, but he doesn’t have much of an arc. Sarah Polley, on the other hand, is called upon to portray a wide range of characterization, and is thoroughly effective at all of them.
Dren is the highlight of the film. She is, at the same time, fascinating, endearing, and horrifying, a superb acting job from French actress and model Delphine Chanéac (who is quite beautiful when not made up to look like a mole-rat-dinosaur). More important to the story arc of the film, however, is the effect she has on the two doctors.
As I indicated earlier, this is not a scary movie. Splice is a successor to films like The Fly, and, like that film, it is more about the dangers of science, and the ability of humans to lose their humanity given the right impetus; if you go in expecting gratuitous blood and guts and jumps, you’ll be disappointed.