Splice (2010)

It’s sometimes a shame when movie trailers—or posters, for that matter, ruin the majority of a movie. With Splice, this isn’t such a big problem, but it does remove some of the tension from early on in the film. The trailer of the film more or less gave away the first hour of the movie, which means that you already know, up to a certain point, what happens to the scientific experiment known as Dren.

Dren (portrayed in the later stages of her life by Delphine Chanéac) is the creation of two scientists. Clive and Elsa (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) are smart people, and begin the film with the ability to create brand new organisms by splicing DNA from many different species together. After being told they have to stop doing this, they decide to create a side-project, this time adding human DNA into the mix.

The result is a rapidly growing creature, one whose entire lifespan is predicted to last no more than a few weeks. It gets named Dren, an inversion of the company name that the pair works for. It grows quickly, and somehow learns words before we see it learn to read. It ends up being able to understand English, at least partially, as well as being highly intelligent. Emotionally immature, however, this creature displays emotions at a primitive level, often fluctuating between them rapidly, and not being able to hide them.

Or maybe she can hide them, and we just don’t get to find out. The most interesting character in the film, by far, is Dren, but we don’t get to find out enough about her to fully realize what she is feeling. She doesn’t get to speak, so we can only rely on her action to tell us about her. She can display emotions, and is quite smart, but that’s about all we get. Is it possible that she is feeling something completely different from how she acts? Is she just masking these true emotions to fit better with Clive and Elsa? We never get to find out.

Instead, the film focuses on the problems that the two humans face, giving them the most characterization. Their problems range from relationship turmoil to caring for Dren. They have to keep their experiment a secret, otherwise the corporation might gain control of her. At one point in the film, a bond is created between each “parent” and Dren. These bonds are created at different times, meaning that the already-present relationship problems between our leads become exacerbated.

Those issues stem from one thing, something that works as the first bit of foreshadowing that Splice gives us. Clive wants a child, at some point in the future anyway. Elsa doesn’t ever want one. He asks her why, and she says that she doesn’t want it coming out of her. This isn’t the entire truth, as we find out later. It does set up the way that Elsa treats Dren, ending up acting more like a mother would to a child than a scientist would to an experiment.

There’s one more clever choice of foreshadowing used, but touching upon it would be spoiling more of the film than the trailers have. It’s blatant, sure, but it fits into the way that the film develops. I suppose mentioning that Dren shares similar characteristics to the other synthetic organisms isn’t too much of a stretch, considering that the same technology is used to create each one of them.

“Unique” would be a good word to describe Splice in a nutshell.

The technology involved is something else that is interesting about Splice. It’s likely that you won’t fully understand how everything works, unless you went to university to study biology. Fortunately, this doesn’t matter that much. There is a large number of scientific terminologies near the beginning, but after that, the film turns into a characters study mixed with a monster film.

It’s near the end, when it degenerates into a full-fledged horror film when Splice falls flat. Before this point, there are teases at what’s to come, especially in terms of it trying out “horror,” but it never goes all the way until the final act. It is at this point in time when Splice stopped interesting me. All of the characters were interesting, but having them run around terrified doesn’t bring their personalities forward. It tries to be scary but fails.

This isn’t due to a lack of trying; Splice wants to freak you out. It does accomplish this, in some respects, due to how well the special effects are implemented. Dren can be terrifying, when she wants to be, and this is mostly due to how odd she looks. It doesn’t look fake either. Dren could be a real creature, that’s how impressive the CGI is in the film.

I’ve heard many varying opinions on Splice. All of these opinions have one thing in common, regardless of whether or not the person liked the movie. They were always completely sure why they felt the way they did. This signals a slight success for the film, because it means that people will discuss it a great lengths. They can argue about it for a long time, because it has enough depth to make it a good topic of conversation.

Would undergoing this kind of experiment be ethical? Clive and Elsa initially wish to just see if they can create this life form, and then intend to put it down. Their own morals stop them, would your own stop yours? These kinds of questions can be talked about for hours by people. Even the final scene bares significant conversation topics, topics which I cannot discuss, as they would give away the final plot twist of the film.

“Unique” would be a good word to describe Splice in a nutshell. Even if it isn’t the greatest film out there, it is interesting enough to hold the audience’s attention. Dren is a scientific masterpiece, and while we don’t get to learn how she thinks or feels, we see her impact on our two human leads. They have problems themselves, and Dren serves to bring those problems forward. Splice is more of a character study than a true horror film, and succeeds primarily when that is where its focus lies. Not great, but far from terrible, Splice is a film that warrants a watch, just so you can say that you’ve seen what it has to offer.

Conclusion: Splice is the type of movie that doesn’t come along every day.

Recommendation: If the premise interests you, definitely give Splice a look.

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