Splice (2009) starring Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chanéac, Brandon McGibbon, Simona Maicanescu, David Hewlett, Abigail Chu directed by Vincenzo Natali Movie Review

Splice (2009)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley in Splice (2009)

Bringing Up Baby Dren

I don't remember a lot about the advertising for "Splice" when it hit the cinemas but I do seem to remember it focused on the horror of two scientists messing out with human DNA. And in fairness the basis of "Splice" is about two scientists creating a mixture of human and animal when they are told not to but that is in truth not what the movie is about and not the horror. The actual horror of "Splice" is about parenting, yes you did read that right because what we watch is how one of the scientists turns into a cruel mother like her own whilst the other one struggles with getting too close to their creation. And to be honest when you get passed the expectations and realise this is a horror movie about bad parenting it gets surprisingly good but that does mean it is disappointing if what you wanted was sci-fi horror.

Scientists Clive (Adrien Brody - The Darjeeling Limited) and Elsa (Sarah Polley - Dawn of the Dead) work for NERD where they are experimenting with the DNA of animals to create a harvestable protein. There experiments are a success but when their superiors declare there will be no more DNA engineering they take matters into their own hands as they secretly experiment with human DNA just to see if they can create a half human, half animal creature. But what they achieve and how they feel about their creation neither could have expected.

Delphine Chanéac as Dren in Splice (2009)

"Splice" starts in a traditional sci-fi horror fashion, Elsa and Clive may not be the crazy scientists but they certainly are on the edge of geeks as we see them deliver a creation, born from an artificial womb. In fact whilst we have some decent special effects as we meet their creations Fred & Ginger it becomes a bit of a cliche as they are told their research is being stopped and so they decide to carry on in secret, this time experimenting with human DNA. We do get some horror as their experiment grows in an artificial womb and is born but none of it is that amazing.

But here is the thing, after their creation which they end up naming Dren is created the focus of "Splice" changes, there is still some sci-fi horror but it now becomes a movie about parenting. And to start with we have cute and comical parenting as Elsa and Clive try to look after baby Dren, discovering difficulty in feeding and so on. It is the first sign that "Splice" is not going to be what you expect but what it grows into is surprisingly effective as the focus settles on Elsa and Clive as parents to a rapidly aging Dren. And we watch as Elsa is a cruel mother in the way her mother was cruel to her whilst Clive forms a too close relationship with Dren. I won't go into detail but it means the horror of "Splice" is the horror of bad parenting. It does return to more normal sci-fi horror after this but it is brief compared to the rest of the movie.

Now that does mean that those who watch "Splice" purely because it looks like sci-fi horror are going to be disappointed and if you can get past that and embrace the bad parenting element it becomes good. But even if you can't get past the lack of sci-fi horror the special effects are pretty good especially the early CGI versions of Dren. And talking of which Delphine Chanéac as the grown up Dren with the aid of special effects does a good job of making her human with various looks of fear and happiness.

I suppose what is disappointing is that whilst Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley are central characters and they both play their parts well they just don't really grab you. Maybe it's that they seem to stereotypical, as if their characters were built up from a series of cliches but it is disappointing that they lack individualism.

What this all boils down to is that as a sci-fi horror "Splice" is ordinary and even for some disappointing. But then the actual horror is of bad parenting and that gives it an unexpected and interesting angle which is if you become engaged with makes "Splice" interesting if not that entertaining.