GENRE: Sci-fi/horror with brains — and guts
THE PITCH: Brilliant biochemists Elsa and Clive (Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody) tamper in God’s domain by creating a new life form that combines human and animal DNA, grows rapidly to adulthood, and proves more dangerously intelligent than they imagine.
MONEY SHOTS: The “It’s alive!” scare scene when Clive and Elsa discover that their experiment succeeded a little too well. The creepy, adorable way the new life-form eats from a bowl. Clive teaches adult-sized “Dren” (Delphine Chanéac) how to dance. The scientists’ investor demonstration goes horribly, hilariously wrong in the worst public debut since King Kong hit Broadway.
ICK SHOTS: There’s an old joke that goes, “What do you call the useless bit of flesh at the end of a penis? A man.” Early in the film, Elsa and Clive create a pair of gelatinous life forms that bring that line to mind, only without the “man,” if you get my drift. Newborn Dren at first looks kind of like a frog-sized sperm. (Notice a pattern here?)
BEST LINE: “You’re treating her like a … a pet,” Clive says, although in Brody’s line-reading, he clearly considered saying “a person.”
WORST LINE: Exposition + plot convenience = “All these years you’ve owned a farm and you’ve never mentioned it?”
BODY COUNT: Low. Splice emphasizes characterization and moral dilemmas over creative kills. Given that the film includes human beings, furry mammals, and genetically altered creatures, expect to see deaths of at least two of each.
FASHION STATEMENT: Elsa and Clive dress more like the owners of an indie record label than scientists — for one meeting with a bigwig, Elsa wears a red necktie and black leather jacket, and Clive wears a tweed jacket over a T-shirt that says, “Bring Nothing To The Table.” Elsa dresses girl-sized Dren in a child’s dress. Dren’s hairless, indented skull and four-pointed pupils leave a vivid impression.
FLESH FACTOR: The issue of whether Dren wears human clothes speaks to the creature’s species identification. Splice’s vision of sexuality earns its “hard R” rating.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING: Splice’s script smartly riffs on traditional parenting roles — Elsa nurtures the creation in the face of Clive’s ambivalence, resulting in amusing arguments — then reverses the dynamic in ways that evoke Greek tragedy.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Following in the sticky footsteps of David Cronenberg’s The Fly, Splice features strong performances, provocative ideas, flashes of humor and freaky make-up. Director Vincenzo Natali pushes the film’s reproductive themes to some highly problematic places, but Splice still offers the rare, issue-driven horror movie that leaves audiences with things to discuss even after the gag reflex has subsided.