Steeped in geek-dom and centered with science fiction, Splice is a horror film where the horror comes last. The moral dilemma of what Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) are doing, could do, and choose to do, comes first.
There are many geek elements throughout the film, giving the main characters authenticity as nerds. They are avid readers of and are featured in WIRED magazine, their cloths are functional and comfortable, the majority completely devoid of what Miranda Priestly would call “style and a sense of fashion.” Note Brody’s checkered pants and lab coat adorned with military iron-ons and patches and the frequent Anime elements shattered around Clive and Elsa’s apartment. Clive and Elsa even work at a lab whose acronym is N.E.R.D., not to subtle but appropriate.
The first hybrid, a blob-like creature, that Clive and Elsa create is disgusting to look at but can benefit mankind. The second creature the duo clandestinely create, later dubbed Dren (Delphine Chaneac), may contain the same benefit in larger amounts but her inception and presence grows to dominate their lives and thoughts.
Though some of Dren’s body features – feral and reactionary – are monstrous, resembling certain features from the aliens in The Arrival; she is a child on the inside and is treated as such by the duo at the beginning.
The real monsters in Splice turn out to be the human element, not the creatures they create. The blob creature is not supervised properly and the experiment doesn’t end favorably. The same happens with Dren, though in her case there is a malicious and sadistic act perpetrated against it as well. If the scientists had been playing attention to the details, instead of relationships, future prestige, and job concerns, they would have been able to hypothesis a possible correlation between what happened with Experiment A (blob) and Experiment B (Dren). That correlation is exactly what happens in the latter part of the third act of the film.
The sadistic act I mentioned above is committed by Elsa and is the most heinous act in the film. Some might find issue with this assertion but the other violent acts are instinctual. Her violence is vicious, cold payback, a side of her personality hidden until that point in the film. She doesn’t even give Dren anesthesia of any kind and she is her defacto mother.
The mutilation scene was well-shot and sad to view. The thing Clive and Elsa were supposed to be nurturing is “racked”, terrified, and tortured by the one person in the world that is supposed to love her above all others. The betrayal Dren felt and helplessness, as if she’d been sexually assaulted/abused, was written all over her unique face and eyes. For that one scene, Elsa, the character the audience had partially gotten to know do to an under developed subplot involving her mother, is unrecognizable.
Other plot flaws come out during the film as well or upon reflection once the film is over. The scientists use unsecured locations to house the different versions of Dren. None of the latter locations are sterile environments, a no-no for any legitimate scientific experiment. They do not know what will effect Dren and in what way. A million different variables come into play outside of a sterile environment that they haven’t recorded, cataloged or controlled. Any findings they make would be dubious at best. No tracking device is ever put on or implanted into Dren. With its speed and frequent displays of unpredictability, smart people would have wisely put a tracking device on Dren to keep tabs on it and its biometrics. One final point – and I questioned whether to include it – Dren does not seem to possess a hymen (maiden head) yet still possesses the internal components of a human female’s reproductive organ. She is a hybrid but its still odd.
Like the monster in Shelley’s Frankenstein, Dren wants to be loved and not be alone in the world. And like the monster in that book, the duo’s monster virtually destroys their world and them in small emotional drips and physical drabs.
The viewer may wonder after the film why the male Dren killed all of men but left Elsa alive. They only have to remember earlier in the film for the answer. It is explained by the calamitous conclusion of Experiment A.
The roof top scene where Dren discovers something new about herself was beautifully shot as was the dance sequence. I wish there were more scenes like this in the film but I am glad that the few that are were not cut or deleted. Also well sequenced was Clive’s murder attempt. Writer/director Vincenzo Natali channeled Sergio Leone for those few, brief eye close ups after the attempt and it was wonderful to see.
Some of the sexual aspects of the film were very unexpected but they did ameliorate the proceedings and were within context, tastefully shot, and intriguing to view. At one point, the viewer is bound to think: “What the hell are you thinking?” as Clive inserts himself into his experiment but literally and figuratively.
Vincenzo Natali’s Splice is a science-fiction, horror film where the lines between right and wrong are not blurred, they are backed up from then cleanly jumped over again and again in the name of discovery, helping humanity, acclaim, and scientific recognition. The film is not without flaws but it is certainly more science fiction than Hollywood.