When one thinks of the science fiction genre, many greats come to mind—2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Moon—but only a select few can truly call themselves scary. While not necessary to be effective, science fiction films are able to deliver more chills and thrills than the typical horror movie when done correctly, yet that breed of sci-fi is hard to come by. Not since 1979’s Alien has a genre film shown as much promise as Splice, the newest picture from Vincenzo Natali, the director of the cult hit Cube, but whereas Alien began with a sense of dread and carried it through to the end, Splice starts strong and then goes berserk from a number of insane plot turns that strip it of the tension it would have had otherwise.
The film stars Adrien Brody as Clive and Sarah Polley as Elsa, a pair of biochemists who are also in a romantic relationship. They’ve recently created a new organism by splicing together a number of different animal genes. The creature resembles more a gelatinous blob than an actual living thing, but nevertheless it is a scientific breakthrough. However, as any good scientist would do, they start to look towards the future in an attempt to take the next step, splicing those animal genes with human genes. Shockingly, the experiment works and the next thing they know they have a living, breathing animal/human hybrid that feels and thinks and learns.
But as anybody who has seen a similar movie will tell you, playing God never works out. As is expected, Splice is heavy on message, exploring the dangers of scientific gene splicing and creating life that was never intended to be. All creatures on this planet are here because they can forge for themselves and have adapted to their environments, so naturally creating an entirely new species has its drawbacks. Despite its familiarity, the theme was interesting, but as it went on, it wandered off course.
This downfall is characteristic of the entire movie, in fact. As the lights dimmed and Splice began, I found myself in awe. Was I finally seeing the creepy, intelligent science fiction film I had been waiting for? It appeared so. It was subtle. It was moody. It was spooky without resorting to cheap jump scares. The creature was unpredictable. The relationship between the two leads was believable and the quarrels they had due to differing opinions rang true. This was a masterpiece of science fiction filmmaking.
But about halfway through, something strange happened. That feeling disappeared and the inanity of the plot took over. Instead of sitting on the edge of my seat, I was slumping over it laughing at the stupidity of it all.
In all fairness, the second half isn’t bad, but it doesn’t fit the brooding beginning. Both parts work on their own terms, but don’t work together so my amazement and excitement quickly turned to disappointment and loathing. I began to hate Splice if only for not realizing its own potential.
I hesitate to go on because I fear I may ruin the surprises in store for anybody who happens to see this film. They’re real howlers and must be seen to be believed. When you don’t think it can get any crazier, the filmmaker throws a curveball resetting the rules of what you can expect to happen. Equal parts creepy sci-fi and campy B-movie, Splice is a mixed bag. My feelings are still battling it out in an attempt to decide whether or not I even like the movie, but when all is said and done, the fact remains that it’s a hodgepodge of blunders and missteps. It's worth a viewing, but once the shock wears off, you'll realize there's no reason to ever view it again.
Splice receives 2.5/5