Adrien Brody leads suspenseful, thought-provoking film
The rapid advance in genetic engineering gives new
urgency to the old legend. In Splice,
a couple of biochemists, Clive and Elsa (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley), travel
the road of those rabbis and Dr. Frankenstein while conducting experiments for
a pharmaceutical giant. The corporate titan wants to isolate a protein that
could cure Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, even cancer. Its executives are
happy to pay for the creation of new creatures whose biological material can be
harvested for the next generation of profitable wonder drugs. But Elsa, with
her reluctant boyfriend Clive in tow, crosses the line when they splice human
with animal DNA.
Pushing the frontiers of science is their rationalization.
Elsa in particular speaks of boldly going where no one has ever ventured. What Splice shows so well is that human
motivation is a complex mechanism with many hidden springs.
The human-animal hybrid that results from their
experiment is a remarkable thing. Dren, as Elsa names her, grows to maturity as
rapidly as most animals. She is hairless, with a long tail and three-toed feet,
but otherwise resembles an exotic human. She cannot speak, and emits birdlike
squawks, but can understand our language and communicate through arranging
The mind of Dren in unknowable, but the psychology
of her “parents” is fascinating. Elsa, who has resisted Clive’s interest in
having a child together, becomes very maternal with Dren, caring for her in
sickness, teaching her, even dressing her up and showing her how to apply
eyeliner—things of which her callous ideologue mother disapproved. The
disturbing pull of sexual attraction begins to lure Clive down the dark forest
path of incest and bestiality as Dren matures. The biochemistry couple raises
Dren in the abandoned farm of Elsa’s childhood, with its Victorian Gothic house
haunted by ill memory.
One thing is apparent even before the most dangerous
problems manifest themselves: Dren is hard to kill.
Canadian director and co-writer Vincenzo Natali (Cube) has crafted a suspenseful, thought-provoking, grim tale where science fiction meets the thrill of horror. Visually imaginative, well paced and lacking the slack screenplay, flabby production and cheesy pyrotechnics of Hollywood, Splice is entertaining, smart and chilling. Delphine Chaneac’s wordless performance as Dren is a remarkable bit of acting. Like Frankenstein’s monster seeing his reflection, her eyes flash with the realization that she is not like everyone else.