Science fiction/horror films are notorious for reflecting the concerns or fears of the time. Within the past ten years, as we move forward scientifically, human cloning has been a controversial issue.
The movie is campy sci-fi/horror that is as bizarre as it is amusing. Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) are two biochemists that are incidentally a couple. They both have the ambition to one day cure some of the world's most devastating diseases. To accomplish this, they experiment by splicing the DNA of several different animals in order to obtain a certain protein. But they soon grow tired of the demands of the corporation employing them — their progress is slow and they hope to make a real difference in the world. This 'difference' comes on a grand scale when they splice animal and human DNA together, seemingly just to see what will happen. They have no intention of letting the experiment grow to full term, but the experiment has intentions of its own. Hence, Dren is born (yes, that's 'Nerd' spelled backwards) – a conglomeration of different animal species with human features.
The film after Dren's birth plays out like a twisted, but cautionary fairy tale. We watch Elsa and Clive grow attached to their creation, and as an audience, Dren wins us over as well. Her existence fills a void in their lives. They do their best to keep their secret monster hidden, but of course, secrets do have a way of emerging.
It is no secret that director and screenwriter Vincenzo Natali is paying homage to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; even Elsa is named after Dr. Frankenstein's daughter, Baroness Elsa Frankenstein. Dren has similar roots to Frankenstein's monster and you nearly expect one of the scientists to bellow "It's alive!" At first, Clive and Elsa can hardly believe she's real, then they hold much pride and protection over their creation, until finally, it is remembered that Dren is a wild, volatile creature. So why jump back to classic horror themes for a 2010 film? Because the themes still hold resonance – if we mess with nature, nature will mess with us. While life with their mutant seems cuddly and perfect for a while, everything goes horribly wrong. As the ones responsible for disrupting nature, they must put a stop to the mayhem that could unfold as a result of their experiment.
Unfortunately, this is a film where the advertising gave some plot points away. While watching, I pieced together the trailer in my head as each familiar line or sequence came on screen. On the other hand, there are several twists in the plot. Just when you think the plot wouldn't dare go a certain way, it does. The biggest shock of the film therefore arises not from unpredictability but rather sheer denial that such things would be portrayed in a feature-length, mainstream film. In actuality, due to the objectionable content, Hollywood backed out of funding it, and Canadian funding was used.
Don't expect any kind of drastic innovation to the genre, but Splice certainly has its moments. One of the more memorable scenes is one of the few gory moments involving a demonstration going awry. There are times when you may laugh out loud at the sheer absurdity of it all. At least, if you appreciate some campy sci-fi with notes of horror mixed in, experiment with Splice.