Directed by Vincenzo Natali
Starring – Sarah Polley, Adrien Brody, Delphine Chanéac, Brandon McGibbon
Screenplay by Vincenzo Natali, Doug Taylor, Antoinette Terry Bryant
Abomination. That’s the name of the game in Splice. The implications of mad science in modern-day is met with the responsibility of meeting deadlines for those who supply the funds. In the midst of these deadlines, they keep their experiment in a leaky old barn that could not keep anything in or out. When a cat finds its way into the barn, and becomes a pet of Dren, the project (of the N.E.R.D. (Nucleic Exchange Research and Development) corporation, if you catch the drift), is told she cannot have the cat, because she might get a disease.
If the words had come out of anyone else’s mouth but Sarah Polley, it would have sounded like complete hogwash. It’s quite a stretch anyway, but at least a semi-interesting stretch. Polley plays Elsa Klast one of two lover/scientists who are working to synthesize proteins via genetic hybrid experiments that can only take place in the movies. Not satisfied with their results, of course, they go a bit farther together, splicing Jane Doe human splices. When the Jane Does don’t work, Elsa goes even a little bit further. Not surprisingly, it’s the mad combination that works, creating the creature, Dren.
Her partner, Clive Nicoli (Brody), is there mainly to bounce ideas off and say that they have gone too far. He always relents, of course, because if Elsa ever agrees with him the movie would be over. Clive has a brother who works in the same laboratory, named Gavin (McGibbon). His job, near as I can tell, is to hang around the lab while Elsa and Clive do their offshoot experiment and tell Clive that people are going to get suspicious. Then, when he happens upon Dren, he gets a scare and promptly stops asking about her until a crucial part in the movie. Lots of the movie is like this. It just writes itself.
Sarah Polley is not your average actress. The choices she makes acting (The Sweet Hereafter, Go, Dawn of the Dead) and directing (Away from Her) are rarely commercial almost always a challenge of some sort. She is the entire reason I watched this film, and, for the most part, she did not disappoint. Her Elsa, is a troubled person, not just for the scientific risks she takes, but for her past with her mother. There are several allusions to this past throughout the film of this, and they pay off not so much for what is revealed, which isn’t much, but what she does. There have been 1001 Mad Scientists in movie history, but none with her depth of character.
Dren is Elsa’s experiment. Elsa treats Dren like a child for a good part of the film. She and Clive have talked about having children. He wants to, she doesn’t. We know her mother plays into this somehow. Elsa gets the satisfaction of seeing something grow in what she thinks is a controlled setting. When things get out of her control, you can see Elsa turn into something…different. She would call it a mother’s love, I would guess. Most other’s would call it cruel.
Brody’ Clive is just along for the ride, essentially, and to piece together the motives of both the scientist and the monster. Oh, and, for one more thing which will be unmentioned here.
Along the way, Dren starts to show signs (like any living thing) of moving beyond its confines. When she is rebuffed, she escapes anyway. To get her back, Clive admits that they (Elsa and Clive) love Dren. This wins Dren over immediately, but sparks a deep jealousy in Elsa as she sees Dren hug Clive with an innocent passion.
From here, things kind of speed up, and go off of the rails a bit. Most observers will be able to predict the outcome, as illogical as it may be. When you are splicing genes, though, who says you have to be logical. There are three truly disturbing scenes that seem obligatory . Some days you wish they could go back to obliging off-screen.
Polley, for her part, is good. She’s been better before, but she adds more depth to the part than the movie really deserves. Adrien Brody is surprisingly well cast in his limited role. Limited in development, of course, not screen time. As Dren, Chaneac evokes memories of Persis Khambatta from the first Star Trek film. It always falls to the foreign chicks when you need a bald woman.
The rest of the characters are bland enough to remind one that the film was made in Canada. Nothing against Canada, but every movie made there seems to be made with persons who star in coffee commercials.
In the end, this movie is just average. There are some interesting ideas here, but the only one played like it did not have developmental scenes cut was Elsa’s mother/daughter issues. The rest of it seems shaved (104 minutes), for no other reason than to free up another showing at the theater. This is the life in the age of the googleplex. I guess I should be grateful they did not release it in 3-D.