Reviewed by Andrew Kasch
Starring Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chanéac, David Hewlett, Brandon McGibbon
Directed by Vincenzo Natali
In an age of remakes, knock-offs, and bad throwback movies, Vincenzo Natali is really one of the few original filmmakers left in the world. And I mean original in the truest sense of the word. Ever since the man’s explosive directorial debut with Cube in 1997 (not to mention his criminally under-seen existential comedy Nothing), he’s proven himself a master of genuine creative storytelling. With Splice Natali has more money, bigger actors, and better tools to play with (not to mention he’s in the company of the equally imaginative Guillermo Del Toro, one of the film’s executive producers) so you know the results are going to be something special.
Adrien Brody and Sarah Polly (who actually look like they could pass for nerdy scientists) play animal gene splicers who decide to “play God” by throwing a little human DNA into the mix. The result is Dren – an androgynous creature the couple adopt as their own child. Is it out of love or their own selfish research? It hardly matters because their creation soon undergoes a series of freakish metamorphoses that inevitably lead toward disaster.
Splice is definitely Natali’s most mainstream film to date – which ain’t saying a whole helluva lot – but at its heart this is a traditional “science run amok” flick through and through. From its slow burn build-up to the typically gruesome third act, comparisons to classic Cronenberg bio-horrors are unavoidable. But by “splicing” different formulas together (think Frankenstein meets The Fly), Natali tells an old story in a refreshing new way, balancing topical issues with plenty of genuine shocks.
And believe me, there are some pretty major shocks. Because of that, it’s incredibly hard to discuss the best elements of Splice without diving into heavy spoilers (kudos to the restrained, if slightly misleading ads). The less you know about this film going in, the more your enjoyment. That said, the real star of Splice is Delphine Chanéac, whose nuanced portrayal of Dren steals the spotlight away from all her human co-stars. Bolstered by KNB’s brilliant design work and flawless CGI, Dren is scary, sympathetic, and (most importantly) completely real. This is easily the most amazing cinematic creature to hit screens since Gollum in The Lord of the Rings.
Twisted, perverse, and thought-provoking, Splice is a refreshing change of pace from the bottom of the barrel, scare-a-minute teen bullshit that has been repeatedly shoved down our throats. Even though at times it sticks a little too close to the mad scientist formula, Natali has crafted another successful original film with images that will burn into your brain.
4 out of 5
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