Splice (Blu-ray / DVD)
Reviewed by MattFini
Starring Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chanéac, David Hewlett, Brandon McGibbon
Directed by Vincenzo Natali
Distributed by Warner Home Video
It’s not hard to see why Splice fell by the wayside during its summer run. A slow paced film without very much action (and even less commercial appeal); it didn’t simply slip between the box office cracks but managed to polarize audiences while doing so. It’s easy to dismiss this as another science runs amok story at first glance, but Vincenzo Natali’s science fiction drama goes beyond that, becoming instead an uncomfortable examination of human nature and nurture that resonates in a way few modern genre films can.
The premise of scientists who successfully create life isn’t new, but Splice is more concerned with the emotional aftermath of our resident monster’s creation. Instead of racking up a body count, we watch Elsa (Sarah Polley, giving an unsympathetic performance) struggle with raising the newly created Dren - a role that quickly dissolves into that of abusive matriarch – mirroring her own upbringing. Clive (Adrien Brody) finds Dren’s existence bombastic but forms an unlikely bond with her as his relationship with Elsa becomes increasingly strained. As for Dren (Delphine Chanéac), she becomes the product of an increasingly confused and hostile environment, the result of which is explored in a surprisingly twisted final act.
Splice has invited some favorable comparisons to the early works of David Cronenberg, most notably The Brood, for thematic similarities in chronicling the lasting effects of child abuse. An understandable assessment considering it’s among the most intimate genre films we’ve gotten lately. It explores the darker side of human nature with a frankness that might render its characters unsympathetic, but that’s exactly the point. That this came from a major studio is almost impossible to believe in this age of bland, no risk filmmaking. That it didn’t manage to find its audience is perhaps the biggest disappointment of all. Now that it’s available on Blu-ray and DVD, it’s time to see it for yourself. I’m sure some of you will come away quite pleased.
Warner Bros. unleashes Splice on Blu-ray with a very nice transfer that is seemingly true to its source material and intended palette. This is an intentionally sterile-looking film with much of it confined to laboratories or other, largely unimpressive interiors. It’s not going to blow anyone’s mind but it’s a strong high definition presentation, regardless. Flesh tones are accurately conveyed with strong, natural detail while intricate details are crisp and clear. Black levels are deep and devoid of any disgusting crush while a soft but consistent layer of grain runs throughout. No, it’s not demo material but fans should have no problems enjoying Splice on Blu-ray.
The DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track offers crystal clear audio and fantastic ambiance. Again, not a demo disc, but it represents the original design quite well.
I was looking forward to a nice, healthy set of extras for this Blu-ray but it was not to be. The sole extra is a thirty-four minute documentary A Director's Playground: Vincenzo Natali on the Set of Splice. It’s not a terribly interesting watch, though; as it’s basically a glorified behind-the-scenes look without much insight into what is definitely one of the most fascinating films of the year.
Splice isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I get it. But for me, this is one of the year’s best. A strange and rewarding science fiction thriller that deserves a larger appreciation. Warner’s Blu-ray is certainly lacking in the supplementary department, but at least its technical specs are up to snuff. I’m hesitant to recommend a blind buy but it’s well worth a look in this age of creatively bankrupt filmmaking.
4 1/2 out of 5
2 out of 5
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