SPLICE is gross but refreshing. Put that on a poster, Warner Brothers! It’s refreshing because it’s a movie that makes you think. It grabs you by the collar and pulls you uncomfortably close and demands that you use your damn brain. As an uncommonly intelligent horror film, SPLICE stood little chance at the box office, but its makers can rest assured knowing that they put out a movie that continues to have people (though not enough of them, yet) thinking and talking long after the initial release, back in 2010.
Sidebar: This movie is not for the squeamish.
SPLICE is a sparse story with only a couple of primary players. The recognizable — and very brave — pair of actors who play the movie’s protagonists are Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley. These two deserve a massive amount of credit for willing to play characters, not just being concerned about being likable, and of course director Vincenzo Natali (CUBE, Hannibal, Westworld, American Gods) and his co-writers Antoinette Terry Bryant and Doug Taylor deserve credit too, for writing them that way. The couple end up engaging in some abhorrent behavior as the story progresses (or descends, as the case may be), but they actually begin the movie as arrogant hipster-douchebags. They’re really not that sympathetic as people – we’re only interested in following them because the story and the actors are so compelling.
Brody and Polley play Clive and Elsa (and all the BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN
references that that implies), two young geneticists who, for the purposes of curing diseases by synthesizing key proteins, have literally managed to create life, in the form of a pair of two creatures that look like a cross between the biggest caterpillar you’ve ever seen and Ron Jeremy’s dick. Sorry if that’s crass, but I do believe the penile resemblance is intentional.
That’s not the gross part, by the way. We haven’t even gotten there yet.
Clive and Elsa are into the habit of giving their experiments cutesy couple names, so the latest pair of schlong-esque slugs (all of the previous test cases have not survived) are named Fred and Ginger. Fred and Ginger are introduced to each other, and they mate.
Still not the gross part.
After the deed is done, there is a product of the union – a dirt-colored fleshbag that looks like a cross between a human liver and a placenta. At first, Clive and Elsa think that this is the “baby” – and why wouldn’t they, based on how weird the parents look? – but it’s not. It’s just the cocoon, and we’ll get to what comes out in a second.
Meanwhile, Clive and Elsa present Fred and Ginger to a roomful of suits, making a grand speech about Adam and Eve and the miracle of life. Only by this point Ginger has metamorphosized into a male, and like that scene in TRAINSPOTTING when Begbie goes apeshit after making out with a transvestite, Fred goes apeshit and attacks Ginger. They both gore each other to death in a rain of grue. Clive and Elsa have failed, publicly, and the roomful of investors wind up with egg on their face. And by “egg,” I mean “alien blood and viscera.”
Believe it or not, we’re still working towards the gross part.
Clive and Elsa mean to destroy every trace of Fred and Ginger, but the thing that was inside the cocoon has escaped. We seem to be in familiar cinematic territory, and could sure use Sigourney Weaver right about now. But when Clive and Elsa finally encounter the creature, it turns out to be bizarrely adorable. It’s like a cross between a baby sea lion and The Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth
. The creature effects by genius monster-maker Howard Berger and his crew are truly remarkable – legitimately original and thoroughly believable.
Almost immediately, Elsa’s maternal instinct kicks in, and as the creature rapidly matures from infancy to toddlerhood, Clive’s initial impulse to destroy the creature softens into a similar patriarchal role. The creature starts looking more and more like a little girl, albeit a little girl who looks like a cross between Michael Berryman
and, um, Sigourney Weaver in ALIEN
. (Did you notice that I’m crossing a lot of things with other things in this review? It’s on purpose. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are awesome, by the way.) Elsa names the little mutant “Dren,” which is “Nerd” spelled backwards, which is more than a little annoying.
See, that’s a clue: Elsa and Clive are just about the worst parents in the world. She’s so wrapped up in her own twisted thinking, and he’s so willing to accommodate her, that they both end up making a series of spectacularly bad decisions which prove calamitous as Dren rapidly cycles into her rebellious teenage phase. I will reveal no more (I’ve only really covered the first half hour or less here), but let’s just say that it turns out to be very dangerous to be an inferior role model to a genetic mutant.
Spoiler warning: This is where the gross part arrives, by the way.
Unlike 90% of modern horror films, yet much like many of the truly memorable ones, SPLICE
is a movie that’s about
something. What that something is, already seems to be open to interpretation. Some people will look at the story as a classical cautionary tale of man messing with nature. Some people will see it as the straight-up FRANKENSTEIN
update that it clearly is, in many ways. Some people will see it as a grand return to the psycho-sexual body horror of early Cronenberg. (It’s true – SPLICE
reminds me of no movie so much as Cronenberg’s version of THE FLY
.) And all of those takes are completely valid.
My own take? It’s an allegory for bad parenting. If you want to create a whole new human being, you might want to go into that with a little preparation and forethought. If you don’t, things can go very bad very fast.
That’s one way to look at it. There are many. Of course, for the squeamish among us, the only way to look at SPLICE will be through the fingers of your hands, covering your face in disgust. Never say you weren’t warned.
SPLICE is the midnight movie Friday January 26th and Saturday January 27th at Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn.
Latest posts by Jon Abrams (see all)
Tags: Adrien Brody, Amanda Brugel, Colin Clive, David Hewlett, Delphine Chanéac, Elsa Lanchester, guillermo del toro, Horror, Sarah Polley, Vincenzo Natali