PROS: Adrien Brody. Sarah Polley. Dren. Parts of it are kind of viscerally creepy.
CONS: Hokey at times. First act felt rushed. Third act steered down a weird alien rape avenue.
THINGS I LIKED: The acting was good. The thoughts and motivations of the Dren character remained baffling to the end, no matter how much the other characters projected onto it. The genetically engineered slugs going Thunderdome on each other during the press conference was worth the price of admission alone.
NITPICKS: Dren was the end result of a genetic engineering montage. What wacky combination of genes would actually result in a creature like Dren? Just because you have wings doesn’t mean you can fly no matter how heavy you are.
Splice was actually kind of interesting…it made me think of a short story ‘Born of Man and Woman’ by Richard Matheson that I read back in high school. In that story, a deformed child (the nature of the deformity is never quite explained) is kept chained in the basement, hidden away by its parents (I don’t think the sex of the child is ever defined either). It listens to them upstairs, and wants to be part of that life but can’t because all the parents see is a monster.
Adrien Brody (Clive) and Sarah Polley (Elsa) don’t keep Dren chained in a basement, but in some ways the dynamic is even creepier. After bringing the creature into the world, Clive is horrified at what they’ve done but Elsa kicks into mother-mode and starts dressing the cute little alien thing in a dress, etc. It’s sort of human looking (with a human-like face which expresses human-like emotions), but definitely not (with a whip-like tail sporting a mean barb at the end). The creepy bits seep in when despite his obvious reservations Clive exhibits something closer to actual compassion for Dren, while Elsa slowly switches gears into ‘no wire hangers’ mode and surgically mutilates Dren. The really creepy part is that even when the two are actually on the same page and expressing some warmth for Dren, they still keep her locked in a barn like an animal. The *really* creepy part is when (spoiler alert!) Clive has sex with Dren and Elsa walks in on them. Later, Adrien Brody gets to flex his acting chops as he sheepishly comes home afterward and tries to think of a workable opening line to give Elsa who is pretty pissed off that her lover cheated on her with her genetically engineered human/scorpion/cat/bird offspring who carries her DNA.
If all this sounds weird trust me – it is. It actually gets even more creepy from there, but I thought the most interesting thing about the whole movie was Dren herself. In the film, they judge her like a human child but she’s clearly not. The filmmakers made a point of being clear about that – Dren isn’t just an ‘ugly’ child, Dren isn’t a human being and we’re never quite sure what her motivations really are. She seems to want some of the things humans want (love, companionship, freedom) but at the same time I got the definite sense that these could have been misinterpretations…what Dren *really* wanted and what really motivated her is left a mystery and that’s why it kind of worked for me.
So, it had some interesting elements but as I said in my bullet points the first act was rushed (we went from zero to Dren way too fast…I don’t know how to fix that, but it still felt rushed), and the third act culminated in (spoiler alert!) the first genetic-hybrid-incest-rape scene I believe I’ve ever witnessed, when Dren finally grows out of her weirdly pretty face and into something whose non-human nature no one questions.
I’ve heard this movie compared to Species and there are superficial similarities but they’re two different pictures. What you thought about one probably won’t matter when it comes to the other. Will you like it? Who knows, but I feel like after reading all of the above, you should at least have a sense of whether you’re going to be able to sit through it or not.
BOTTOM LINE: Movies like this never seem to work out…this one had its issues too but it was better than most.