Full disclosure: If you’ve read my bio, then
you’ll know that I hold a degree in bioinformatics and I’m currently
taking courses in bioscience technology. I’ve been studying genetics and
molecular biology for five years running, so the scientific and ethical
premises of this movie are naturally very intriguing to me.
I’m not going to authenticate or debunk the movie’s science in
regards to inter-species splicing, since I don’t consider myself
properly qualified to do so (yet). Plus, the scientific work here is so
loosely defined that I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on either way. I do
know that a one-celled organism with 100% synthetic DNA was
recently built, but there’s a huge leap from replacing the nucleus
of a pre-existing cell to building a whole humanoid entirely from
scratch. The science of this movie also revolves heavily around an
artificial uterus, which I’m certain does not exist (currently).
In short, the technology to make this movie nonfiction is still a
ways off, if it’s coming at all. But if we’re going to start talking
about the potential consequences, we’d better start talking about them
now. Which brings me to Splice.
To start with, it’s a very well-crafted movie. The pacing is
excellent, the score is wonderful and the tension is thick. This is a
movie that manages to be threatening and scary, all with a near-absence
of jump scares. I think it helps that this movie has two leads that we
can grow attached to instead of six to ten leads that are picked off one
by one. The screenplay is also rather clever in its use of set-ups and
payoffs, though there are still multiple times when the characters act
very stupidly. On the other hand, I suppose that 90% of all horror
movies would be over rather quickly if the characters always took the
smartest possible option.
Then we have the creature effects. Yes, the main creature is Dren
(spell it backwards), but she goes through various phases of development
as the movie progresses and they’re all superlatively crafted. We also
have Dren’s forebears, Fred and Ginger, who effectively set the movie’s
creepy/icky tone right off the bat. Kudos also to the sound designers,
who must have worked long and hard to establish such an integral part of
what makes the creatures work.
But let’s stick with Dren. Specifically, let’s talk about Delphine
Chaneac, the French actress who plays Dren through most of her
screentime. I have no doubt that Dren would not have worked half as well
if she was played by a less capable actress or done entirely with CGI.
And what a character she had to play! You think life is hard enough as
it is? Try going from cradle to grave in the space of two or three
months. Dren is equal parts alien and child, stuck in constant mutual
misunderstanding with the world and people around her. At all times,
she’s half sympathetic and half terrifying. It’s an exceptionally
difficult character with layers upon layers of nuance and Chaneac
fucking nails it without a single line of dialogue. There’s no chance in
hell that she’s going to get an Oscar nod for it, but she totally
Then we have Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley as Clive and Elsa, Dren’s
creators. To start with, it was a novel move to take the story’s “Dr.
Frankenstein” role and divide it between a childless married couple. It
takes the “father/son” dynamic of the original story and makes it a
broader “family” dynamic, which is much more emotionally rich. Their
chemistry falters at times, but they play off each other nicely for the
most part. I also appreciate that as the movie went on, it became
increasingly clear that these two were morally compromised from the
The movie has some bright spots (the dance sequence), but it also
goes to some dark places (the fates of Fred and Ginger) and has moments
that are surprising and uncomfortable (what Clive ultimately does about
Dren’s fever). There’s one storyline in particular that made me want to
stand up and scream “Are you fucking serious?!” But then I
Robot Chicken sketch and realized that maybe it was indeed a
bioethical issue that needs to be addressed.
The bottom line is that Splice is a very good movie, but man
is it weird. It candidly addresses all manner of molecular
bioethics, doing so with great acting and superb VFX, but this makes it
all the more difficult to watch at times. It may disturb you and it may
not be your cup of tea, but I’d still advise anyone reading this to
check it out for yourself. In fact, I’d consider it required viewing for
horror fanatics and anyone remotely interested in science.