Published Jun 03, 2010Whether it's slamming assimilative and undiscerning corporate culture (Cypher), the natural human tendency towards blissful, deluded ignorance (Cube) or incompatibility with external stimuli as demonstrated through wish fulfilment irony (Nothing), writer/director Vincenzo Natali has made a career of questioning the quotidian. He hones in on the horrors of drone mentality, pointing out the worst possible scenario while playfully asking the question ― quite literally in Splice ― "what's the worst that could happen?"
Here, he sets his sights on the blind entitlement to parenthood, with married scientists Elsa (Sarah Polley) and Clive (Adrien Brody) struggling with the decision of whether or not to breed while splicing animal DNA in the hopes of curing various diseases and genetic conditions. Illegally forging ahead into human-animal trials, the young couple wind up with Dren (Delphine Cheneac), a creature with a rapid life cycle and the cognitive function of a Homosapien.
It doesn't take a genius to draw the obvious parallel between this sci-fi template and nascent parental anxieties, and Natali makes no effort to hide it. And why should he, as this Freudian freak-out clips along with consistent tension, challenging the audience with alarming psychological acuity that doesn't shy away from the less comforting aspects of psychosexual development.
While the foreboding and unknown of a new species introduced to the world as an outsider sustain narrative function, making for memorable, engaging viewing on its own, the magic of Splice is that it's more than that. Polley and Brody bring their damaged characters to life, with the deconstruction of their gender roles and signifier breakdown propelling the climax and inevitable horrors that unfold.
Sure, the plot becomes a tad predictable in the final act, remaining true to allegorical implications, rather than going for campy Shyamalan shock, but it doesn't make the experience any less affecting. It would be hard to walk away from this film without some sort of reaction, or some sort of thought, whether distaste for its unsavoury implications or appreciation for its lack of condescension. Regardless, this is a movie to see. (E1)