PLOT: Two scientists (Adrien Brody & Sarah Polley) splice animal & human DNA to create a hybrid being- the initially passive Dren (Delphine Chaneac). As Dren begins to learn and grow at an accelerated rate, the animal/human hybrid begins to display more aggressive behavior, becoming a nightmare for both the scientists, and anyone unfortunate enough to cross paths with the dangerous creature.
REVIEW: SPLICE was one of the big hits of Sundance 2010, with it being picked up for distribution by Joel Silver's Dark Castle Entertainment, which is more and more a rarity these days in the changing independent film landscape. After finally seeing the film for myself, I can see why it was picked up, as it's a solid genre entry that could potentially strike a chord with horror fans.
Truth be told, SPLICE isn't a terribly original film. It comes from Canadian director Vincenzo Natali, who, back in the nineties, directed a fantastic low budget sci-fi film called CUBE. Since then, he hasn't done much other than a barely released Lucy Liu vehicle (CYPHER) and a segment in the omnibus film, PARIS, JE T'AIME. SPLICE could be Natali's ticket to the big-time, as this mines territory previously explored by another Canuck genre director, David Cronenberg.
While it's a tad premature to claim Natali could be another Cronenberg, it's obvious that he's trying to emulate his work in THE FLY, with SPLICE being another example of science run amok. While it's more than a tad derivative, it's a stylish, and well constructed flick, benefiting enormously from the lead performances from Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley.
Brody's been having a bit of a comeback lately, with this coming out just a few weeks before his hotly anticipated starring role in Robert Rodgriguez' PREDATORS. Brody's solid as the somewhat more level-headed of the two scientists, although all that goes out the window in the second half of the film when his relationship with Dren gets...heated. Brody's lower-key here than he's been in a while, and it works well for the role.
As the other, less cautious half, we have the Queen of Canadian cinema- Sarah Polley, who's mostly been working behind the camera these days (AWAY FROM HER). She's much better in the role than I assumed she'd be, as Polley tends to phone in roles when she's in big mainstream fare. Here, she really engages with the material, and anchors the film with a performance that doesn't shy away from being somewhat unlikable at times. Her relationship with Dren becomes just as twisted as Brody's, and there are even a few scenes between the two where you might find yourself sympathizing with Dren. My only real problem is that Polley's actions in the last act of the film don't exactly jibe with the way the character's portrayed earlier in the film, which leads the film to end a fairly predictable note.
Meanwhile, as Dren, Delphine Chaneac is both creepy, and unsettlingly attractive in an androgynous, freaky way. While she's no Natasha Henstridge style sex bomb a la SPECIES, the character is still made attractive enough to make you understand that the scientists could grow attached, and even attracted to it (although the wings and legs might be A BIT of a turn off).
Overall, I'd say SPLICE was a perfectly decent genre thriller. While it's not terribly original, it is well directed, and acted. The script could have used some work, but overall it's a pretty solid movie- although I'm not sure it's good enough to justify the massive push it's been getting over the last few weeks. I saw plenty of films at Sundance that were A LOT better than SPLICE, yet this gets a 3000 screen release, while ANIMAL KINGDOM and HESHER sit on the shelf before getting an inevitably small roll-out later this year. I wish we lived in a world where truly adventurous films could still hit the big-time, but either audiences are unwilling to experiment or studios are unwilling to gamble. Either way, SPLICE is exactly the type of film that will sell at a film fest- in that it's mainstream, and virtually indistinguishable from any big-budget studio release. Still, it's not a bad film, and worth catching if you're a horror fan- just don't go in expecting anything truly exceptional. Still Natali's got enough talent to make me hope that someday soon he'll make something that lives up to the promise he showed with CUBE. Until then, somewhat recycled Cronenberg will have to do.