Genetics Lab Baby


11 June 2010| No Comments on Splice     by Sean Chavel


Superior horror imbued with visual ingenuity. Splice is a horror film and a class act, and it is reassuring to report that Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley brought the best of their talents to this project. Just when horror film was dissolving into bottom of the barrel entertainment, it has somehow shot back. “Paranormal Activity” was a smart and inventive quasi-documentary that used grain and shaky cam to its benefit. “Splice” is a smart and cleverly re-tooled classic style horror that utilizes rhythm and a controlled visual style to superb effect.

The big players like Quentin Tarantino (“Pulp Fiction”) and Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”) are directors who understand what a rigorous visual style can bring to a picture. More and more these days, directors are losing sense of what rhythm and control are. Look at “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” to see how haphazard the shooting and cutting style are, with disjointed images of running, jumping, swinging all randomly jumbled in the editing room, not to mention a camera that whooshes along without coherent navigation or purpose.

But here we return to the fundamental joys of disciplined moviemaking. The director of “Splice” is the talented but relatively unknown Vincenzo Natali who 13 years ago made the claustrophobic horror “Cube” which  was met with divisive reactions (some were elated by its freak-uniqueness, others were uncomfortably unnerved). Natali uses chilly blue filters for the lab technician scenes and slow zooms to heightening effect, he fixes the camera down and lets grotesque things drop into frame. What Natali fervently does is create a disciplined and contained mood for the entire film, something that is a bit 1930’s “Frankenstein” and a body mutation David Cronenberg picture.

Brody (“King Kong”) and Polley (“Dawn of the Dead”) are the genius genetics scientists, romantically linked, who use their pharmaceutical company resources to raise a gigantic worm. But no, that’s not all folks. In order to produce higher levels of genetically-enhanced proteins for mass consumerism, they hybrid various animals, the worm, and human genetics into a hybrid creature that ages exponentially eventually is named Dren (the portrayal is by actress Delphine Chaneac). “What could possibly go wrong?” Polley asks, and as the experiment stays secret, the problems stack up.

Like all mindful horror films do, the medical duo attempts to create a relationship with the creature that has conditioning and associating learning capacity (less mindful horror films have no relationships). You’re always aware, gleefully, that Brody and Polley are too close to their experiment. We see before they do that Dren is a creature with problems tempering its own rage. While the early scenes are the true terrifying ones, the horror evolves into comedy. But creature features have always been funny in their Darwinistic free-for-all. “Splice” is a comedic battle of the minds, between doctor and creature, and the doctors who have varying degrees of sympathy for this… thing.

If “Splice” falls short of being a masterpiece of its genre then it is because the engineered foreshadowing is too obvious and the final climactic showdown is a re-boot of countless other thrillers. Scariest film ever, no (but your mom might think so), but it has the kick of a quality amusement park ride. “Splice” is an irresistible breed of both brains and style, with a contagious stir of shriek-y laughs and shudders.

104 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “The Brood” (1979); “The Fly” (1986); “Species” (1995); “Cube” (1997).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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