BD Review: A Positive, Spoiler-Free Look at ‘Splice’

Following a screening of Vincenzo Natali’s Splice last night in Los Angeles, Bloody Disgusting’s BC and myself stood wide-eyed in an elevator with fellow colleagues soaked in silence. Typically, post screening shenanigans results in loud voices and an immediate thumbs up or thumbs downs (an eternal homage to Siskel and Ebert) by the varied publications. WB’s horrific sci-fi drama, good or bad, is so unique, so genuine, and so damn ballsy that it’s nearly impossible to shake the rush of emotions it pours upon you. Some sat in silence (me), some laughed, some giggled, some I could see chewing on their knuckle – and that’s the power of this movie. Splice, unlike the abomination of films that have been released prior this year, ensure that the viewer actually feels something. Again, good or bad, Splice is quite the experience. While Ryan Daley’s Sundance experience was negative, BC’s was quite the opposite. You can read what he had to say below (completely spoiler free) and find out what the hell we’re all talking about when Splice hits theaters on June 4.This review will probably be a short one (by my standards), because so much of what makes Splice such a delightful surprise is the odd places that the story goes, and I wouldn’t want to even hint at them. I will say this though – the trailers are doing a very good job at selling the concept of the movie without giving too much away. In fact, I’m pretty sure the entire trailer is comprised only of footage from the film’s first act. And while some may feel otherwise, I think it’s kind of important to let folks know that the film is much different than they might expect (while not going into details why). Based on the trailers, you might be fooled into thinking that Splice is a Species knockoff, with a monster being created, escaping, and being tracked down by the science types who created her. But that’s not what the movie is – it’s much more original and interesting than that.

The trade off is that it’s a bit light on the action/horror elements – I’m actually kind of shocked that Warner is putting the film out at the top of summer (it’s more of an August type movie – cerebral and dark, not overblown and popcorn-ready like the films it will be competing against). There are only like 6 people in the entire movie, with Elsa (Sarah Polley) and Clive (Adrien Brody and his wacky wardrobe) taking up 90% of the screentime. The movie is as much about their relationship as it is any of the “splicing” elements, and both actors deliver terrific performances – certainly more than just a notch above what you’d get in a “monster” movie. But as you might expect, this means that the body count is obviously pretty low – I’m not joking about the limited cast. Apart from the crowd in a brief conference scene and a few nameless lab techs, there are LITERALLY only 6 people in the movie.

One of whom is “Dren”, the spliced being that they create. THIS is how I love to see CGI being used, as it’s a real person (Delphine Chanéac and Abigail Chu at different stages) with CGI enhanced appendages and such. While Gollum and Jar-Jar are terrific creations (well, only in the technical sense for the latter), they’re still entirely digital, and thus display – albeit in limited form compared to others – problems that they bring (overly fluid motions, occasional weightlessness). Dren has none of that, and it makes her interactions with Polley and Brody all the more believable, which in turn makes the film’s turn of events all the more easy to accept.

There are still a few “spectacle” moments for hardcore horror fans though. Again without spoiling anything, something occurs around the halfway mark that is so horrifying and grotesque I thought for sure it had to be a dream sequence. And as this IS a genre film, the climax obviously has some bad things going down. In a way, it’s sort of like a really great early season episode of The X-Files, where you have a fairly talky first 2/3s or so, with some good (if brief) action to close it up – which also makes it a better X-Files movie than the actual 2nd X-Files movie, which concluded with a guy being hit over the head and Skinner waving a gun around.

Maybe when the Blu-Ray comes out I will review the film again, and talk at length about its twists and such, as well as discuss a few minor negative points that would be difficult to get into without spoiling anything (very vaguely – there seems to be some missing character development for both Elsa and Dren). I also think that they try a bit too hard to make Elsa and Clive out to be the coolest, rock-star scientists of all time – the Wired magazine cover is one thing, but the giant anime poster over their bed and wall-to-wall Yo Gabba Gabba and other “alt” toys are a bit much. But it’s a minor quibble; as I’ve said before, I just love seeing a movie where I have no idea where it’s going to go, and Splice certainly qualifies as one. It might not be my favorite movie of the year, but it will almost certainly be one of the most original and unique, at least from a major studio. Grats to Warner Bros/Dark Castle for putting it out there (and giving it a pretty big push) alongside all of the 3D and PG-13 tentpoles without a single original idea between them.

4/5 Skulls

Visit Horror Movie A Day for BC’s longer (still spoiler-free) review!