Splice: Horror Produced by Del Toro

Superstar genetic engineers Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) specialize in splicing DNA from different animals to create incredible new hybrids. Now they want to use human DNA in a hybrid that could revolutionize science and medicine. But when the pharmaceutical company that funds their research forbids it, Clive and Elsa secretly take their boldest experimentation underground–risking their careers by pushing the boundaries of science to serve their own curiosity and ambition.

The result is Dren, an amazing, strangely beautiful creature of uncommon intelligence and an array of unexpected physical developments. At first, Dren exceeds their wildest dreams. But as she grows and learns at an accelerated rate, her existence threatens to become their worst nightmare.
 
"Splice" stars Oscar-winner Adrien Brody ("The Pianist"), Sarah Polley, and newcomer Delphine Chaneac in the role of the creature Dren.
 
"Splice" is directed by Vincenzo Natali ("Paris je t'aime," "Cube") from a screenplay by Natali & Antoinette Terry Bryant and Doug Taylor, story by Vincenzo Natali & Antoinette Terry Bryant. The film is produced by Steven Hoban and executive produced by Joel Silver and Sidonie Dumas. Also serving as executive producers are Guillermo del Toro, Susan Montford, Don Murphy, Christophe Riandee and Yves Chevalier.
 
The behind-the-scenes creative team includes director of photography Tetsuo Nagata (Cesar Award winner for "La mome" and "La chambre des officiers"); editor Michele Conroy (Directors Guild of Canada Award winner for "Nothing"); production designer Todd Cherniawsky (art director, "Avatar"); and costume designer Alex Kavanagh (the "Saw" films). The music is by Cyrille Aufort.
 
The Story
It's not such an unlikely scenario. In a private, state-of-the-art lab funded by a pharmaceutical giant, two brilliantly talented young bio-engineers, Clive Nicoli and Elsa Kast, combine genetic components from different species into hybrids that could produce new disease-fighting compounds. It's vital. It's exciting. It's the future.

As Elsa tells Clive, it's their job as scientists to push the boundaries.
But how far?

Outpacing Science

Director Vincenzo Natali, who devoted years to developing "Splice," often found it challenging to outpace the science that fuels his story. "The technology is advancing so rapidly, I think it took scientists less time to map the human genome than it took to write the script," he jokes. "How does 'Splice' fit into the world we live in now? I don't even know what world that is. I don't think anyone does. Things are changing in dramatic ways in all aspects of our civilization, culture and science, and that's something 'Splice' explores: our relationship to technology and the doors it unlocks. It pushes us to places we're unable, or afraid, to go."

"What takes place in this movie is not far from the truth," notes Adrien Brody, who stars as Clive. "We're living in a world in which science fiction is becoming reality, and that gives the film its weight. It's frightening to a certain extent, to see how precarious things can be, but also exciting because there is potential for wonderful things."

For Clive and Elsa, a power couple at home as well as in the lab, their triumphs have been widely celebrated in the media…and their errors, so far, easily erased.

Having successfully spliced animal genes into superior hybrids, their logical next step would be adding human DNA to the mix, in the hope of creating a new life form higher on the evolutionary scale. But that's not where their sponsors want to go, demanding instead that they curb their scientific ambitions in favor of something more practical and marketable. So they make a daring decision. They'll give the company what it wants while pursuing their own agenda, conducting the most monumental experiment of their lives in secret.

That experiment becomes Dren: a startling amalgamation of arms and legs, tail and wings, with remarkably expressive eyes; a being both miraculous and horrifying, with an increasingly unpredictable range of needs and a growth rate that's off the charts.

If their first mistake was creating Dren, their second is letting her live.

Understanding Life

Says Natali, "Clive and Elsa are smarter than they are wise, and while they play with the building blocks of life, they don't really have any deep understanding of what life is. You could say this is a coming-of-age film in that they are forced to grow up and become responsible parents, in a sense. As Dren becomes a catalyst for their own darker needs, she sets off a downward spiral of their scientific ideologies obscured by the moral imperatives of parenthood. We watch the humans turn into monsters, as the monster reveals its humanity."

"Vincenzo has a savage imagination," declares master storyteller and "Splice" executive producer Guillermo del Toro. "'Splice' is incredibly powerful and morally ambiguous. Both the creators and the creature are flawed. At stages the creature is innocent, then malevolent; the scientists are empathetic, then ruthless. In so many ways this story crosses the line."

Losing their objectivity, then control of their creation, Clive and Elsa press forward with a series of decisions that will prove disastrous in ways they can't imagine.

"Just as the most dangerous part of Dren could be her human DNA, and not the animal, I think the danger in this film is not about science and where it's leading us but about the unpredictable human element, in a way that audiences may find shocking," proposes Sarah Polley, who stars as the driven Elsa.

Premiering at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, "Splice" impressed critics and enthralled audiences–among them, Joel Silver, Chairman of Dark Castle Entertainment, who felt that the timely and thought-provoking thriller was exactly the kind of film for which DarkCastle was created. Silver, an executive producer on "Splice" says, "This is the kind of story that goes for a visceral reaction and engages the imagination at the same time. It pulls you in and doesn't let go. It raises questions straight out of headline news about how bio-engineering could shape the future, but also stirs up fears about the dark places in human nature that we've been running from forever."

"In science fiction, those issues become epic," observes producer Steve Hoban, whose association with the director dates back to his first film, the 1992 short "Half Nelson," on which a young Natali debuted as a storyboard artist. "We're speculating about the future: is it good, is it bad, is it scary?"

While focusing on the cutting edge of bio-engineering, Natali believes "Splice" also exposes a primal fantasy lying
deep in the human psyche. "The notion of bonding with something not entirely human goes back to ancient myth. It has always existed and I was fascinated by the idea that those mythic concepts–mermaids, centaurs, chimeras, human hybrids that have tantalized people's imaginations for thousands of years–could exist in the real world through new science. While 'Splice' is very much about the vanguard of genetic research, it's also about things that have been with us since the beginning of time."

To help stir that emotional connection, Natali felt strongly that Dren should be portrayed by an actor rather than a computer-generated image, and cast Delphine Chaneac in the unusual role. "It pays homage to all the things one would expect in a Frankenstein kind of story but also delves into aspects of the relationship between the creators and their creation that really keeps it on a personal level, and it's because of that I decided to have an actor play Dren. Only when it's anatomically impossible do we use CG."

Ultimately, he offers, "I don't feel 'Splice' makes a clear statement about whether the actions of Clive and Elsa are good or bad. Their mistakes in creating Dren are mostly well-intentioned. That the question of whether we are going in the right direction or the wrong direction is raised by the film, but not answered by it, is relevant, because, at this moment, I don't think we know."