Splice

Splice Splice Splice Splice Splice

Two intelligent actors, Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley, neither associated with sci-fi, anchor "Splice," a socially timely film, which, like its title, blends and splices different genres, including thriller, horror, and sci-fi, relating a tale that contains scientific, technological, and moral aspects.

See trailer: emanuellevy.com/videos/view.cfm?id=219

Vigorously directed by Vincenzo Natali (who did one episode in the popular anthology "Paris je t'aime," and then solo directed "Cube"), "Splice" draws on a screenplay by Natali, Antoinette Terry Bryant, and Doug Taylor, based on Natali and Terry Bryant's idea.

The film world-premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Fest (in January, in the Midnight section) and will be released by Warner on June 4.  Strong critical support, positive word-of-mouth, and lack of similar pictures in the marketplace should propel "Splice" into a moderate success. 
 
The film is executive produced, among others, by Joel Silver and the brilliant director Guillermo del Toro, and for a while, "Splice" bears the signature of De Toro's earlier forays into the genre.  At the very least, one can say that "Splice" differs from recent sci-fi-horror flicks, and as such, is more than welcome.  The narrative has humor and some loopy elements, but it ceratinly not a rehash or spoof of its genres.
 
Brody plays Clive Nicoli and Polley Elsa Kast, two gifted genetic engineers who specialize in splicing DNA from different animals to create new hybrids that are both exciting and frightening. Pverly ambitious, perhaps to a fault, the couple now aims at using human DNA in a hybrid that bears the potentiality of revolutionizing both science and medicine.
 
Their route is full of obstacles, of various kinds. For one thing, the pharmaceutical company, which funds their research, is against their idea. For another, they themselves occasionally experience doubts.  Nonetheless, undeterred, Clive and Elsa secretly decide to take undergropund their boldest experimentation to date, and to risk their careers, by pushing the boundaries of science. For a while, the tale plays with the notion of self-serving scientists, who, we are led to believe, engage in a dangerous procedure to satisfy their own curiosity and unbridled aspirations.
 
As always in such tales, dealing with a scientifically unknown turf and a potentially hot-button issue, neither Clive nor Elsa are at first fully aware of the social and moral consequences of their endeavor. Not knowing what to expect increases the film's levels of tension and suspense for both the protagonists and the viewers, especially in the first chapters, which are the best.
 
What they produce in their lab turns out to be Dren (intriguingly played by newcomer Delphine Chaneac in a tough part), a strange, amazing, unusually attractive creature blessed with uncommon intelligence and unexpected physical skills. Indeed, Dren (which is Nerd spelled backwards) exceeds the couple's wildest fantasies and loftiest goals by developing, learning, and acquiring skills at an accelerated rate.  In short, Fren's existence soon threatens to become the duo's worst nightmare.
 
Both Brody (who has not had a good part in years) and Polley are extremely appealing, giving credible and compelling performances as two brilliantly talented young bio-engineers.  The first reel is particularly effective in setting the locale, a private state-of-the-art lab, funded by a rich pharmaceutical giant, and the couple's ambitions as scientists driven to push boundaries by combining genetic components from different species into hybrids that could produce new disease-fighting compounds.  
 
Gradually, we learn about the psychodynamics that define the couple's relationship, for example, the fact that Elsa doesn't want to bear children of her own.  Tensions between Clive and Elsa build up along with the speedy growth of Dren, namely, what to do with the human beast, thus alluding to the classic dilemma at the center of "FRankenstein."  Clive wants to terminate her, but Elsa (who's stronger in will than Clive) objects.

Considering the film's moderate budget, the special visual and sound effects are terrific, particularly when it concerns
Dren, a startling-looking creature, which has arms and legs, tail and wings, and remarkably expressive eyes.  Dren is both miraculous and horrifying in its unpredictable needs and growth rate that are way above expectations, and the fact that is played by a human makes her all the more touching. 

While some of the saga's elements are familiar, the filmmakers are smart enough to elevate their tale's erotic dimensions by suggesting a new kind of sexuality for Dren, which could be described as bisexual as well as transsexual (No more info could be disclosed here without spoiling the fun).

At different points in the narrative, "Splice" makes direct and indirect allusions to such horror classics as "Frankenstein" and "Rosemary's Baby, and ther'es one excessive, rather campy scene that inevitably will bring to mind "Mommie Dearest."

"Splice" can be seen as a cautionary morality tale about the dangers of biogenetics and professional arrogance, but there's enough wit and irony in the tale to suggest a critique of the nuclear family and modern parenting.

Cast

Clive Nicoli – Adrien Brody
Elsa Kast – Sarah Polley
Dren – Delphine Chaneac
Gavin Nicoli – Brandon McGibbon
Joan Chorot – Simona Maicanescu
Barlow – David Hewlett
Child Dren – Abigail Chu

Credits
 
Warner Release of E1 Entertainment and Copperheart Entertainment (Canada)/Gaumont (France) production, with the participation of Telefilm Canada, Ontario Media Development Corp.  Produced by Steven Hoban.
Executive producers, Guillermo del Toro, Don Murphy, Susan Montford, Christophe Riandee, Yves Chevalier, Sidonie Dumas. Directed by Vincenzo Natali.
Screenplay, Natali, Antoinette Terry Bryant, Douglas Taylor.
Camera, Tetsuo Nagata.
Editor, Michele Conroy.
Music, Cyrille Aufort.
Production designer, Todd Cherniawsky; art director, Joshu de Cartier; set designers, Gordon Lebredt, Dan Norton; set decorators, Zjelka Alosinac, Liesl Deslauriers.
Costume designer, Alex Kavanaugh.
Sound, Bernard Bats, Joel Rangon; supervising sound editor, David McCallum; sound designer, David Rose.
Visual effects supervisor, Robert Munroe; visual effects, Core Digital Pictures, BUF, Mac Guff.
Special makeup and creature effects, Howard Berger, Gregory Nicotero.
Special effects coordinator, Danny White.
Stunt coordinators, Plato Fountidakis, Paul Rapovski.
Line producer, Joseph Boccia.
Assistant director, Andrew Shea.
Second unit director, Munroe; second unit camera, David Herrington.
Casting, John Buchan, Jason Knight, John Papsidera, Constance Demontoy.
Running time: 107 Minutes.