Sarah Polley in Splice

Movie Review: Splice, Sci-fi’s New Frankenstein

One truism of the sci-fi world is that youll never know what will come out of a test-tube until its prehensile tail is strangling you and its claws have punctured your skin.

With Splice, which premiered at Sundance, director Vincenzo Natali updates the Frankenstein story and places it at sciences cutting edge, in the field of gene-splicing.  The perils of genetic manipulation are addressed, horror-style, and a hybrid species character redefines conception and copulation. And it came from…..Canada.

Adrian Brody and Sarah Polley in the cast can help Splice go beyond the existing techno-horror audience. The prospect of each of them in intimate contact with a hybrid species could pack armies of the curious into theaters, if You-Tube doesnt over-saturate the web with those scenes first.

Sarah Polley as Elsa in Splice

Sarah Polley as Elsa in Splice

English-speaking territories should be strongest for the film, yet stylish effects and deft cinematography which have put horror and sci-fi in the fore-front of pop-culture globalization will give it international appeal. No wonder that its financing came from a firm from France, Gaumont. (In a future post, Ill discuss why French companies are funding American films that wary US producers wont touch.)

Clive (Brody) and Elsa (Polley) arent your standard geeks, but hip scientists probing the frontiers of gene-splicing, and battling corporate investors as they take wild risks. The whiz kids breakthrough is a human/animal hybrid that grows alarmingly fast into a female humanoid, the sexy and willful Dren (Delphine Chaneac). The films title in French is Nouvelle Espece, or New Species. Created with Elsas DNA (an unethical trick by Elsa), Dren also develops a lust for Clive. If you like lust triangles, heres a good one – man/woman/humanoid.

With echos of Canadian horror-compatriot David Cronenberg and Exec producer Guillermo Del Toro (who just quit The Hobbit – for something edgier, in the style of Splice?), Natali infuses the story of a runaway experiment with a sense of the vast new powers in the hands of scientists who toy with genetic pairings, and a dread of unintended consequences. The spliced monsters have a tactility that convinces you that they emerged from the test tube, rather than from the CGI studio playbook, enhancing Splices eeriness.

Brody and Polley take dramatic risks as lovers who lose the balance between affection and ambition. Delphine Chaneac plays their bald marble-skinned confection with a puppy-like vulnerability and an explosively volatile libido. Natalis experiment works.

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