The movie “Splice” reminded me of the old margarine commercial in which Mother Nature, annoyed at having been fooled into thinking that a certain brand margarine tasted like butter declared “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature,” a statement followed by ominous thunder for emphasis. Similarly, will movie scientists ever learn not to deceive Mother Nature? I hope not, otherwise they would ruin a good chunk of the horror film genre, or in the case of “Splice” horror/sci-fi/thriller genres.
There is a theory, in screenwriting circles, that there exist only something like 30 story possibilities and that any story one can invent falls into one of these categories. My favorite example is the idea that “Frankenstein” and “My Fair Lady” are actually the same story. I get a big kick out of this theory and think there is a lot of truth to it. If you think about it, each story does involve a doctor who cooks up a new life of some sort in his laboratory without considering the fate of the life he has created. The movie “Splice” puts a contemporary twist on the Frankenstein story with a tale of human cloning and proves to be a decent entry in the genre. Genre films have certain recognized, expected elements and are not necessarily known for breaking new ground, nor are they supposed to.
Clive (Adrian Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) are a scientist couple who have their own, corporate funded, company that explores new boundaries in genetic engineering. For a movie fan the names Clive and Elsa cannot help but conjur up the movie “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935). In the latter, actors Colin Clive played Dr. Frankenstein and Elsa Lancaster played the titular role. The film was the sequel to “Frankenstein” (1931) in which Clive originally played Dr. Frankenstein. Two of the blob like creatures resulting from Clive and Elsa’s cloning experiments are named Fred and Ginger for more 1930s movie references. The acronym for Clive and Elsa’s company is NERD. The creature they create through an unethical and illegal cloning experiment that fuses human and animal DNA is named DREN (NERD spelled backwards, which I recognized as an old joke from an episode of the iconic 1970s TV series, about the 1950s, “Happy Days.”) You just know bad things are going to happen.
DRENS’s birth, or creation, brings out paternal feelings in Clive and Elsa as they become unwitting, or, as it runs out maybe not so unwitting, parents to this part woman part animal creature. The story is a sometimes clever parable about parenthood. That the three form a family unit that ultimately turns dysfunctional should not come as any surprise. After all this is a horror film. Tenderness, love, understanding, drowning, various deaths, incest and gender switching all combine to create a blood drenched, partially Freudian, nightmare with room for a sequel.
The actors all play it pretty straight and the movie certainly delivers on the gore and horror aspects while setting us up for “Splice 2.” While “Splice” definitely kept my interest it is certainly not for all tastes.
Splice, Director Vincenzo Natalie, 2010,
Columbia Pictures, 104 minutes, rated R