out of Five
Running time: 103
Hugely entertaining, superbly written sci-fi thriller that manages to be simultaneously scary, moving and darkly funny, thanks to strong direction, great special effects and terrific performances from its three leads.
What's it all about?
Directed by Vincenzo Natali (Cube), Splice stars Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody as Elsa Kast and Clive Nicoli, two genetic scientists whose partnership is both romantic and professional. When their genetic splicing experiments successfully create a human / animal DNA hybrid, the resulting creature develops at a rapid rate and quickly takes on humanoid female form, forcing Elsa and Clive to move her to an abandoned country property owned by Elsa's mother.
Naming the creature Dren (Delphine Chaneac), Elsa and Clive take turns looking after her, but as Dren quickly becomes a rebellious and sexually curious teenager, the bond she develops with her 'parents' becomes more dangerous than either of them realise.
Polley and Brody are both terrific, delivering complex, edgy performances that are thrilling to watch – these are not perfect people, but you don't quite realise how messed up they are until it's too late, which makes for some superbly tense scenes. Chaneac is equally good, investing Dren with a keenly felt personality that is simultaneously child-like and frightening.
Vincenzo Natali maintains an impressively controlled tone throughout, with the film moving from shocks to scares to blackly comic laughs to deep sadness, often within the space of a single scene. The script is excellent too, exploring several intriguing themes (nature versus nurture, morality versus science, etc.) and piling on the allegories at a dizzying rate (child abuse, abortion, parenthood – you name it, it's all in here), while still functioning as a genuinely inventive and completely unpredictable thriller.
In addition, Splice is a treat for film fans, because it wears its influences proudly on its sleeve, from the obvious similarities to both Frankenstein and David Cronenberg's The Fly to the character names (Clive and Elsa are named after the actors in Bride of Frankenstein; the previous hybrids are named after film partnerships) and references to films like Eraserhead, Species, Alien and even, in one brilliant moment, to Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal.
Splice is a hugely entertaining, impressively directed sci-fi thriller with a superb script and terrific performances from Polley, Brody and Chaneac. It's also easily one of the best genre films of the year. Highly recommended.