Geneticists Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) combine human and animal DNA to create Dren, a marvelous being that becomes too dangerous and intelligent to control. Contrary to the film’s horror-centric marketing campaign, “Splice” is primarily a science-fiction story that offers a parental twist on classic Promethean themes.

The film has a grisly atmosphere from the beginning, but the intended alienation becomes harder to stomach as Dren becomes more predatory. The evolution of Dren from a small computer-animated creature into a formidable humanoid (presented through appropriately disorienting makeup and the naturalistic performances of Abigail Chu and Delphine Chanéac) makes an absorbing first two-thirds. During the last half-hour, the film takes a few distasteful and weirdly sensual turns involving Dren’s maturity and its interaction with Clive and Elsa. Though these events produce a nicely ambiguous ending, their nature is unsettling enough to mar this intriguing film.

"Splice" is most effective when it focuses on the familial aspects of the experiment. The story asks whether certain people, geneticists or ordinary citizens, are unfit to be creators. It is clearly questionable how qualified Clive and Elsa are as scientists (at one point, Clive holds a scalpel in his mouth after making an incision with it), and Elsa's abusive childhood has distorted her judgment on how to raise offspring. Dren demonstrates the consequences of both of those inadequacies. Her mixed genealogy and her oppressive surroundings make her a physical abomination, a psychological riddle and eventually a complete monster. If she were borne of better hands, perhaps she could have become something beautiful.

First published in The Coastland Times


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