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Splice of Life: Science and dysfunctional parenting don't mix in Splice 

Don’t expect horror from this dysfunctional freak show. Splice is not scary and only pretends to be a psychological thriller.

click to enlarge film_splice.jpg

Don't expect horror from this dysfunctional freak show. Splice is not scary and only pretends to be a psychological thriller. It's a "what if" scenario focusing on scientists who play God, splice together some DNA stew and then decide to raise the prototype like a child. They watch it grow, try to teach it, but give up and... have sex with it. I'm not kidding. Even with its international credits, Splice still comes off like a bad American movie about really bad parenting.

Splice starts off promising. The credits are spelled in veins popping out of embryo-like skin and the actors peer in at you as if you were the experiment. Bio-technology at the N.E.R.D. laboratories has created a new species of lumpy penis-headed slugs named Fred and Ginger. Top-notch scientists and live-in lovers Clive and Elsa (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) are on the verge of the next breakthrough using human DNA, but are blocked by corporate big wigs, so they go rogue and proceed with the experiment in secrecy.

Before you can say "zygote," they have their mutant child, which at birth looks like a manta ray with a butt on its head. After that it's a chicken-footed-lamb-faced-cat-eyed-skinned-rabbit monstrosity straight out of David Lynch's Eraserhead. The creature named "Dren" (nerd spelled backwards - so clever!) wearing a little blue dress is completely laughable. The story takes a few turns, but spends too much time in origin and only hints at the back-story for the two protagonists. Too many easy questions arise, like: How can they get away with all this secret lab work undetected?

With obvious nods to Frankenstein, co-writer/director Vincenzo Natali (Cube) makes a slick-looking flick about the dangers of gene splicing, with nothing really explained. Natali's disjointed approach leaves the viewer with an annoying sense that more interesting paths were bypassed for a narrative that offers few surprises.

Polley and Brody make the most of their emoting skills with the pedestrian dialogue. Polley gets progressively more demented while a weepy-eyed Brody wears about a dozen hip logo t-shirts. Commanding both pity and awe, Delphine Chaneac plays the grown up Dren and even under a ton of CGI and makeup has us feeling the pain of her dismal plight.

When Dren is moved to an abandoned barn where we wait for suspense or scary horror pay-off, we spend a ridiculous amount of time on tortuous parenting. As if mindreading the audience, "tedious" and its anagram "outside" are actually spelled out in scrabble form by Dren, begging for her freedom. I felt like I was watching Alien meets a Nazi camp version of Leave it to Beaver. Dren gets naked, and then it gets really warped as Clive turns alien-sex-fiend, letting this screwy morality play get even stupider.

The sleepwalking tone betrays this movie. Whereas Moon was touted as a phantasmal sci-fi flick, it successfully accomplished a weird psychological profile and social commentary. Under the guise of horror, Splice hacks together the notion that people just don't get along until it's too late. The children are the ones who suffer, especially when created in a test tube.

The ridiculous gender-bending twist ending that you see coming a mile away takes away from any social commentary or even horror values. When Dren turns into a Jeepers Creepers' version of a devilish gargoyle-like chimera and then has transgender rape-sex, all bets are off. Instead of taking a real chance, the film devolves into a generic genre ending. It should have played out as a more self-aware cult flick.

Splice
★✩✩✩
Starring Adrian Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chaneac
Directed by Vincenzo Natali
Rated R

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