Genetic engineering: a thing that Creeps People Out. We’re all happy with the forward march of science as long as it remains confined to things like spaceships and calorie-free soda, but when eggheads start diddling with the building blocks of life itself, observers tend to get a little antsy. And for good reason! If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the movies, it’s that trying new things is bad. So let’s see what sci-fi horror flick Splice brings to the table.
Italian director Vincenzo Natali helms the flick, which stars Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley as a pair of biochemists riding high on the discovery of a synthetic protein that has miraculous healing properties for farm animals. The pair believe that, if they’re allowed to take their experiments further, they can create a similar thing for humans and basically wipe out disease. That sounds way cool! Unfortunately, to make it they need to genetically engineer a creature using human DNA, a proposal that their funding company understandably balks at.
So, in classic mad scientist mode, they go rogue and make the creature anyways. Naming it “Dren,” the proud parents quickly get a little squicked out as their baby girl grows twenty times as fast as a human infant and starts to get weird. The visual design of the creature is pretty wonderful – bald, with widely-spaced eyes and ostrichlike legs, she’s beautiful or disturbing depending on how you look at her. Of course, things start to go wrong right away. Dren has the emotional development of a toddler in the body of an adult, and she starts to get bored of her life as a lab experiment. From here on out, anything I say would be a spoiler, but Natali takes the film in a deeply disturbing direction.
The greatest success of Splice is in its early going, where the protagonists’ scientific discoveries are driving the plot. It’s nice to see science treated somewhat intelligently on the big screen, and both Brody and Polley do admirable work with their characters. By the end of the film, sadly, the ominous dread has been replaced by traditional scareplay, but while it lasts Splice offers a tight take on a classic horror trope.