Splice is a sci-fi, horror film that works at its psychological best when its not delivering too much in the way of special effects, although they are very well done here. It’s a smart and sexy flick, and the cast is superb. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley play two hip genetic engineers, Clive and Elsa, who work for NERD (Nucleic Exchange Research and Development), a corporation that is so down and out that it’s willing to make great scientific sacrifices in order to get its product on the market. But Clive and Elsa can’t seem to work fast enough to produce it so there’s the rub. These two rock-star type scientists specialize in combining different types of animal DNA to reproduce living organisms that will mate…or should anyway. Their goals are to find a possible cure for cancer and other diseases. But something is about to change.
Splice is all about cloning gone wrong. What results is what happens when these two intelligent people splice animal with human DNA to create an animal/human hybrid they name Dren-NERD spelled backward. Dren starts out looking like an alien toy-like creature which eventually becomes more human, growing rapidly and showing signs of great intelligence, able to spell out long words as a child on a scrabble board. But this innocence doesn’t last very long as we are given foreshadowing signs of the terror that is to come.
Clive at this point desires to kill Dren because she represents a threat to their existence and the results are quite the opposite, her showing survival instincts and powers that come in handy for her later on in the film. Splice is a clever film in that it starts Dren out as a lovable creature who squeaks and squeals, looking cute and vulnerable without speaking any lines. But Dren soon turns quite the sexy hell-cat and this becomes a problem for Clive and Elsa. A strange affection for her adoptive father ignites passion in Clive but almost renders Dren deadly, as seen in the inclusion of her stinger-tipped tail, and she is not afraid to use it in the heat of passion. Is it jealousy over the sexuality and love she sees in her adoptive parents that makes Dren so frustrated or is it her purely natural, internal, monster-like quality that causes a conflict between the threesome? The film explores this quite often and successfully so.
The acting in Splice is quite good, Dren played to the sexual hilt by beautiful French actress Delphine Chane’ac. All three actors utilize their fear and the foreboding qualities of the film to create lots of tension. There is even one point in the film where we get the feeling that Clive and Elsa truly need Dren, but this is a family unit that eventually can and should only see things from a scientific perspective. Dren is basically a human lab experiment, and her growth into an angry yet curious adult has dire consequences for Clive and Elsa. Dren’s need for sex eventually goes out of control and she becomes tired of the place she has been put in. She also finds fault with the literal place they force her to live in (an old converted barn once owned by Elsa’s parents), and this becomes a useless confinement for Dren so she develops an increasing and obvious desire to escape. We also see here the problematic correlation between Elsa’s justifiably bad maternal instincts towards Dren as shown through Elsa’s past troubles with her own mother.
Although the conclusion of the film is based on the plots scientific explanations for Dren’s strange metamorphosis, there is no lacking of horrifying special effects and thrills. But the best thing about Splice is that it manages to avoid becoming a schlocky slice-em and dice-em horror film. It combines psychology and hard science and if you watch the film with an eye towards the implications of science gone completely wrong, you will be quite satisfied with the results.