It's been far too long since there's been a decent film about genetic engineering. Its not just for zombie movie exposition anymore. Splice is for the most part, the kind of science-fiction film that is depressingly rare these days, given that it centers around the exploration of an idea, rather then the exploitation of an idea to allow it to contain kick-ass action sequences. It's pleasingly cerebral, or at least has enough ambition to be cerebral that it is pleasing, and explores science-fiction through the impact it has on character. Like with Natali's previous cult hit Cube, not everything works as well as everything else. But also like Cube, the ideas seen on-screen are unique and intriguing enough for you to forgive the movie its flaws.
Splice follows Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley), two genetic scientists who rather intelligently decide to create themselves a human-animal composite embryo, Dren, in a decision that the trailers tell you can clearly come to no good. Of course these are movie scientists and an extension of that label is that they're going to do some erratic and borderline psychotic shit for the plot to further itself, the film ends after twenty minutes if they do the logical thing and gas the freak. But I didn't mind this segment as much as I usually do, in part because of the strength of Sarah Polley's performance, which is simultaneously likable and subtly unhinged. It makes you believe in some of the more irrational things the character does yet not lose sympathy for her. It's a very impressive performance from the Oscar nominated screen-writer and heroine of Dawn Of The Dead. It kind of leaves co-star Adrien Brody in the dust a little bit, and while he is good, things are almost always better when Polley is on screen. Particularly in a scene where she plays sweet and doting mother to Dren as she tries to get her to recognize her name.
Its a shame the film felt compelled to be a horror movie, because it was working much better for me as an occasionally gruesome allegory for parenthood, in which Brody and Polley raise their little monster complete with all the surprises and horror's that come with being responsible for a child, like feeling powerless when they're sick or the heartbreak when they show the first pinings for independence. Of course in this case that means humanoid monster on the loose, and somewhat inevitably the last half hour of the movie turns into chase scenes in the woods and cheap shocks, which for me kind of betrayed what the first hour was about. Oh well.
Natali's the kind of director whose ideas perhaps outpace the living, breathing worlds he creates so while that means his films can be a little wooden at times, the value he places in approaching ideas intelligently as possible means I have time for him. Splice is an interesting little film, because it tries to tell a sci-fi story from how it affects human beings and that is so rare in this genre I'm more then willing to cut it some slack, particularly in regards to its ending and somewhat ridiculous incestuous/inter-species sex scene. All though in fairness I have never seen one of those before.