I was perfectly willing to let this one go until I read the imminent Stacy Ponder’s negative review of Splice down over at the Final Girl blog. She expressed her reasons for disliking the film stem from the fact that if you take the sci-fi element of the film, you basically have a Lifetime Channel rehash of The Hand that Rocks the Cradle.
Thanks for pointing that one out, Stacy. I admit I somehow missed that one, but now that I look back, you’re 100% right and it’s obviously another subconscious reason why I hate (that which I merely disliked beforehand) Splice. I have several other reasons why the flick failed to iron my britches and I feel the intense urge to list them all below…
This ain’t new or innovative – Anyone who thinks Splice is fresh, bold or any adjective that suggests this film is an original concept is ignorant to classic literature and cinema. Mad scientist movies have been around since the silent era (Metropolis anyone?). Hell it’s a staple of classic literature, but unfortunately I don’t think many schools teach Frankenstein (the novel) anymore. The story always goes a little something like this: Scientist with a god complex creates robot/monster(s), the morality of the creation is weighed, the creation goes on a rampage resulting in great tragedy to the scientist and the public. This subgenre of sci-fi/horror falls into favor every couple of decades. It last hit its heyday in the mid-70’s to mid-80’s with the David Cronenberg films and Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraft adaptations. I dare you to go watch Cronenberg’s They Came from Within, The Brood or his remake of The Fly and then come back and tell me you think Splice was bold, fresh or even better than those three films. Not even the “gene splicing” concept is new… H.G. Wells tackled that concept with his novel The Island of Doctor Moreau back in 1896.
Director Vincenzo Natali has done far better – This is the guy who created Cube, one of the best, original low-budget sci-fi films of the 90’s. I’m a total sucker for those “8 strangers wake up in a locked room or human-sized rat maze” flicks and I think Cube is the finest of that subgenre. While the film features some cheesy, over-the-top performances, the concept is completely original and chilling with a haunting finale. Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of Cube and it was the primary reason I was so psyched to see Splice. I’m afraid because of it, I set my expectations too high. (Also check out Natali’s 2002 Matrix-like mindbender film Cypher if you’re in the mood for a smart and complex indie sci-fi flick.)
The overwhelming lack of logic exhausted me – There wasn’t a thing about Dren, from birth to its ultimate end, that made me want it to go on living. It was an ugly, violent abomination with a scorpion tail. Nothing about it was redeeming, ESPECIALLY in its “cute” moments where it acted like an innocent animal or a curious child. Hell, it nearly kills Sarah Polley with its venom during its birth. Still its creators let it roam about, dressed it in clothes, teaching it the alphabet, all while barely concealing it from family and colleagues as it killed and did other horrific things. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Here’s the only way it could have worked for me… Make it LOOK exactly human (a few freaky quirks aside) and let the dangerous mutations manifest over time, yet easily concealable to the casual eye. Or make it completely inhuman and have them struggle to find aquariums or prison cells to keep it locked up while they study its increasing mutation and intelligence.
It was repulsive and not in a good way (**SPOILER ALERT**) – Dren is gross and off-putting. Dren is lethal and sexual. Adrien Brody is sexually attracted to Dren and acts upon it for no good reason (I could excuse it if the creature had “super pheromones” or something). Sarah Polley switches from its mother to its dungeon torturer at the drop of a hat. Dren constantly mutates into something even more off-putting as it progresses. Dren has a spontaneous sex change and rapes Sarah Polley. All while this icky dysfunctional family drama plods along, abandoning the fun science part about halfway through. Dren was always predatory and conniving throughout the entire film. Honestly, I wanted to take a gun and put Dren out of its misery from the first frame and I would not have hesitated like I would have with Old Yeller. Unlike Yeller, or even “Brundlefly,” at no time did I ever feel sorry for it or associate it as having true human emotions, something that is essential to the success of this type of horror film.
This is the first movie where I wanted to slap Sarah Polley – She was miscast and annoying. Why? Because she played it straight. With so many silly and cheesy elements in the story, Polley went for dead serious, which is apparently her sole acting method. But herein lies the bigger issue: The silly/cheesy elements in the story should have prompted Natali to direct it for yuks instead of pretense. Dren is so wacky and weird, there is no way this should’ve been a serious story. So much of it was laughably nutty (how about the “let’s dress up Dren and dance with her!” scene?) I only got angry when the film wouldn’t pause a beat to let me get a laugh in at its expense.
This should never have been a wide release film – Splice is indie to the core and I can’t imagine what possessed distributors to release this to the general public in thousands of movie theaters across the country. It sure as hell isn’t a crowd-pleaser. It feels low-budget, even the special effects look cheap. It’s not fun, but rather burdensome with its heavy-handed moral message. Doesn’t star anyone bankable besides Brody, who isn’t currently bankable (but might see a nice upsurge if his starring role in Predators this July proves a success). Kinda makes me wonder why the notoriously skittish Hollywood system decided to give this miserable little movie such a big chance.
What Stacy Ponder said – This movie has as much in common with The Hand that Rocks the Cradle as it does Frankenstein. If I wanna see a made-for-Lifetime horror movie, I’ll go watch Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? starring Tori Spelling. Now that’s good watchin’!
Based on the evidence above, I hereby lower my original rating of Splice from 2 and 1/2 to 1 and 1/2 stars.
– Dark Side
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