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Release Date(s)2009 (October 5, 2010)
Studio(s)Gaumont/Dark Castle (Warner Home Video)
Biotechnology and genetic engineering have made enormous strides in the last decade or so. These fields would be a fertile ground for imaginative horror filmmakers if only Hollywood wasn’t so deathly afraid of giving a green light to an original idea. Fortunately, Canadian director Vincenzo Natali is around and, so far anyway, doesn’t seem all that interested in hopping aboard the Remake Express. Splice is his most ambitious feature to date and it’s one of the better sci-fi horror flicks to come down the pike in a while.
Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley star as geneticists working on animal hybrids for a huge pharmaceutical corporation. Like all scientists in movies like this, they’re also romantically involved. The company orders them to halt their research and concentrate on synthesizing the profitable hybrid protein they’ve created. But no scientist worth their lab coat is going to let a bunch of number-crunchers stand in the way of progress, so they carry on, taking a big risk and injecting human DNA into the mix. Before they know it, they’ve become the proud “parents” of a walking, cooing cross-breed of human and animal characteristics. Polley won’t allow the experiment, soon named Dren (played as an adult by French model Delphine Chaneac), to be destroyed, so she and Brody smuggle her out of the lab to the farm where Polley grew up.
For most of its running time, Splice is not only entertaining and exciting but genuinely interesting. The screenplay, co-written by Natali, Antoinette Terry Bryant and Doug Taylor, has some real ideas and conveys them with intelligence and wit. The thematic subtext of dysfunctional parenting may not be all that subtle but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Most modern genre pictures can barely function on one level, so give this one credit for at least attempting to work on two or three. The movie does make a potentially fatal misstep as it enters its third act which almost made me give up on it entirely. The finale is more of a conventional monster movie but it’s done well enough that I was able to get back into the movie, although I wasn’t quite as invested in it as I had been. The visual effects are generally spectacular and Natali is as adept with action and suspense as he is with quieter, more dramatic moments.
On Blu-ray, Splice both looks and sounds excellent, hardly surprising for a new release from a major studio. The image is slightly soft but I’m fairly certain it’s meant to be that way. The 5.1 DTS-HD audio gets the job done... it might not be a sonic whirlwind but it’s immersive enough when needs be and well-balanced between dialogue, music and effects. The sole extra is a behind-the-scenes documentary called A Director’s Playground: Vincenzo Natali on the Set of Splice. It runs just over half an hour and it’s OK but nothing to write home about. After a couple of quick interviews introducing Natali, his work and the story of Splice, the show is turned over to behind-the-scenes footage of Natali at work with his cast and crew. Mildly interesting if you’re a big fan of the movie or the director but not much that you haven’t seen before. The combo pack also includes a DVD/Digital Copy disc for you on-the-go types who don’t have time to sit and watch a movie at home.
I enjoyed Splice for what it was and, if nothing else, I’m relieved it isn’t the Species rip-off I half-assumed it would be based on the trailer. Still, once the movie got going, I kept hoping that it would make that last leap into greatness. It never quite gets there but I suppose the fact that it had even the slightest potential to do so stands as a compliment to Vincenzo Natali’s talent.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke