Warner Bros. // 2010 // 104 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // October 22nd, 2010
No one knows you're up there.
Fans of low budget cinema will know the name Vincenzo Natali well -- he was the mind behind the certified cult classic Cube and the oddly compelling Nothing. Natali's newest creation ruminates on the dark side of human nature and why it's a really bad idea to take human DNA and throw it in the blender with things like lizards, birds and snakes. Splice makes its high definition debut care of Warner Home Entertainment.
Clive (Adrian Brody, Predators) and Elsa (Sarah Polley, Dawn of the Dead) are specialists in DNA research. The two scientists are able to make a completely new organism (that looks like a really big mealworm crossed with male genitalia) that may just revolutionize health and medicine. But when the pharmaceutical company they work for yanks their funds after a disastrous public presentation, Clive and Elsa decide to go rouge and create their own new life form out of various DNA materials. What results is Dren, a part human, part animal hybrid that proves to be more than Clive and Elsa can handle...with deadly results!
Splice immediately gets bonus points for being different. The horror genre has been stuck in a rut lately with sequels and remakes -- it's as if Hollywood has totally run out of original ideas. A prime example of this is the 2010 version of the classic A Nightmare on Elm Street which ended up being a soulless remake void of any creativity or excitement. It wouldn't be an understatement to say that the horror genre has, for all intents and purposes, arrived DOA this past few years.
So, when a movie like Splice comes around you sit up and take notice. It's not that the idea of Splice is overtly original -- this is essentially a "man toys with nature" film run amuck. Yet instead of just making this a general slash 'n hack monster movie seen a thousand times before, Splice tries to actually put some thought and depth behind its characters and its titular movie monster. You care about the people in the movie which is an almost complete rarity in most horror films of this ilk. Even more so, you care about the movie's antagonist, Dren. International actress Delphone Chaneac really injects quite a bit of pathos into this misbegotten character which gives the movie not only its soul but also prompts the audience to ask, "What really makes us human?"
The oddly intriguing aspect of Splice is that it often plays if it could have originated as a live theatrical production. The film isn't a sprawling horror story but a sometimes claustrophobic, tense three person show. Brody, Polley and Chaneac swirl around each other with grace and sometimes terror as Dren slowly morphs into Don Herbert's worst nightmare (google him, it's actually a funny joke). Brody in particular is effective as a scientist who starts to slowly lose his moral compass as the film chugs along to a surprisingly intense climax (pun intended). Polley is also very good, going from indie darling to big budget actress and back again in the blink of an eye (fans of Polley in Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake will equally enjoy her performance in Splice).
Finally, the special effects work in this film was -- to this viewer's trained eye -- subtle, realistic and startling. You may not immediately notice it, but Dren's human features are just slightly off. Her eyes are set further apart on her head. She appears to be missing a few fingers. Her feet are slightly human, part jackrabbit and part bird. It's to the effects crew credit that although I noticed these things, they were never blatantly thrown in your face and seamlessly blended into the final version of the film. You come to accept Dren's differences and don't notice them very often, and that means the special effects people performed an amazing feat.
Splice won't appeal to everyone. There are some moments of heavy violence, though it's never gratuitous or in the vein of Saw or Hostel. There is some heavy sexual undercurrents here (and indeed some pretty freaky sexual scenarios in place) that may put off a few viewers. Yet for those who can stomach the more weighty moments, Splice is a real sci-fi horror treat.
Splice is presented in 1.78:1 1080p widescreen. Warner Brothers has offered up a very attractive transfer that should please genre fans. The colors (often dominated by blues and blacks) are solid and feature fine detail and depth. There is some softness to the image at times but this never gets in the way of enjoying what is a rather solid picture. There are many dark sequences in Splice so the film doesn't really 'pop' that often, but when it does it's extremely impressive.
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 in English. Much like the video portions of this disc, Warner has given fans a very good audio mix that features a generous amount of surround features when needed The ambiance adds depth to the film and the dialogue, music and effects are clearly heard. The speakers get a hearty workout closer to the end of the film when the action picks up. Also included on this disc are English and Spanish subtitles.
The extra features on this edition of Splice are rather light. The only supplement included here is a short feature called "A Director's Playground: Vincenzo Natali on the Set of Splice" that includes some behind-the-scenes footage of the cast and crew at work, as well as some talking head interviews with Natali and some select cast and crew members.
Splice is original, creative, tense, thought provoking and highly recommended for fans of this specific genre. Warner Bros. has produced a relatively decent disc that isn't packed with extra features but does offer a nice video and audio experience.
Splice is acquitted on all charges, except the charge of man tampering
with Mother Nature!
Review content copyright © 2010 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R