Sunday, May 24, 2015

Splice (2009)

Never before have I had such low expectations and been left so wonderfully astounded. Remembering the trailer from when Splice had its US theatrical release in June 2010, I thought I was going in for a shitty horror movie with a cheap novelty in that an escaped genetic experiment would serve in place of the prototypical slasher/killer, but this ploy was merely one facet of the dodecahedron as the film I viewed was much more substantial, offering and eliciting a multitude of genres and emotional responses, respectively.

After two romantically-involved geneticists (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) are successful in creating a new type of animal by splicing the DNA from a variety of species, their next project is to incorporate human genes into a similar hybrid. As they find success, scientific curiosity and a lack of ethics lead them to secretly observe and raise their creation. The proverbial offspring matures and develops at an alarming pace and changes the dynamics of the scientists' relationship, and both naturally and unnaturally things go awry when the lab experiment grows in power and intellect.

It's built from the foundation of a scary movie, but Splice spends considerable time as a drama and unorthodox romance with a hint of modern allegory. But even if it doesn't feel like a traditional horror movie for much of its runtime, it certainly boasts horrific, unnerving, and gruesome ideas and imagery. There's a certain continuum of empathy and fear when it comes to the part-human creature, and as biological organisms humans have a visceral reaction to one side of the spectrum or the other. Will genetic engineering offer humanity's crowning achievement or lowest low, mankind's greatest marvel or gravest monstrosity? Sometimes Splice makes the viewer feel one way and sometimes another. The smooth flow of the movie considering its tonal and thematic eclecticism is a large credit to the skill of director and co-writer Vincenzo Natali.

Technically this movie strikes a great balance of CGI, practical effects, and most especially motion capture acting. Andy Serkis always gets a lot of credit for his roles in The Lord of the Rings, King Kong, and the newer Planet of the Apes, but not many other films have striking enough CG characters to merit much attention to this acting niche. Abigail Chu as the pre-adolescent form and Delphine ChanĂ©ac as the adult form of the human-chimera hybrid give terrific shape and life to the center role.

Even if highly effective due to taking advantage of viewers' spiritual beliefs, demon and evil spirit movies have been done to death, so the territory explored by Splice is highly welcome. The moral considerations and scientific aura behind genetically engineered mutants and other Plum Island-like conspiracies are the topical fodder that made Splice, on top of everything else it did well, a highly effective product.