Retro Movie Review: 'Splice' (2009)

For years I’ve been meaning to see this movie, and after several attempts, the goal was finally accomplished recently. The lack of ambition to actually see the critically adored and audience raved indie “Splice” for all of these years can now be seen, in retrospect, as being a possible instinctive defense mechanism to avoid the totality of its awfulness.

Upon its release in 2009, it was next to impossible to avoid the buzz surrounding it in film circles. “Splice,” directed by Vincenzo Natali, was the darling of indie cinema and revered as a glorified breakthrough for science fiction films being done on a smaller budget. While one could respect the ambition, this story has been told before and better.

“Splice” is about Elsa and Clive, a couple who are colleagues, working as scientists at a private lab. When they decide to follow through with an experiment that creates a human/animal hybrid, the consequences prove to be more than they bargained for. Does that recipe ever really end up well for anyone in the movie universe? Well, apparently, these characters didn't get the memo.

The main component working against this movie from beginning to end is that the lead characters are annoying, beyond annoying. Elsa (Sarah Polley) is grating, a character that makes perpetually selfish, reckless, and irredeemable decisions. Nothing she does makes sense on a rational level for the average person. Let alone, a supposed scientific genius.

Unlike with other “mad scientist” depictions, her turn down the rabbit hole is instantaneous. Her horrible choices don’t slowly devolve as she loses perception due to proximity. She is incompetent from the get-go.

Clive (Adrian Brody) fares better as a man struggling to keep his girlfriend in line but lacking the fortitude to call her out for her actions; therefore making him guilty of aiding and abetting her stupidity. Without a character to root for, the inevitable downfall of these individuals isn’t something the audience is concerned about seeing happen.

It is something they will welcome from the outset. Another ridiculous element of the movie is seeing a grown, highly educated woman, fawn in amazed befuddlement of this hybrid creature doing the most inane things, behavior that is entirely in the realm of expectations. It is half-human for goodness sake!

Sarah Polley and Adrian Brody both give serviceable performances. To be fair, the script is so brazenly heinous that hardly any actor could elevate it.

The creature is ultimately one of the many downfalls of the film. It is so overwhelmingly unlikable that finding empathy for it is impossible. It is petulantly frustrating, and the special effects used to create it, provide a prime example of what will hinder sci-fi films for years to come.

The creature is heavily CGI-d, and given the rapid advancement of those particular effects, it can age a film within a year. Only made in 2009, “Splice” already looks cartoonish. A prosthetic with effects make-up would’ve served this film much better.

To this day, David Cronenberg’s 1986 version of “The Fly” is still visually disturbing, creating images that have withstood the test of time. Other filmmakers need to take note“Splice” left this viewer feeling spliced. Rating: 3/10

2 comments

  1. 3 out of 10? Hmmm... No issue with that, but for some reason this one ranks a bit higher with me. It's fodder for sure, but has a bit of heart in places. I remember seeing this at the theater bracing for crap, but it somehow punched above it weight for me.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your comment! The heart the film possessed got eclipsed by the frustrating actions of the characters for me. Dren (the hybrid) was annoying as well and it was hard to become invested in her plight as a result. Really appreciate your comment & the way you worded it was marvelous.
      - Britt

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