Friday, June 14, 2013

30 Days of Nightmares #14: SPLICE (2009)

The Story: Two scientists secretly breed a mutant creature that can physically adapt to any environment.  For some reason, they're surprised when their little experiment goes awry.

Expectations: I was initially drawn to this film because it boasted Guillermo del Toro's name as executive producer.  (So did the tiresome DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, but I still maintain that del Toro has the best track record of any modern-day master of horror.)  At the same time, SPLICE bears the mark of Joel Silver's Dark Castle Entertainment.  I look forward to Dark Castle horror movies the way I look foward to Platinum Dunes horror movies.  In both cases, the results are usually entertaining but almost never scary.  Call me crazy, but I like my horror movies to be scary...

The tie-breaker on this mutant creation is director Vincenzo Natali.  Natali's claim to fame is the 1997 indie movie CUBE -- for my money, one of the most ingenious horror films of the 1990s.  And if you were a horror fan in the late 1990s, you know that the word "ingenious" was not often used in connection with horror films during that period.  So... what do you get when you Frankenstein these three filmmakers together and ride the lightning?

Reaction: The first half of this movie was so annoying that I almost turned it off.  Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley lack any kind of chemistry as husband-and-wife scientists who are breeding prehistoric sea slugs.  The sea slugs are so gross that for a moment I thought I was watching an old Cronenberg movie instead of a mainstream Warner Brothers release... but that only buys so much good will.  Then the two scientists put their heads (among other things) together and create a completely new species -- part human, part amphibian, part... ostrich?

The visual effects are top notch, but I couldn't get past the fact that Brody and Polly are the most unprofessional and irresponsible scientists on the face of the planet.  Actually, it's worse than that.  They make James Franco in RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES look like Albert Einstein.  That said, their shortcomings as scientists are nothing compared to their shortcomings as parents. 

The good news is that their unlikability eventually becomes an asset to the bold latter half of the film.  More than once, I was simply stunned by what I was seeing on the screen.  I don't want to spoil any of the surprises, so I'll just say that everything that happens is related to wildly dysfunctional family dynamics.  Again I was reminded of Cronenberg's early work, particularly THE FLY.   I'm not sure that this madcap quality redeemed the movie as a whole, but it certainly kept my attention.

Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: For me, the scariest thing in this movie is Sarah Polley's instant transformation from nurturing mother into vindictive surgeon.  What that says about her character is more unsettling than any special effect.


  1. Fun piece on this one, Joe. Oh, yes you nailed it for these two scientists. Although, I think you meant say, "James Franco in THE RISE OF THE PLANET OF APES", didn't you? Keep 'em comin', my friend.

    1. Thanks for catching my flub!

  2. Joe.
    HA. I have not brought myself to see this film. I like the principals. The idea sounds good. But for whatever reason I cannot bring myself to watch it and once again, you offer me reasons still not to see it.

    I had to laugh at your point about Franco. MY gosh, he is not a believable scientist type. I cracked up with that observation. I love Franco in general but not very good as a credible scientist. HA. And if these guys are worse, oh boy.

    But, it sounds like this one still isn't as good as Rise.

    Enjoying your NIGHTMARES run.

  3. (SPOILER)

    I enjoyed Splice enough as I'm drawn to Sci-fi horror, body horror, etc. . I didn't have a problem with either Brody or Polly's performance, though you sort of knew how the story might turn out. My biggest obstacle with the film was Brody's character having a sexual relationship with his creation. I can see a person have an extramarital affair, but with a hybrid mutant of his own creation sort of creeped me out, sort of seem like bestiality or mutant sex or something. Otherwise I enjoyed it.

    1. I agree completely about the interspecies incest... It made Brody seem deranged.