Movie Review: Splice

This Canadian SF/horror would be the best of its cross-genre in this century. It has strong acting, a clever script, a memorable, sympathetic monster, several truly disturbing scenes– and a rather unfortunate finale that undercuts the first two-thirds.

Title: Splice

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Vincent Natali

Written by Vincent Natali and Antoinette Terry Bryant, Doug Taylor

Sarah Polley as Elsa Cast
Adrien Brody as Clive Nicoli
Delphine Chanéac as Dren
Abigail Chu as Dren
Various Effects as Dren
Brandon McGibbon as Gavin Nicoli
Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Joan Chorot
David Hewlett as William Barlow

Full Cast and Crew information is available at the imdb


A pair of young scientists, working for a research company, create an original life-form, only to discover that Mary Shelley had a point regarding how such things turn out.

High Points:

The first two-thirds of the film had me ready to pronounce it the best horror film of the year, and a likely candidate for Hugo Dramatic, Long Form. Splice features strong acting from respected Canadian actors, a comparatively original twist on Frankenstein, and strong sense of setting. The modern version of the classic old mad scientist’s lab would be corporate-sponsored, well-funded, heavily-staffed, clean, and slick. It still looks creepy. Once the film exhaust the possibilities of this location, it relocates to a more traditional horror-movie setting.

The writers have penned a very clever and witty script. Splice qualifies as SF/horror, yet it does not rely on excessive gore and shock. Rather, its thrills are of the creepier, more disturbing sort. While the film’s premise addresses old themes of science adrift from morality and newer ones of science tied to corporate profit, the story emphasizes issues of parenting (seen here at its best and most familiar– and its very, very worst), loneliness, and human relationships.

Low Points:

I can accept most of the changes to Dren’s personality as she develops. I had some problems with the changes to Clive’s and Elsa’s. The script prepares us for her buried, disturbed psyche. In the second half, however, she does too many things and acts a little too disturbed (and occasionally clueless) in order to take the story in a particular direction. His initial unsavory actions make perfect sense; his later, most disturbing act requires a little more explanation or exploration.

I expected killings, but I would ask viewers to compare these to the Monster’s in Universal’s still-influential Frankenstein. I understand exactly why Karloff’s Monster murders in every single case; the specific attacks here do not make the same degree of sense.

All of this leads to a rather forced ending that detracts from the successes of the first two-thirds.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6. We have here the umpteenth revisiting of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but it represents an original retelling, which develops the thematic concerns in its own way. I’ll stand by the rating despite the obvious echoes of past horror movies, including a clever and bloody tribute to King Kong. Even our scientists’ names reflect the film’s origins in other works: think Colin Clive and Elsa Lancaster.

Effects: 6/6. The effects have been beautifully, creepily, and naturally integrated. (The science, of course, serves as a means to an end. I expect horror-movie science to be, at best, wildly implausible. The film does a decent job of making it look almost believable. Just don’t think too hard about Dren from a scientific perspective).

Story: 4/6. See “High” and “Low” Points.

Acting: 6/6.

Production: 6/6.

Emotional Response: 5/6. When this film works, it works really well, creeping into your consciousness and burrowing deep under your skin. The audience, in turns, laughs, spooks, squirms, and winces.

Splice is not a film for all tastes.

Overall: 4/6. We have here a brilliant, well-acted twist on Frankenstein that, alas, fails in its conclusion.

In total, Splice receives 35/42.