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Ten Word or Less Review: A Katherine Heigl movie as directed by David Cronenberg.

There’s a large romantic comedy subgenre about clueless idiots being thrust into parenthood, forced to raise a child and having no ability to do so.  Ted Danson, Steve Guttenberg and Tom Selleck helped pioneer this nonsense.  The kids cry and puke and mess themselves and the new parents become flummoxed as their formerly neat, shit free little lives become unfurled.  But eventually they learn to love the little runt they’ve inherited; they grow emotionally and become better people.  In short, it’s a delivery device for sentimental crap.  Splice is a delightfully twisted, science fiction variation of this tired story.  Unexpected baby isn’t left on a doorstep but instead a genetic hybrid of numerous creatures, blended together in a genetic cocktail by Mommy and Daddy.  Baby eventually grows into a strange but sensual looking humanoid that has a tail with a deadly stinger on the end.  Her presence creates lots of mixed emotions in both parents and, this being a Frankenstein story, eventually leads down the primrose path to Hell.

Clive and Elsa (Adrian Brody and Sarah Polley) are a couple of world renowned geneticists, as well as a childless married couple too.  The dynamic duo have created the world’s first synthetic animal, a phallic shaped slug creature which the two hope will provide proteins which will cure disease.  In a moment of reckless abandon, the two take their experiment to the next level and before either knows exactly what’s happened, they’ve synthetically birthed Dren into the world.  The two behave like a lot of new parents.  Elsa is immediately overcome with a motherly instinct who wants to nurture her creation while Clive is initially terrified at what they’ve done.  Their newborn at first looks like a alien spawned, two-legged, hairless cat, but within weeks Dren takes on more human characteristics, eventually becoming a full-sized, female being played by French actress Delphine Chaneac.  To the parents surprise she can leap 25 feet in the air, breathe under water, has a tail with a deadly stinger on its end and sprouts functional wings.  Needless to say she’s the apple of mommy and daddy’s terrified eye.

Director Vincent Natali infuses Splice with a lot of unorthodox turns.  In a world of square movies Splice is a bit of a dodecahedron.  Those expecting a straight up horror film or Species inspired gore fest will be under whelmed by the restraint with which the movie is guided.  Though visceral moments are around a turn or two, Splice is first and foremost a domestic drama with tightly wound beats of tension and apprehension.  The squeamishness it draws from a viewer is more related to the unearthly appearance of its genetically altered critters and the questionable behavior characters begin to exhibit in its later act.  David Cronenberg probably sits somewhere and thinks of this movie like a proud papa.  Clive and Elsa gradually slip away from being the point of reliable protagonists and become characters that make us uncomfortable because of their strange decisions and even stranger motives.  Natali isn’t out to make Clive and Elsa either sympathetic or contemptible people.  They’re simply two incredibly intelligent people who begin to make bad decisions rooted in selfishness which they themselves don’t see.

Brody and Polley make a believable pair of people who have lived and worked together at great length to achieve something great, only to watch it slowly destroy them both.  Their arc is traditional within the mad scientist movie realm but Splice never feels like over worn material.  Like many memorable achievements in the genre, Splice draws upon its predecessors to achieve something uniquely its own.  In the end the movie as a whole is itself a Frankenstein creation.  Something cobbled together from pieces of other movies to create a new thing which defies simple explanation or dismissal.

Appreciators of odd, unique and creepy film experiences will gleefully dwell on Splice.  It’s a well constructed sci-fi tale that works on numerous subversive levels.  Anyone tied to and dependent on safe narratives which don’t push or prickle are advised to stay an arms length away.  Splice is too peculiar a creature for most and is destined to be appreciated by admirers of that which is weird.

 

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