Splice is a very engaging and fascinating little update on the Frankenstein story until it isn’t. More than almost any other movie I’ve seen this films ending feels like someone grabbed the wheel and jerked it hard steering the movie onto a different road entirely.
The story concerns the genetic experiments being conducted by Clive and Elsa played by Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley. They are crafting brand new organisms by splicing animal DNA together. It’s a classic “playing God” scenario, and they take it even further when Elsa splices in some additional DNA. This creates a humanoid creature that she names Dren. They have to hide Dren from their corporate overlords lest it be taken away and destroyed. As Dren ages and develops things get weird. Dren introduces questions for the couple regarding life, creation, and nature vs nurture. It also introduces personal questions dredging up Elsa’s traumatic childhood, Clive’s repressed desires, and the fragility of their bond.
This is the most interesting element of the movie. The psychological underpinnings of the film are baked into the premise. How do you raise something that isn’t yours? It is a metaphor for adoption as one parent embraces the child and the other withholds affection still holding out hope for a natural born child of their own. It also dives into the Freudian implications of Dren and her relationship to her parents. This is where the movie sort of tips you on your side as you watch. The sands seem to shift as compassion for these characters is tested. It feels like the characters are trying to see how much they can get away with before you reject them.
As for Dren herself, she’s a wonderful creature creation. She is borderline human at all times. Her eyes are human even if they are too far apart. Her earliest incarnation is kind of cute. It’s like a rabbit except more like a human rabbit. As a child, she is a cgi actress hybrid. She looks more human, but at all times she’s a little too different to be fully human. As a teen or adult, she is mostly human and played by Delphine Chanéac. Dren doesn’t talk, so her movements have to do the heavy lifting, and Chaneac does an incredible job of expressing clearly her every emotion, want, and need. It’s a great performance combined with some excellent CGI.
The biggest problem with the movie is the ending. The movie builds beautifully and naturally. The conflicts and the desires of each of the characters intensify until a breaking point. Big things happen, and the consequences will be dire. All the most twisted implications of the premise begin to come to a head. Then the movie shifts into a standard monster movie ending. Dren turns into a full blown CGI monster and the movie takes a major nosedive. It ignores all the questions it raised. It abandons all the tension and interpersonal and psychological conflict in favor of monster movie cliches.
This is conjecture, but I feel like the studio stepped in and said, “nope this is getting too weird. We need an action climax. Make it happen.” The movie just shifts so abruptly from the disturbing yet interesting stuff to the standard stuff. I got invested in these characters and their story. That story is more or less kicked to the curb just when it gets cooking. Those questions are forgotten. That character conflict is never brought up again. It’s a hugely disappointing finale.
If you want to watch two thirds of a good movie, or if you have a craving for something really weird and compelling even if it doesn’t stick the landing, then check out Splice now streaming on Netflix. If you want a fully satisfying story, look elsewhere. I watched this one, so you don’t have to.
It’s kind of my cup of tea. B