I kind of wanted to resort to some sensational New York Post-style headlinery and write "Splice...no dice!" up there for the post title, but I couldn't do it. Too lame; I can't lie about having the urge, though, so I'm probably still lame. Anyway.
I'm sure I'll say this plenty more times before Final Girl shuffles off to horror blog heaven (which will probably be very soon after I shuffle off to horror fan heaven) (yes, after), but thank goodness for Meg Wood. In particular, thank goodness for her...umm...less-than-stellar review of Vincenzo Natali's Splice. See, before I checked out her review, I felt very much alone. Most everyone seems to think Splice is the knees; reading all the praise, I had that distinct feeling of "Well then, what movie did I see?".
Clive Nicoli and Elsa Kast (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) are a pair of rock star genetic engineers. They've created new hybrid animals by splicing together DNA from different animals. Though their efforts don't look like much more than piles of living goo that resemble genitalia (well, they do), they're ready to throw some human DNA into the mix- not to create some super being, necessarily, but to aid in the eradication of disease. Somehow. Eh, shoddy cinematic science, I don't get it. The drug companies funding their research, however, aren't so quick to boldly go where no rock star genetic engineer has gone before.
Elsa and Clive, therefore, do what any good mad scientists would do: they conduct their experiments anyway. Late nights tucked away in the back of the lab pay off, for eventually the couple hit pay dirt. The DNA does its DNA thing and Dren is born of an artificial womb. Clive thinks things will go badly- the experiment was never meant to be taken this far!- and wants to destroy it; Elsa immediately has non-scientific maternal instincts- womenfolk can't help but feel feelings!- and insists that they do not destroy it.
It's not long before Elsa is dressing up little Dren in frilly things and teaching her how to read. After all, Dren is a human/other hybrid, and as you can expect from a human/other hybrid (see: Species, V: The (Original) TV Series), Dren grows and matures at an alarming rate. As you can also expect from a human/other hybrid (see: Species, V: The (Original) TV Series), Dren immediately stops maturing and growing when she hits the "hot" stage. Sure, she has the legs of a chicken and a barbed tail, but she's human wear it counts- from her exotic face (courtesy of actress Delphine Chaneac) to...oh, right about yon the ol' the vagina.
So, Clive and Elsa need to hide this creation of theirs, especially once that Dren shows signs of intelligence and curiosity. SPOILER ALERT: Clive was right, and bad things happen.
Here, however, is the rub: what happens is...well, it's all laugh-out-loud ridiculous, more Lifetime Movie Network than Cronenberg-ian horror. If you took out the strangely hot hybrid and replaced her with, say, a not-strangely hot blond babysitter, you'd have something along the lines of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Seriously, it's a classic made-for-TV plot: established female is threatened by new female, and SPOILER ALERT: men will fuck anything.
Yeah. You read that right.
By the time the horror actually happens, it's too late to care and you're ten minutes, maybe, from the predictable end. By the time the horror actually happens, I was deeply ensconced in disappointment, however. No, Splice isn't some mind-fuck of a rumination on science and playing God, as I was hoping it would be; in fact, you might be better off (as Meg also suggests) watching the original Clive and Elsa in Bride of Frankenstein. This film wants you to think there's something going on below the pretty surface, but there ain't much beyond some CGI-laden soap opera drama.
Let's put it this way: the film ends with Elsa asking, "What's the worst that can happen?", at which point the person sitting next to me turned and said, "A sequel."