Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) are two of the best and brightest of the modern scientific community. They've just completed their latest groundbreaking product (developing a creature spliced together from the genetic code of several animals), and they're ready to blaze a brave new trail forward with the next step: adding human DNA to their creation. However, their pharmeceutical company benefactors are more concerned about the bottom line than changing the world, leaving Clive and Elsa to worry that their chance to go into the history books is about to pass them by. Against orders to the contrary, the pair head back into the lab in secret, hoping to impact the future of medicine forever, but the ultimate result turns out to be more than they bargained for...
Wait, what? Did I watch the same movie as the rest of the online critical community, which has thus far offered up small heaps of B-movie praise? Sure, I wasn't a huge fan of either of the two previous efforts I've seen by director Vincenzo Natali (Cube's clever, but it's saddled with a painfully amateur cast; Nothing failed to gel for me), but I swear I have nothing against the guy. Even now, I don't feel like I'll walk into his next film bracing for the worst, and despite those positive rumblings I already mentioned, I didn't have any built up expectations. Still, I hated Splice, and not in the sense that I wasn't ready to go to the "challenging" places it ventures into (as I bet some people will suggest), but that it's one of those sink-in-your-seat, please-end-faster-so-I-can-escape, good-Lord-could-it-get-any-worse kind of bad that only rears its head once in a blue moon, featuring two exceptionally boring main characters trapped in an agonizingly obvious screenplay that could only emphasize its subtext further if Warner Bros. filled half of every auditorium with people that would yell "Get it?" to the regular viewer sitting next to them at every moment. The principal players should be embarrassed to have this movie on their resumes, offering only shrugs and emotionless smirks whenever anyone asks them what the hell they might have been thinking.
The first forty-five minutes consist of Brody's character asking out loud if what they're doing is a good idea, and Polley responding by ignoring the obvious risks in order to act motherly towards the creature ("They're like parents, get it?"), because every woman really wants children, even the ones that don't. Eventually, we discover a bit of backstory involving Polley's mother being somewhat abusive and cold ("She's turning into her mother, get it?"), while the creature itself, named Dren (which eventually grows to be actress Delphine Chanéac) starts acting and evolving in ways neither scientist could have predicted, becoming wild and dangerous ("You can't control Mother Nature, get it?"). Not only are all of these symbolic developments groan-inducingly stupid, they're presented in such a clumsy, ham-fisted way that it actually ruins the element of surprise. If anyone tries to logically extrapolate what's going to happen next based on what has come before, they'll probably be right on the money.
At first, all of this only adds up to boredom -- I hadn't realized how tired I was of the "science gone wrong" trope until Splice proved there was almost nothing left to mine -- but the bullishness of all three lead characters quickly started to wear away my patience. If there's something I can't stand, it's supposedly smart characters making ridiculously stupid decisions based on things like impulse and primal instinct, and Splice lays on this cliche thicker than maple syrup, careful to smother any trace of fun that might have been gleaned from Brody or Polley's performances right out of the movie with endless bickering and stupidity. You'd think a disasterous public presentation of their initial worm-creature project might give Elsa just a tiny bit of doubt that something could go horribly wrong with Dren, or that the sight of her old room at her family farm would tip her off to the way she's treating the creature, but nope. It seems reasonable to expect Dren's violent attack on Clive's brother (Brandon McGibbon) or the way she stares at he and Elsa when they're making love to terrify him into action, but nope.
All of these problems culminate in a third act that really throws inhibitions to the wind, and leaps the rails off into exceptionally stupid, demented territory. In principle, the events might have been darkly compelling in a better movie, but here, they're just laughable, because the audience doesn't really care about Clive, Elsa, or Dren, and because it all requires a weird patchwork logic that doesn't actually seem to make sense (without getting too spoilery, does anything cause the problem that Clive's brother observes around the middle, or is it just convenient screenwriting?). In fact, the whole movie is a laugh riot, as evidenced by my audience, who laughed louder and more frequently throughout the entirety of Splice than I've seen audiences laugh at comedies. The guy behind me was flat-out howling with laughter; maybe this is the ticket for those uninterested in Get Him to the Greek. And maybe the movie itself is the creepy science experiment: I squirmed, I writhed, I tried to escape, and even now the thought of reliving the experience is kind of unsettling; it's too bad that those reactions are only indicative of my hatred. Splice may have gotten under my skin, but sadly, it does so for all the wrong reasons.
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