Two hotshot bio-engineers named Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley), who are also romantically involved, are working for a shady pharmaceutical company looking to combine DNA from animals and plants to obtain new sources of protein. The two engineers end up creating a part-human, part-animal creature that they eventually name Dren (Delphine Chanèac). Dren is a mutant who ages at an alarming rate and continues to adapt new characteristics as she gets older. The two struggle to keep her a secret while finding themselves simultaneously protective of her while also being afraid of her.
Directed by Vincenzo Natali, with a script penned by Natali and Antoinette Terry Bryant and Doug Taylor, the film offers a newish twist on the old horror-movie tropes. This is a shivery, kind of icky movie about love and monsters and genetic engineering. It’s full of a sort of unnerving fun, and the film’s intensity and intelligence carry it surprisingly far.
What is notable about this horror movie is that because of the relatively talented cast (especially in the case of Brody and Polley), viewers actually care about what happens to the characters. There’s a surprising level of depth to what is happening in this story, especially with regard to Elsa, who is a woman with serious reservations about becoming a mother and yet feels an undeniable urge to procreate. Elsa and Clive both face serious emotional ramifications as they bond with Dren. However, the deeper the bond grows, the deeper the trouble is that awaits them. It’s smart and subtle.
There are certainly some thought-provoking issues raised in this film. Everything from bioethics to abortion to corporate-sponsored science to Freudian family dynamics is explored. Of course, when a film attempts this much controversy, there’s a certain level of risk involved. While the film manages to carry most of this off, it does lose its footing near the end. Despite this, though, the strong actors and the absolutely stunning visual effects used to create Dren make this a horror film for the thinking set.
Splice is available on DVD now.