Vincenzo Natali was already of renown for his unique, contemplative brand of sci-fi infused concepts when he gave us "Splice" which spiced up its cautionary tale of science gone wrong with a dash of melancholic horror and, surprisingly, family drama. It is only appropriate that Guillermo Del Toro is counted among its production team as the film treads in territory familiar to his viewers with its humanized monsters and emotionally and psychologically dense characters.
Indeed, "Splice", at its core, is basically a retelling of the Frankenstein story which, in turn, is the story of scientific responsibility and impact of the role of a creator in the life of their creation. Clive and Elsa are genetic science wunderkinds, and lovers, that create morally and ethically questionable life in the face of opposition. On the surface this seems merely for the sake of proving their mettle in the field, if not outright egoism, but as the film progresses the layers of reasoning unravel even as the relationship to their creation deepens in complexity.
As with Frankenstein, the creature in "Splice" is a nuanced being whose psychological makeup is molded by the reactions and personalities of its creators. The script does a fine job of drawing parallels in its development to the growing pains of an actual child and the hairpin turns in the interpersonal relationships between parents and children that only serve to underline the creator's inherent innocence, despite its outward or natural monstrous nature. Therein lies the utmost strength of the film, that it serves as a striking parable about the importance of selfless parental involvement in the life of a child. Indeed, the most horrifying portions of the film lie not in the hands of the monster but the choices made by its unworthy creators in all their
Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley are both charming and detestable as Clive and Elsa, who though relatable are tainted by their hubris, past, and flaws. The more we know them, the less we empathize and, ironically, the more a cruel mirror of ourselves is held up to our face. We are them, daily failing to shake the shackles of our own upbringing and yet thrust into the role of leaders, fathers, and mothers. It is a shocking revelation presented to us under the auspices of a sci-fi horror nightmare.
The effects hold up relatively well and, even if they hadn't, the story is carried out in such a way that it would engage nevertheless. The whole affair is a bleak and somber one which is emphasized by the cinematography with its deep wells of darkness and gritty shades of green and blue to contrast stark and sterile whites, almost as if to underline the idea of science gone awry.
At times heartwarming and heartbreaking and at others chilling, cold, and cruel in its implications, "Splice" is a fantastic and underrated piece of work. A definite must see for fans of the genre and the casual viewer. I give it 9/10.