Oh, where last we left the Dark Castle saga... ORPHAN had legitimately blown me away, but then the studio annihilated my lingering good will with the horror-free plontz known as WHITEOUT (which, of course, they advertised as horror... perhaps William Castle might have been pleased with the marketing, but I didn't appreciate the joke). NINJA ASSASSIN was a further abandonment of the genre, but the CGI gore-fest at least brought Sho Kosugi back to the big screen in a huge, juicy role. And I skipped THE LOSERS completely--what on earth interest would I have in an adaptation of a comic I never read in the first place?
But now comes SPLICE, and this is the one they should have jumped to directly after ORPHAN--they're so complimentary in theme they would make a perfect double bill, in fact.
You know the set-up: Adrian Brody and Sarah Polley are a couple of genetic research scientists (for Nucleic Energy Research and Development, or NERD, heh heh) who have finally come up with a purely developed life form from which a "miracle cure" protein may actually be synthesized. But one of them decides to push things a little farther--and almost before they know it, the unmarried couple find themselves with an unusual "child" to care for...
From FRANKENSTEIN (yes, the names "Clive" and "Elsa" are about as obvious as NERD) through Cronenberg, we've seen the moral/ethical/body horror fusion many times before and SPLICE follows the trusty path--but that's not to say that this is a simple case of "seen it all before." Much as ORPHAN did before it, SPLICE focuses its attention specifically on the potential fears of parenthood, with Polley's character especially benefitting from just the right amount of backstory and just the right amount of material one's imagination is forced to supply. As for top-billed Brody? He's a bit of a happy-go-lucky limp noodle... but he's that way for a reason--were he to assert himself when he should, we'd barely have a movie, enough said--and he's more than emotionally accessible when things really start to kick in.
And sealing the deal is Delphine Chaneac in the role of the rapidly maturing "Dren"--this is one of the best examples of wordless expression in recent memory and one of the finest "alien/fish out of water" performances you're likely to encounter. Her inhuman attributes are expertly enhanced with computer technology, and director Vincenzo Natali (the original CUBE) pulls off many sequences of unexpected visual poetry and beauty to go along with the graphic shocks (which are there, but perhaps not quite as you imagined them, either... one of the best scenes involves the introduction of original 'prototypes' Fred and Ginger to the eager scientific community).
Virtually every review I've read (or skimmed) of this film says the same thing... it's 'well-made' and 'well-acted,' but it goes completely off the rails during the final movement of the film. I can't agree... SPLICE goes exactly where it needs to go if the story is to have emotional truth. Perhaps the climax is a bit contrived and forced... it's not handled with the same grace displayed in ORPHAN, I'll concede--but it does NOT betray the film that built up to it. The more you learn about the characters involved, the more sense the film--ALL of it--makes... and it's worth it.
SPLICE is currently flopping into oblivion at a theatre near you. Better hurry.
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