Quint takes in Vincenzo Natali's sci-fi/horror flick SPLICE starring Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley! Sundance 2010!
Published at: Jan. 23, 2010, 6:34 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with my thoughts on the Guillermo del Toro produced sci-fi/monster movie hybrid SPLICE, directed by Vincenzo Natali who directed CUBE.
I gotta say when the movie started, the sixth of a six movie day, I wasn’t sure if I was going to dig it, but it’s one of those movies that evolves, getting better with each reel. Believe me, at film festivals it’s often the reverse; movies that start out strong and then just take a screaming nosedive becoming a gigantic trainwreck of pretentious boredom.
You can say a lot about Vincenzo’s movie, but a trainwreck of pretentious boredom it is not.
It’s a classic monster tale told through the lens of modern science. Instead of graverobbers our Frankenstein and Igor are a gene-splicing scientist couple played by Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley. Instead of creating new life from cobbled together pieces of dead tissue they create life from cobbled together pieces of DNA, splicing different genomes from different animals.
In their work they had been able create new lifeforms from animal DNA, but legally couldn’t explore the full potential by adding in human DNA.
Naturally they end up fucking with nature to the point that something brand new and potentially deadly is created.
But much like its classic monster predecessors the creature, called Dren, has a soul. It’s not an evil being. Neither are the scientists, but by the end of the movie everybody has crossed a moral line of one type or another, everybody in the film, humans and creatures, have given in to evil urges or behavior.
I found some of the CG work at the beginning of the film to be a little loose if you know what I mean. I love the design of the young Dren, a bipedal rat-fetus of a creature (with creepily human eyes) and the way Natali shoots it, but I feel the worst of the digital work is here. That said if you give the creature enough personality then you get some leeway with the effects and I feel Natali earned that leeway with this creature.
As Dren grows older the human DNA shows through more and more allowing for a mixture of practical and CG to creature the matured creature, a demur and frankly beautiful creature. French actress Delphine Chaneac plays the matured Dren and the only big difference between her as a real life human being and her as Dren are her eyes... slightly bigger and farther apart and her legs, dog-kneed.
This allows for a great mixture of CGI and a human actress. It should also be noted that KNB added a lot to the practicals as well.
All effects talk aside, the movie only works if you buy the relationships, as fucked up and bizarre as they are.
Polley and Brody are fine. I bought them as scientists and as a couple. Bottom line, I’m a big fan of movies that are filled with gray characterization. That’s why I love noir and crime films so much and what I really grabbed on to with this movie. Everybody in this story has the capacity for kindness and cruelty.
By making such a distinct and fascinating creature in Dren Natali gives us something to hold on to, to sympathize with and to, ultimately, be terrified of.
Right now this film doesn’t have US distribution, but from my interview with the director earlier today I think they’re close.