Splice is a venture into the man-made monster theme. Vincenzo Natali says the starting point for him was the well-publicised photos of the mouse genetically engineered to have a human ear growing out of its back. The North American press immediately looked for comparisons to other films and dredged up the likes of Jurassic Park (1993) and Species (1995). This is perhaps because there that not that many other genre films that deal with genetic engineering as a theme, at least as anything other than a quick explain-all for a standard monster movie. To find something that approaches Splice in terms of its serious handling of themes and questions raised about ethics, you would have to go back further to some of the British tv mini-series treatments such as First Born (1988) and Chimera (1991).
Unlike most of these others, Vincenzo Natali makes a point to keep the science in the film credible and believable (there are credited genetic engineering consultants on the end credits). This is something that takes Splice out of the monster movie and into the realms of a scientific discovery thriller. Not that monster movie themes are ultimately too far away from Vincenzo Natalis intentions, but it is nice to see the film being played with credible science, not to mention addressing issues in the modern bio-sciences of corporate funding and control, of whether it is possible to copyright genetic material and the question of ethics in genetic research.
To such extent, the use of credible science disguises for a long time what is essentially a monster movie at heart. The introduction of the creature holds some of the most fascinating scenes in the film there is an eeriness to the scenes where it first demonstrates its intelligence using the letters of a Scrabble set and scuttling about the lab as Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley try to determine what they have created. Things become a little less interesting where the creature goes from something represented largely by CGI and animatronics to being played by French actress Delphine Chaneac where it is far more obvious that it is a human playing the part. Nevertheless, Chaneac conducts an intriguing series of gymnastics, animal-like expressions and behaviours, while the makeup and visual effects people outfit her with a striking array of barbed tails, sets of wings, three-fingered hands and cloven feet. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley are okay in their parts, although neither do anything that truly stretches their acting talents they are largely generic roles and the conflicts that play out between them are not where the films drama rests.
Ultimately, I felt that Splice was Vincenzo Natalis least interesting film to date. It may well have been that the Dark Castle name mandated that he have to play it out as a monster movie but I could not help but feel that when he started to do so, the film bought into too much of a cliched treatment. For all the scrupulousness of the science on display, Splice never treads far from being Frankenstein science where the story is a prognosticator of doom rather than a balanced examination of issues. The script raises a number of issues about genetic research and aims at but never finds anything original to say about them. The ending feels generic, almost as though Vincenzo Natali did not have much interest in it or that he was merely going down the creature/chase route because he and his writers couldnt think of any other way to wrap up the story. If nothing else, these sections do at least provide the kinkiest sex scene of the year.
(Nominee for Best Makeup Effects at this sites Best of 2010 Awards).