Vincenzo Natali’s Splice

I came out of the theater feeling rejuvenated after seeing Splice (directed and written by Vincenzo Natali). It’s been awhile since I’ve seen anything fresh and creative on the American horror front, and Splice hit the spot–a combination of The Bride of the Frankenstein crossed with Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum.

Splice stars the talented Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody as a pair of rock-star scientists, Elsa and Clive, who create a few genetically mutated monsters named Fred and Ginger that only a mother and father could love. Elsa and Clive are also romantically involved, and fortunately they do love their creations.

The scientific team’s primary responsibility is to mine Fred and Ginger for a synthetically produced protein that will aid humanity, but Elsa and Clive (especially Elsa) are champing at the bit to use human DNA in one of their creations. They eventually do, unknown to anybody else in their lab, and create a “child” with a rapidly accelerated growth rate who’s part supermodel, part dinosaur.

Elsa takes on the role of the mad Dr. Frankenstein, crossing all sorts of boundaries that shouldn’t be, while Clive serves as the conscience for the two scientists. What makes Splice especially twisted is how the mother-child relationship is bastardized. A mother’s love is usually held up as a paradigm–an unselfish love that’s supposed to transcend all others. The mother’s expected to be calm, patient, and nurturing toward her child, even in the nine months before the infant appears. Nothing seems to make the public angrier than an unfit mother–smoking and drinking while pregnant or beating on her kid in the supermarket.

Polley’s Elsa is the mother character toward her and Clive’s creation named Dren, providing the nurturing side while Clive wants to take a more objective, scientific view of their experiment, knowing its nature. When Dren becomes willful and Clive starts to have feelings for their experiment, Elsa turns against her creation and this change of heart seems much more horrific because the audience has seen how much love Elsa has already shown Dren.

I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the ending of Splice, but I have no problems with it. The movie raises so many questions about what is ethical behavior and what is not, and I rather liked the open-ended, ambiguous ending, which just gave me more to think about after leaving the theater.

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