Saturday, September 26, 2015

Splice (2009)

Science is pretty great, and has given us innumerable achievements. Plenty of great things were accomplished with science in the past and there are still new things happening every day. But in Splice, the only thing science is good for is, apparently, working out your dead mommy issues or just making your own horrific alien mutant to fuck in a shed somewhere. Both of those things really happen in the movie. I'd say sorry for the spoilers, but I think we deserve an apology for the movie as a whole.

Director: Vincenzo Natali
Starring: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley

Co-written with Colin and Michelle.

This is a rotten film with almost nothing good about it. I can't really think of a better way to describe this other than just diving right in, so hey, let's do that.

The movie begins with a couple of scientists, Clive and Elsa, played by Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley. They are trying to create some sort of artificial life by combining a bunch of animals together, or some shit like that. I don't even know – it's barely even glossed over, what they're actually trying to do. I guess they just wanted to see two weird looking, vaguely penis-shaped worms do photosynthesis together or something:

"All my life, I have waited to see this."

I guess they're working for this big business suit guy, who tells them their experiments have been canceled by the company they work for because they don't want them to keep doing their weird ass experiments. What? Why not? Why can't we make an abomination that could potentially be the worst thing ever thought up by mankind???

But that doesn't stop them from doing it anyway and hiding their experiment away in some basement in the building. At home, they talk about moving in together and maybe having a child, which Elsa doesn't want to do. Okay, now it makes sense – creating a horrific scientific mutation is okay, but moving in together? Woah there, bucko, don’t get any crazy ideas!

"Before you touch my boobs, we have to create at least 50% of a completely amoral scientific abomination that most would call the living embodiment of Satan. I have spoken!"

But it's okay. After all, we can see their progress. Look, they made a gross thing in a tank that almost eats Elsa's arm! That's cool, right?

"Nope, still don't regret this!"
So, they made a living punching bag?

Eventually though, they make a baby that I'm sure the characters in Eraserhead would be happy to see, as it makes the baby in that movie look adorable by comparison. There are a fuckload of scenes in this film of these two taking care of their pet monster, and early on it’s mostly just the creature destroying things and vomiting.

Hooray for that!

We see her start to grow up and become an even uglier being, which they name Dren. There are a bunch of scenes of them playing with her in the lab, which would be touching if she didn't look like a human ass with eyes and a mouth.

Somehow, the fact that they put it in a dress makes it worse...

At one point, Dren gets sick and they try to bathe her in cold water. Clive gets the idea to push her head completely underwater, presumably trying to end the horror he brought into the world. However, that's the exact point she evolves to grow gills and is able to survive, miraculously coming out okay! Elsa congratulates Clive for his brilliant idea, and he grins weakly while thinking inside that he should have just shot Dren in the head.

"Uh, yeah, of COURSE I was trying to save her, and definitely not trying to kill her... heh heh heh...."

There is a scene where they present their two weird looking worm things in front of a live audience. But what they didn’t know is that one of them changed gender into a male! Now that both of the weird worm things are male, they stab the fuck out of each other with needle-like appendages and then knock the cage over, showering the audience in mutated worm blood. I guess that was exactly what Clive and Elsa were going for, so good job, guys!

The day will live on in infamy as the day Walgreens heavily reconsidered who it let do their pharmaceutical experiments for them.

Also, how did they not notice the thing changed genders? They must be bad scientists.

I guess they were busy, though, as they have kept raising Dren as their own child. They even move her into the creepy old abandoned farm barn that Elsa’s family used to own. There are some scenes that could have been affecting here, as the two become even more like parents raising a child. But it’s too little, too late - we’re almost halfway through the movie at this point, and we don’t know anything more about these characters or their relationship than we did at the beginning.

What DO we have, then? Scenes of Dren eating rabbits in the woods?

...okay. I guess if that’s what you want to show, go right the fuck ahead. Who am I to stop you?

This is really where the movie falls apart. There’s sort of a subplot about how Elsa was mistreated as a child, and is now taking out her inner anger on Dren. But the movie never details or explains what happened to Elsa, and it never resolves whatever she was trying to work out. Like, there’s one scene where Dren found a cat outside and Elsa takes it away, fearing Dren will kill it. Before leaving, she says “that’s part of growing up, you can’t always get what you want.”

What am I supposed to gain from that? Clearly she’s treating Dren like her mother treated her, in some fashion. But it’s never elaborated on. There’s no exploration of her character. The movie clearly wants us to glean something, some kind of point about who she is as a person, but it doesn’t bother to actually do any work on finishing that plot. It's like if you were reading a book, and then halfway through, the author stops midsentence and leaves the last 200 pages totally blank. It doesn't help anyone.

What do we get instead? Dancing scenes!


In another horribly written plot, now Clive is actually sympathetic towards Dren, even though before he was obviously repulsed at what they’d done and how Elsa was acting. But now, he seems cool with her. Probably because she now looks like a fucking exotic supermodel or something. What can I say? Sometimes ugly children grow up into beautiful adults I guess!

He also finds out that Elsa put her own DNA into Dren. Oh wow, will this be expanded on at all? No. No it will not. This is the last we hear about it, actually.

The next day, Elsa goes to see Dren and Dren attacks her and tries to escape, wanting to go outside. Elsa subdues her and then does the sensible thing - straps her to a table and cuts off her tail, all the while talking like a scientist into a recorder with a smug look on her face. I like all of my scientists to do cruel things to their test subjects just to get out their own insecurities! So this scene is cool with me.

Ahh yes, now I see that they are catering to the market for people who like scenes that you're not sure you even want to watch, but can't quite turn away from.

There was… absolutely no build-up to this insane torture scene, and it isn’t talked about in depth by any of the characters later, which is becoming a running theme in this film. After all, so what if every single thing we do in the plot has no consequence? Fuck it, right?

In an apparent contest to see who can be the biggest douchebag in the film, Clive then comes into the barn, un-shackles Dren and then the two begin having steamy human-on-scientific-mutation sex... no, I'm not trying to make a joke, and yes, it does really happen in the movie.

He helped create her in a lab, but acts like her father, and she has DNA from Elsa, who is his girlfriend, so I don’t even know what angle to call this ridiculous from!

Adrien Brody like you've never seen him before!

I’d just like to point out that Adrien Brody won an Oscar in a movie about the Holocaust. I guess he really just wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again. But uh-oh, Elsa comes in and sees him right as he’s fucking Dren! That’s super-awkward!

"Nope, it's not cold out here guys, this is totally realistic!" He would be saying that, but you can't hear him over the sound of his chattering teeth and freezing bones crackling.

They both go back to their apartment and cry about how they both fucked up raising a genetic experiment gone wrong. Oh, boo hoo, you fucking drama queens. Everything that happened is your own fault, and clearly, given what we've seen, it's good that all you did was create a creature in a lab instead of, y'know, actually having a goddamned child. You clearly wouldn't be any good at that, so this was a useful test run of sorts.

"Shush, I'm still trying to think of a way I can justify this and blame you instead!"

I also love the part of this scene where Clive actually manages to turn the argument around on Elsa and make it seem like it’s her fault the whole thing is happening. I slept with a weird alien monstrosity in your family’s barn? Fuck that! IT’S YOUR FAULT! What guy hasn't had to use this kind of mental manipulation on a loved one after sleeping with a genetically engineered monster?

The movie loses all sense of where it’s going, though, and instead of any kind of character development, it just gives us goofy action scenes. They rush back to the farm, where Dren has died, so they go and bury her in the yard.

"Well, I think we both agree that this has been a most unorthodox time in our lives."
"Yup. Oh well, you want to go get Chinese food?"

Conveniently at the same time, the businessman guy shows up, demanding in a loud voice to see Dren. They’ve conveniently just finished burying her when he shows up, for an extra dose of hack writing. But I guess they didn’t check that well to make sure Dren was dead, as she comes back to life and kills that businessman guy. Whoops!

You know, the old "thought my child was dead" mistake. It happens!

Oh, and Dren is actually a male now, having changed like the two worm monsters did earlier. With his newfound male-ness, he does the worst thing possible and rapes Elsa in the woods.

Then he kills Clive. Boy, I wonder what Clive’s last thoughts were. I bet they were a real gem. “At least I died looking at the last thing I fucked”? “Boy, I sure am glad we created this thing in a lab now, because this is exactly what I wanted to accomplish with this experiment”? I guess we’ll never really know.

Man. Dren raped her mother and killed her father. It’s Shakespearean, if Shakespeare had ever written a play about a genetically engineered accident created in a lab... which I totally think he should have! There’s my contribution to the Shakeapearean criticism conversation!


In one final scene, we see that Elsa is pregnant now, presumably with Dren’s child.

Great! Now they can have genetically engineered mutant sequels. Just what nobody in the world ever wanted.

This movie is steaming manure. The premise could work, in a vintage Cronenberg kind of way, but they don't really do anything with it. They try to tell this whole story of these characters creating a surrogate child and then failing to raise it because of their own insecurities and flaws, but there's no exploration of either of their characters, even when the film looks like it's about to start giving you some. Like the hints at Elsa's backstory with her mother abusing her; where the fuck did that go? You can't just hint at that and then never develop it! Are you crazy? That's not being subtle or smart, that's just being lazy, as well as obnoxiously and willfully obtuse.

As the film goes on, the characters just become more and more unlikable as they make dumb decision after dumb decision. The movie is more interested in showing gratuitous gimmick scenes than actually telling a good story, and so the characters come off as obnoxiously moronic rather than realistic, and it is impossible to really get invested in them. There's no exploration of why Elsa suddenly starts torturing Dren, or why Clive has sex with her - it's all just random scenes thrown in there haphazardly with almost no context, and there is no bigger story to distract you from that. This is all you get, and it's no good.

There’s a really forced commentary on the state of science, too, delivered with all the subtlety of an atomic bomb blast. Like, yeah, THIS movie will make us all reconsider our ideas about where science is going! It warns us that if we don't check ourselves, random white people will create a monster and then have sex with it. Uh, astute observation?

The acting is fine, especially from Sarah Polley and Delphine ChanĂ©ac as Dren, but it can’t save the bad characters, idiotic story and lame writing. Characters make dumb choices for no reason other than to further the plot, plot lines are dropped unceremoniously with zero resolution... I'm starting to think the movie itself was created in a botched freak lab accident. Basically, it fucking sucks.

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