Monday, May 23, 2011

Splice: There Are Some Things You Just Do NOT Do (Like Dren)

Splice is weird. Not in a cool Santa Sangre, armless circus performer way though... more like in a I feel weird in my pants kind of way. Alright, so I KNEW what was going to happen with Dren and Adrian Brody but I don't think I was mentally prepared to handle that and that little scene at the end there on a Monday afternoon. Thursday afternoon maybe but this, this is just not Monday material.

I had the opportunity to see Splice in Boston with Vincenzo Natali in attendance, but I missed out on it because no one would go with me. This was before I got all brave and decided to venture out to movies alone. So now more than a year later, I am finally watching the film that divided so many people. There were strong camps of "worst film of the year" and strong camps of "best film of the year" and smaller camps of "ehhh it was okay". So what did I think about it? I don't know I still feel really weird about everything.

The thing about Vincenzo Natali is that he is very smart and it's kind of threatening--or at least it is to me as someone who still cannot figure out a 20% tip in their head. We saw it in Cube in a rather startling and mind numbingly brilliant way and we see it again in Splice only this time with science. Here we have two scientists and lovers who have revolutionized gene splicing by creating entirely new animals from several different ones.

When they wish to take their experiments one step further and introduce human DNA into the mix, they find that cannot due to that whole little thing about one step at a time and blah blah we can't let science get out of hand, crap. So unbeknownst to the big guys upstairs, Clive and Elsa proceed with their experiment and soon create Dren. As assumed, the "experiment" does grow out of control and Dren's genetic makeup starts making things very complicated for everyone.

When I saw the preview for Splice, the audience laughed. I imagine, or I hope rather, that the same happened throughout the actual movie. For some reason, I still fail to see where all those fits of laughter comes from. Yes, I wanted to laugh too but why? Was the film purposely made to be funny? It didn't feel like it was, and that always trips me up. Is it the writing? The acting? The overwhelming absurdity of it all? I guess.

One thing's for sure, Splice is creative and original. I don't think anyone, even the ones that did not like Splice could ignore that fact. While I think that I can safely say that I did like the film, I did have kind of an issue with Sarah Polley. Did anyone else feel like she was not a very good actress in this? A lot of her lines felt very forced and awkward. Maybe it's the character but, Elsa's mothering skills were really embarrassing to me.

Maybe I was just altogether embarrassed at the fact that Dren was a person and not an experiment. Or MAYBE I just thought her dresses were a little too short okay?

Let's talk about Dren for a moment. Dren is creepy. Hands down. So maybe you think she's a little pretty or hot but then if you're normal you'll hopefully notice that whoa she has 4 fingers, or whoa her legs are fucked up or whoa she has a pointy tongue

and then you'll immediately stop thinking those thoughts. Please take note that, "being normal" evidently does not apply to Adrian Brody.

While we're on the subject though, don't you think that Dren should come out with her own instructional videos? I think she could make a killing. Just imagine the possibilities.

Drawing with Dren

Dancing with Dren

Makeup with Dren

Kitty snuggle time with Dren

Naughty time with Dren

She has talent, why not exploit it?

Oh right because she eats wild animals and is bald. Oh well.

On the serious side of things, the thing I like most about Splice is how it really isn't about Dren at all. Overall the movie seems to be more about Elsa and her foggy past and her even foggier motivations. The revelations made later in the film were surprising to me and it really made me think about everything in a much different way. It made me question the need for Dren's existence and the relationship between Elsa and her mother and how it is similar or different to her and Dren's relationship. There's also a thrilling theme going on here involving the word control. On the scientific side of things, control is a huge thing and necessary to carry out experiments. On the personal side of things, Elsa needed control over Dren and that is why she carried out the procedure in the first place. You could also say actually that Elsa possesses a strange control over Clive as well. Someday when I'm feeling more smart and up to the challenge, I think I will delve deeper into this theme and its importance....yes one day.....

Elsa is a strange character. Some even say she is the true villain in Splice and I can't exactly say that I disagree. Well maybe that's just because I didn't like Sarah Polley, but then again there is that abrupt turn in the film where Elsa goes from kind and nurturing to eeek you're kind of crazy. A few of the people on the IMDB boards believe Splice is largely misogynistic because all the women in the film tempt the men into making bad decisions. And to those people I ask, what about the men? They aren't exactly shown in the brightest light either, being portrayed as sex crazed men who seem to want nothing more than sex and rape. What about them hmmm? Maybe, and this is just a thought, but maybe Splice is just a film. Stop turning everything into a man vs woman battle alright?

Overall, I think I like Splice. There are a few things I'm not 100% sold on but mostly I feel at least a little smarter and cultured having seen it. I totally dig how Natali has that power to make us feel completely enclosed in our main character's environment. In Cube it was obviously inside the Cube but in Splice, it's a little less obvious. Elsa and Clive are so absorbed in their scientific lives that we rarely get a chance to see or experience the outside world. We are constricted, just as they are to science and to Dren. Fascinating stuff I say.

Oh and by the way, congratulations on splicing various animal DNA to make two giant penises, Clive and Elsa.


The Mike said...

"There are a few things I'm not 100% sold on but mostly I feel at least a little smarter and cultured having seen it. I totally dig how Natali has that power to make us feel completely enclosed in our main character's environment."

Oh, TW. I was kind of sure we'd disagree on this one - I don't know why, except that I'm one of those weird people who likes to predict whether people will like movies I like - but that bit there pretty much sums up my thoughts on the movie. It was full of slips, but the Frankensteiny stuff and Natali's commitment to his universe won me.

Good work, as always!

M. Hufstader said...

Excellent review! Even though the giant penises are so true and slightly horrifying. I liked this movie, I thought it was really smart and original, but there was something...stilted about it. Something that didn't quite make it. For me, I thought it was the ending, just a bit too rushed for my taste. But the whole movie was so insane, I think it was hard for them to find a logical stopping point. Overall, I agree that the best part of the movie is the fact that it's not really about Dren at all, but more about the weird mother/daughter dynamic and all the baggage the characters carry with them. Frankenstein FTW.

David said...

Great review as ever. I really liked Splice, and am glad that, reservations aside, you generally liked it too.

It's a little rare these days to get something relatively original and thought provoking like this, and it's quite fun too!

...oh, and as a man - Dren? Yeah, I can see the appeal. Sort of :)

kindertrauma said...

I really loved this movie. I like Sarah Polly in it too maybe because she had an ugly side to her character. The scene where she "operates" on Dren TRULY horrified me. Beyond the mad science aspect I saw the events in the film stemming from her attempts to correct her past with her own mother. The whole movie to me seemed to be about bad parenting and abuse of parental power (both male and female).

"Stop turning everything into a man vs woman battle" Bless you for saying that. I think if you're watching movies and all you're taking away is tired gender war crap you're not really seeing much at all. It's like looking at the world through a pinhole. -Unk

Unknown said...

A few months removed from seeing this movie, it still creeps me out. Aside from the ending, I really can't think of anything I'd criticize. Just a good piece of horror/sci-fi/weirdness.

Alexandra said...

Meh. All this movie makes me want to do is watch The Fly.

Patrick said...

I kinda' dug that movie. Twisted movies make me feel better about the weird stuff that goes on in my head.

My take on this flick was a powerful anti-genetic manipulation message. Right from the beginning, they were pushing that card (all the scientific responsibility nonsense). I don't think science has a responsibility to screw with stuff, especially when it turns out looking like giant, violent, spiked penises. That's just bad news.

I thought the human looking Dren was pretty hot. The male mind is hard to make sense of sometimes, mine included.

Overall, totally enjoyable movie. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your review, Andre (you know me as @SpiritRaintree by the way). You're a good writer. Plus, you're a chick who digs horror, a rare commodity in this culture. Keep up the good work.

Thanks to everybody for sharing their thoughts. Horror fans are awesome.

Andre Dumas said...

Thanks Patrick! You are too kind. Female Dren IS kind of hot but I can't over the weird flamingo leg thing. I still don't believe her vagina looks very normal either.