Splice is a 2009 Canadian-French science fiction horror film directed by Vincenzo Natali and starring Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, and Delphine Chanéac. The story concerns experiments in genetic engineering being done by a young scientific couple, who attempt to introduce human DNA into their work of splicing animal genes. Guillermo del Toro, Don Murphy, and Joel Silver executive produced.
Final theatrical poster
|Directed by||Vincenzo Natali|
|Produced by||Steve Hoban|
|Music by||Cyrille Aufort|
|Edited by||Michele Conroy|
|Box office||$26.9 million|
Genetic engineers Clive Nicoli and Elsa Kast hope to achieve fame by splicing animal DNA to create hybrids for medical use at the company N.E.R.D. (Nucleic Exchange Research and Development). Their work previously yielded Fred, a dog-sized vermiform creature intended as a mate for their female specimen, Ginger. After successfully mating them, Clive and Elsa plan to create a human-animal hybrid that could revolutionize science. Their employers Joan Chorot of N.E.R.D. and William Barlow forbid them from doing this. Instead, they are to find and extract proteins used for commercial drug production from Fred and Ginger. Clive and Elsa, however, disobey their superiors and pursue their own agenda in secret, developing a viable prepubescent female creature.
Although they had planned to terminate the hybrid before it reached full term, Elsa persuades Clive to let it live. They discover that she is aging at a vastly accelerated rate. Elsa discovers that the creature is undergoing mental development such as that of a young human child. Elsa names the creature "Dren" after the creature spells out NERD, having seen the letters on Elsa's shirt.
After moving Dren to a new location for fear of discovery, they find she has a dangerously high fever. In an attempt to save her they place her in a large industrial sink filled with cold water. Later on Clive fully submerges Dren in the sink, and in doing so discovers that Dren is amphibious.
While studying Dren, Elsa and Clive neglect their work with Fred and Ginger. At a highly publicized presentation of their work, Fred and Ginger savagely fight to the death. It is subsequently discovered that Ginger had spontaneously changed to a male, but Elsa and Clive failed to notice because they were focused on Dren.
Elsa forms a motherly bond with Dren. After Dren jumps on Clive's brother, Gavin, they move her to an isolated farm. There, Dren displays carnivorous tendencies and retractable wings. She grows into adolescence and becomes bored with being locked up in the barn, but Elsa and Clive fear that letting her outside might lead to her discovery. Clive realizes that the human DNA used to create Dren was Elsa's, not from an anonymous donor as Elsa had told him. After Dren exhibits dangerous misbehavior Elsa restrains Dren and removes her stinger, using it to synthesize the protein that Elsa and Clive had been searching for.
Meanwhile, Dren and Clive have developed a mutual attraction. Elsa discovers them having sex in the barn and becomes upset. Clive accuses Elsa of never having wanted a "normal" child because of her fear of losing control; instead she chose to raise one as an experiment, where control could be assured. Deciding the only solution is to terminate Dren, they return to the farm and find Dren apparently already dying.
William Barlow discovers human DNA in Dren's protein samples and arrives to investigate. Elsa tells Barlow that Dren is dead and buried behind the barn. However, Dren, having metamorphosed into a male, rises from the grave and attacks the group, killing Barlow and Gavin before raping Elsa. Clive attacks Dren to save Elsa, but Dren overpowers him. Elsa intervenes and is about to kill Dren, but she hesitates, which allows Dren to kill Clive. Elsa then kills Dren.
Elsa is later informed that Dren's body contained numerous biochemical compounds for which the company has begun filing patents. Joan offers Elsa, now visibly pregnant with Dren's baby, a large sum of money to go through with the pregnancy, which Elsa accepts.
Splice was written by director Vincenzo Natali and screenwriters Antoinette Terry Bryant and Doug Taylor. The script was originally meant to follow up Natali's Cube (1997), but the budget and restricted technology hindered the project. In 2007, the project entered active development as a 75% Canadian and 25% French co-production, receiving a budget of $26 million. The director described the film: "Splice is very much about our genetic future and the way science is catching up with much of the fiction out there. [This] is a serious film and an emotional one. And there's sex... Very, very unconventional sex. The centerpiece of the movie is a creature which goes through a dramatic evolutionary process. The goal is to create something shocking but also very subtle and completely believable."
In October 2007, actors Brody and Polley were cast into the lead roles. Production began the following November in Toronto. It was aided by Telefilm Canada's funding of US$2.5 million. Filming took place in Toronto and concluded in February 2008.
In an interview, when asked if there would be any sequels, Natali responded, "I don't think so. It could happen, but it would have required the movie to make a lot of money in the States, but even though the ending of the film appears to be setting up a sequel, that was never my intention. All of my films end with a question, and somewhat ambiguously, and they always imply the beginning of another story, I like to leave the audience with something to ponder."
The film premiered on October 6, 2009 at the Sitges Film Festival, where it won "Best Special Effects" and was in the running for "Best Film", and was part of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. After a bidding war with Apparition, The Weinstein Company, Newmarket Films, First Look Studios, Samuel Goldwyn Films, and Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, Dark Castle Entertainment purchased the US rights to the film and the worldwide rights to any possible sequels in February 2010, thinking they "found the next Paranormal Activity". The film received a wide release in the United States on June 4, 2010, with Warner Bros. as distributor. The trailer was attached to two other Warner Bros. movies, The Losers and A Nightmare on Elm Street. The film opened on June 4, 2010 in wide release to a $7.4 million opening weekend in 2,450 theaters, averaging $3,014 per theater. Splice was released on DVD and Blu-ray on October 5, 2010, in the US and on November 29, 2010, in the UK.
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 74% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 184 reviews; the average score is 6.6/10. The site's critical consensus states: "It doesn't take its terrific premise quite as far as it should, but Splice is a smart, well-acted treat for horror fans." Review aggregator Metacritic gave the film an average score of 66 out of 100 based on 35 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote that Natali "hasn't reinvented the horror genre" but "has done the next best thing with an intelligent movie that, in between its small boos and an occasional hair-raising jolt, explores chewy issues like bioethics, abortion, corporate-sponsored science, commitment problems between lovers and even Freudian-worthy family dynamics." Andrew O'Hehir from Salon said "Dark, sleek, funny and creepily infectious, the genetic-engineering horror-comedy Splice is a dynamic comeback vehicle for Canadian genre director Vincenzo Natali, who made a splash a few years ago with Cube." Lisa Schwarzbaum from Entertainment Weekly gave the film an A− and stated, "The outstanding creature effects by Howard Berger only get more astonishing as Splice splits into an eerie horror picture, then divides again into something out of Rosemary's Baby." Roger Ebert from the Chicago Sun-Times called it "well done and intriguing" but said it is disappointing in that it does not explore Dren's persona. Comparing the film to David Cronenberg's The Brood, Peter Travers from Rolling Stone said, "Played as a child by Abigail Chu and as an adult by Delphine Chanéac, Dren morphs into a special-effects miracle, sexy and scary in equal doses." and gave the film 3 out of 4. Also comparing the sex scenes to Cronenberg's work, Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle rated it 2/4 stars and wrote that while it has several disgusting scenes, it is "a regulation monster movie" that is "too dumb to be serious and too slow to be entertaining". Richard Roeper panned Splice, calling it one of the worst movies of 2010. He gave the film a D+ calling it "ridiculous" but giving it credit for trying to be different.
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Splice, Vincenzo Natali's slick sci-fi horror film starring Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody, has won Telefilm's fledgling Golden Box Office Award.