splice_2Welcome to Reel Rewind, a semi-monthly column in which I’ll revisit some of our favorite/overlooked films, bringing along artists that I can’t get enough of. We’ll team up for some fun collaborations and bridge the gap between film appreciation and art. For the entire month of October, creatures, spooks and things that shouldn’t be are taking over the column to celebrate Halloween! Be afraid, be very afraid!

Year: 2009
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Writer(s): Vincenzo Natali, Antoinette Terry Bryant, Doug Taylor
Region of Origin: Canada, France
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Rating: R
35mm, Color, 104 mins

As it’s title would suggest, Splice is a strange creature indeed. From the mind of Cube director Vincenzo Natali, the film is a bizarre and wonderful mixture of creepy and grotesque genre delights, rooted firmly in human emotions and fears. Part creature feature and part scientific cautionary tale, the film doesn’t suffer from a lack of wild ideas as it crushes taboos to smartly explore our primal desires and ideas about identity with equal measure. This is one adult thriller with brains and a healthy amount of perverse fun. While it’s definitely not for everyone, those who can stomach what it has to offer will love its mixture of psychological terror and physical horror, all while being won over by the tragic, humanoid oddity named Dren at the center of it’s story.

The plot centers around two hot shot scientists and lovers named Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley). Not content with merely achieving fame by creating hybrid animals for medical use, Elsa convinces Clive to secretly create a specimen mixed with human DNA. Unsurprisingly, the couple are successful and while they at first don’t know what they’ve got on their hands, the creature, later named Dren, begins to grow at an accelerated rate both physically and mentally. From there things get complicated and take a few turns toward the strange as Dren’s relationship to the couple begins to blur the line between science experiment and parental nurturing. Lines will be crossed and nothing will ever be the same again.

The best thing about the film is the way it bridges the gap between shocking, grotesque entertainment and a smart dissection on human nature’s animalistic will to survive. Considering everything the film has jammed into it from phallic sex-changing creatures, scientists that grapple with hubris and shady corporations to both main characters’ desire to create offspring on their own terms, the film could’ve been a messy one. Well, it is a messy and very bloody film, providing lots of gooey, icky body and creature horror to those that want it, but Natali keeps his hybrid of themes well managed. Everything comes together into one highly entertaining tale that breaks genre archetypes and melds its somewhat exploitive plot with smart Cronenberg or even Lynch-ian ideas and psychological terror. Natali also peels back layers of mystery slowly, allowing the film to constantly evolve and feel fresh every so often.

splice_1As the two main humans in the film, Elsa and Clive have fascinating roles as creators/guardians of their experiment. There’s a neat reversal of archetypes with Elsa being the more dominant in the relationship, pushing the timid Clive to break rules and push their scientific boundaries past the point of no return. Sarah Polley plays her character with an almost sinister angle, yet manages to make the unlikeable character sympathetic when you least expect. Adrien Brody has a flatter role, but he does well with it and makes it count, especially with the way his character’s ideals change towards the end.

Naturally, the true star of the entire thing is Dren, who’s played wonderfully by Delphine Chaneac. As Clive and Elsa’s experiment, she transforms from an odd bipedal creature to an oddly attractive, female humanoid with a mixture of animalistic traits ranging from amphibious reptile, avian and more. Despite her incredibly executed and designed appearance, Chaneac makes the character the most humane of the entire film. As such, my personal favorite aspect of the film is Dren’s tragic relationship with her creators, specifically as a daughter torn between two “parents” with very different agendas. There’s a loneliness, curiosity and innocence that comes from this dynamic and inhabits everything she does. And as we see those elements shift and evolve over the course of her journey, there’s a lot to be impressed by in Chaneac’s relatable and haunting performance.

If anything, the film is worth a viewing for Dren alone, who is one of horror’s most underrated and beautiful creatures. Unlike most creatures nowadays, she has real emotional depth to her and her chameleon-like forms are designed in a sophisticated way, allowing the film to take many different shapes as she goes from innocent to scary in a single beat. For horror or even sci-fi fans, this is a really bold and crazy mix of everything you’d want from those genres, making Splice a true hybrid that isn’t afraid to cross a few lines and get a little dirty in the process.

Crome Rating: 4/5

And hey! It’s about time I got in on the fun yeah? This poster is really my first attempt in many years at doing art solely for myself and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out!  I learned a lot in the process and hope to continue with these things more often. Really though, I just wanted an excuse to create a portrait for Dren, because she’s a haunting character that’s really stuck with me since I saw the film years ago. I wanted to mimic the way she’s tragically shaped by her surroundings and while she has a distinct, physical form, is always shifting and adapting internally. Hope you guys like the poster and check out the film if you haven’t already!

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Remember, we’ll have a new horror review every week leading up to Halloween so come back next week, October 16, for more! Also check out last week’s installment of The Relic with art by David Moscati!

SG