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Splice (2010)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/5/2010

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/12/2010

Available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, On Demand and for Download!

As you know, we talk a lot about remakes, reboots, and re-imaginings -- no matter what you call it, these are all movies which take a pre-existing character or idea and do it over again. Residing in a separate category is the "modern-day take on" movie. This is a film which takes an old idea or genre and updates it. It doesn't derives its story from any specific prior movie, but rather it infuses an antique, possibly stagnant notion with a present-day view. Splice is the perfect example of this concept.

Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) are a young couple who also happen to be geneticists. Through gene-splicing and genetic tinkering, they have created two bizarre creatures, named Fred and Ginger, whose purpose to help the pharmaceutical company which employs Clive and Elsa discover new properties which can cure diseases. Frustrated by the lack of excitement from their superiors (David Hewlett and Simona Maicanescu), Elsa and Clive decide to play with splicing human genes into their next creation, just to see what will happen. They agree to only see if it would work, and to not actually create the creature. However, the process advances much faster than ever before, and suddenly, a bizarre bi-ped little monster is in the lab. Clive wants to destroy, but Elsa is fascinated by it and wants to see how it will develop. While the process intrigues them both and becomes more involving than they'd expected, Clive and Elsa soon learn why it isn't why to play God.

For decades, we've seen the label "modern-day take on Frankenstein" slapped on many movies, but none are more deserving of this as Splice. The movie takes the idea of Dr. Frankenstein playing God and puts a very common-sense modern take on it. If Frankenstein were alive today (and a real person) would he be playing with dead body parts? No, he would be dabbling in genetics and cloning to see what he could make. Unlike Frankenstein, Clive and Elsa aren't egomaniacs who are attempting to create life -- they've already done that. Instead, they are simply experimenting, pushing the boundaries to see what is possible. It's the results that they must deal with, and this is where the movie gets its energy.

The first act of the film deals with the creation of the creature and while this is interesting, it's also pretty predictable. We know that their experiment will work, otherwise, there wouldn't be much of a movie after that. One the "birth" takes place, the story takes off and become very tricky. Yes, we get the sense that something bad is going to happen at some point, but otherwise it's hard to guess where the movie is going next. What starts as a rather sedate, but somewhat odd science-fiction movie slowly edges its way into horror territory, as things get more and more out of control. There are at least two scenes in the final act which are shocking and will make many members of the audience uncomfortable.

Beyond this, the movie has even deeper levels. The whole thing can be seen as an essay on parenting. Clive and Elsa argue about how to handle the creature and we see how their various efforts affect the creature. In addition, we see how the results of these behaviors generates tension between Clive and Elsa. The best science-fiction holds a mirror up to real life and Splice handles this quite well. And, obviously, the movie can generate a discussion on scientific ethics and just how far scientists should go. Just because you can splice doesn't mean that you should splice, and things of that nature.

When Splice was done, I really had no idea how I felt about it. Director Vincenzo Natali has created a movie which is a challenging combination of the old and the new. As stated before, we've got the whole Frankenstein thing, and the movie definitely has a Cronenberg vibe (which isn't surprising, as Natali is a Canadian as well) -- the first act, in the non-chalant way in which the movie presents the mutants, really has a Cronenberg feel. (And oddly, some of the movie echoes Jeepers Creepers of all things.) This is mixed with a very modern, approach, in both the film's attitudes and special effects (it's great to actually see some latex on-screen, as opposed to all CGI). It's been a while since I've seen a movie which took the twists and turns seen in Splice. Due to the unexpected depth of the story and the shocking depravity displayed in the third act, I came away somewhat pummeled. Upon reflection, I think that I liked the movie. Be warned, it's shocking and provocative, but there's nothing wrong with that.

Splice really should have added a wig on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 16 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. Some of the nighttime shots are a tad dark, but otherwise the light is well-balanced. The colors look very good, most notably reds and blues. The image shows a nice amount of depth and detail. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This track does a great job of showing off the film's creative sound mix. At every opportunity -- in the lab, during the finale -- this track likes to show off sounds coming from all directions. The stereo effects handle this well, and we often hear things from off-screen. The surround and subwoofer effects really shine during the finale, and there are some very nice sounds placed in the rear speakers to give us an idea of what is happening in the background.

The Splice Blu-ray Disc contains only one extra feature. "A Director's Playground: Vincenzo Natali on the set of Splice" (35 minutes) is a making-of documentary which goes beyond the norm. The piece looks at Natali's career (which brief clips from Cube and Nothing) and then begins to examine the production of Splice, filling its running time with on-set footage and comments from those involved. To me, the most interesting thing here was that the movie was shot in 2007. Why the delay in getting it to the screen?

Review by Mike Long.  Copyright 2010.