It’s hard out there for a genetic engineer these days. How are you supposed to synthesize your eukaryotic poly-glucose, or whatever the hell you do all day, without getting sucked into the fecund pit of political debate? Cloning, gene manipulation, synthetic life-none of them exist free of partisan precepts and ideological dogma. Movies that take on this modern scientific dilemma have a perfect opportunity to depict science’s brilliant minds as they actually are: human beings, as jam-packed with flaws and biases and BS as the rest of us. Of course, you could also take a step further, and make scientists the DUMBEST motherf#ckers on the planet. Which is what Splice director Vincenzo Natali has chosen to do.
In fact, not only are the supposedly-brilliant super-scientists of Splice ungodly stupid, they’re loathsome to the point of movie ruination. The goal of an effective monster film is to have at least one moment that truly works-in other words, a scene in which viewers wonder if the humans fighting the beast are in fact the bigger monsters. Plenty of films have accomplished this: Jaws, 28 Days Later, The Gay Bed and Breakfast of Terror (yes, the obsession continues). The best way to sabotage your “The humans are evil too!” moment is to make it a SLAM DUNK- your characters are clearly so much worse than the monster that moviegoers are literally sacrificing sheep in the theater aisles, smearing their faces with blood and begging you to kill those assholes off already.
Luckily, no one at this screening had any sheep. But by about 40 minutes in, we were ready to at least slash some veins. Let’s see, we’ve got Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley (both actors who should know better-I mean come on, you’ve got Oscars and shit, you’re smart enough to know a garbage script when you see one) playing lovers/superstar geneticists who combine the DNA of multiple animals to create some magical new species: an animal that looks like the contents of a Biological Waste container after 12 hours of liposuction. Flush with their apparently-genius-level discovery, our couple decides-well, scratch that, the CRAZY WOMAN (â€˜cause Lord knows women are SO crazy) decides to splice some human DNA into this homeostatic hodgepodge of animal genes. Cue the “birth” of the monster, and the forehead-slappery that ensues.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when a movie this bad first hits the point of no return. Is it the moment when Polley presents the monster with her very own Surfin’ Safari Barbie? Or the scene where the scientific wunder-couple get it on in a lab basement, while the creature watches? In a script this awful, the idiocy piles on, asphyxiating you with its crushing stupidity, until finally you can’t even summon the breath to yell obscenities when Adrien Brody starts banging the monster on the floor of a barn.
Yes, the former Best Actor winner is reduced to sex scenes with fish/bird/mammal creatures modeled after Sinead O’Connor. Because, not only are our hero and heroine raging amoral jerkstores, they’re also big fat oozing gender clichés. Let’s see, there’s the crazy-in-the-head Polley, who’s oblivious to rational thought, sexually rigid, and obsessed with motherhood beyond all reason. Then there’s Joe Horndog Brody, who wins the award for “most emasculated character ever to appear onscreen” (even beating Willem Dafoe in Antichrist-no small feat). Between bouts of humiliation by his woman, he waltzes through morally-ambiguous situations with practiced oblivion, sticking his PhD-earning wang into any female that shows interest.
In fact, the only semi-coherent character in this movie is the creature herself, a somewhat realistic portrayal of what would happen if you crocheted together fish, birds, possums, marmosets, and Lord knows what other DNA, and then tossed some human genes in for good measure. Played by French ingénue Delphine Chanéac, the monster provides the one sympathetic and semi-rational being to cling to. And she looks amazing-which is why all monster-movie-lovers should genuflect before Howard Berger and his team of makeup and creature effects demi-gods. These guys can create the truly remarkable onscreen… though not even they can salvage dreck like this. Bad monster effects can tank your movie, but even the best prosthetics and makeup can’t drag a total shitshow from the depths of putrescence.