Friday, June 4th, 2010

Horror Chick: The Awfulness of "Splice" Cannot Be Solved by Adrien Brody and Monster Sex

MONSTER SEXIt'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 (‘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.

Melissa Lafsky came to your movie with an open mind and your script spit on her!

33 Comments / Post A Comment

jfruh (#713)

(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)

I've seen far too many great/seemingly smart actors do this to believe this anymore. I think a lot of great actors are kind of idiot savants who are incapable of reading a script and telling if its garbage or not.

This phenomenon should probably be distinguished from those who simply don't care and just like paychecks (e.g. William H. Macy gets repeatedly hit in the crotch by a CGI dog in Marmaduke).

Bittersweet (#765)

And yet, Entertainment Weekly gave this an A-. Makes me wonder what they're smoking over there (or how much they're getting paid off).

libmas (#231)

Wow. So very much in disagreement with Dargis, Edelstein, and Ebert, who are themselves not always in agreement…

Art Yucko (#1,321)

"when Adrien Brody starts banging the monster on the floor of a barn."

-close tab-

The movie sucks but the houses Polley and Brody will purchase with their paychecks are SPECTACULAR.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Sorry, but your Fly is closed.

HiredGoons (#603)

What happened to Geena Davis? I LIKE Geena Davis.

She used to be in movies, but she's not in movies anymore. She's attractive enough, but when she smiles you see too much gum. Not a good tooth-to-gum ratio.

This is a Speciesious claim.

musicmope (#428)

And a BROODing one.

Wrapitup (#975)

I'm glad the monster had the decency to pluck her eyebrows and slap on some lipstick just in time to seduce Adrien Brody.

libmas (#231)

I'm pretty sure the whole point of the DNA splicing was to get a female with preternaturally-plucked eyebrows and permanently reddened lips.

Grant G Brown (#3,366)

Howard Berger didn't do any practical effects on Dren. That's all digital compositing (pushing her eyes apart, erasing a finger) and animation (the crazy feet hands and tail).

This seems to be a love or hate movie. I didn't love it.

FINALLY someone has explained this movie to me. I've only seen previews when my boyfriend fast forwards through them on the DVR and every time the horror buff in me screams "Stop! I want to see the preview!" Aaaand now I know why he rolls his eyes at me and keeps his finger on those two arrows pointing right.

davidwatts (#72)

I am surprised to hear this movie features a "SLUM DUNK" a particularly vile and acrobatic sexual maneuver pioneered by ODB and Shaq (working independently) in 1992.

Horror Chick (#1,677)

Accursed typos. That's what happens when you stay up late watching awful horror movies.

Do ya want me to shoot it!? Noooo! Do ya want me to pass it!? Noooo! Do ya want me to slum!? Yeaaaaaah! Get out the way, get out the way, get out the way, get out the way!!!

MollyculeTheory (#4,519)

Total straw creature argument.

If Jurassic Park managed to make me really stabby, I can't imagine I could watch this without an IV made out of martinis. Now THERE'S a medical engineering problem I can get behind.

BadUncle (#153)

And yet, I'll still see this before Human Centipede.

minerva23 (#4,497)

I'm going to "ice" the two of them for this— and it ain't going to be pretty. Take a knee.

Zack H (#5,316)

Hey Horror Chick, what movies do you like? Genuinely curious…

Horror Chick (#1,677)

I like many, many horror movies. I swear. Just not terrible shitty blobs of dreck like this one. And the last film I reviewed. And the one before that (oh no wait – I loved the new Nightmare on Elm St. And Zombieland. See those)

GetItOn (#1,182)

So, imagine the studio pitch meeting…"It's 'Knocked Up' spliced with 'Rosemary's Baby' with angry baby raping mother scenes….sponsored by BP… what could go wrong?"

keisertroll (#1,117)

Two major flaws of any horror film starring Sarah Polley: 1. Why should we care what happens, since it's probably taking place in Canada? 2. Nothing can ever top the nightmarish (also persumably Canadian) hellscapes she encountered in her role as Romona Quimby.

thaoda_sprightly (#5,319)

Sheesh, will no one say a nice word? Despite its flaws, Splice has a lot more going for it than makeup and special effects. This review notwithstanding, good movies don't have to resemble TV procedurals in which protagonists are uniformly rational, efficient, and earnest in every domain of their lives; such people tend to be tedious, except perhaps to those who know them really, really well. The flawed protagonists here maintain viewer interest because their coldness and narrowly functional motivations commingle with tenderness and fear. Like their work, their personalities function on an edge. Their creation, Dren, is even more interesting. Ebert did note in his review that Dren should have been given more attention, and that's true enough. But until the overdone last half-hour, Splice is funny and warm while being intermittently unnerving, which is to say it evokes a tense, off-balance mood. Apparently these tonal subtleties were lost on this reviewer because the film didn't present characters who were "admirable" enough. I really don't get that perspective; I want to like movie characters, just as I want to like people I meet — but I care at least as much whether I find them interesting and layered, and the scientists are that. Clive could have been fleshed out a bit more, but Elsa was bursting with interesting contradictions. Bear in mind that in the real world, top-tier professionals in a field sometimes do have ascetic tendencies, emotional conflicts that have motivated their career paths, a competitive streak, and other complexities. Yes, this is an extreme case, but it's a genre movie, reveling in extremes, not a documentary. If the reviewer had saved her intense criticism for the last half-hour rather than blanketing it over the movie as a whole, I would find her take unassailable.

thaoda_sprightly (#5,319)

A quick follow-up: I was somewhat unfair, in that the review did acknowledge horror movies should have their moments of human irrationality. But the extremes of risk-taking that the review deems so objectionable not only mesh well with at least Elsa's psychology, but follow pretty naturally from the subject matter. That is, not only does the suspense genre essentially require that this sort of experimentation be an undercover project, but the controversial character of the research requires it too. Can you imagine any university or government approving this research? And If Dren were hatched in an entirely above-board, controlled, collective way, and her creators weren't in any sense outlaws, there wouldn't be grist for a film, now, would there? So a complaint about the scientists' crazy, stupid behavior throughout really doesn't wash. I think.

What To Think (#5,320)

So there IS some human-on-humanimal sex?! And to think, I'd written this movie off as another piece of crap, unimaginative anti science movie with no humanimal sex whatsoever ( Thank you for enlightening me. Love, Baron von Höboschlaier.

yenrguara (#5,359)

guys this movie really have the kind of spirit need to be there for a better movie. in this movie there are so many things about the DNA Inventions and how hard the scientist are working to make some issues.


Olle Lindestad (#5,369)

Nicely pencilled review! A couple of corrections: "literally" is the OPPOSITE of "figuratively", and "emasculated" basically means "castrated", not "masculine".

Jon Frana (#5,383)

Given my rage, I ranted in a Youtube video on this movie. I say this because I referred to this page, and posted a link back to it. Just an FYI.

Stacy (#5,384)

Someone's never seen a David Cronenberg movie — or wasn't paying attention when she did.

Horror Chick (#1,677)

Sorry, no dice. Cronenberg is a surrealist horror master. That's like comparing Virginia Woolf to Stephenie Meyer.

Stacy (#5,384)

You're right — I keep forgetting how rational, sane and likable all of Cronenberg's characters are.

Actually, it's like comparing a better Brian de Palma film to Hitchcock, who is a super-ninja demigod of cultural supremitude and the high panjandrum of awesomeness — so there!

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