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Skippy Goes to the Movies!: “Splice” June 6, 2010

Posted by Skippy in Movies, Observations, Popular Culture, Religion, Science Ficton.
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Verdict: Surprisingly good…creepy on multiple levels, but very good.

Honestly, I didn’t expect “Splice” to be good. I figured it would be a cliched science-gone-wrong movie that wouldn’t be all that provocative. I mean, look at all the science-gone-wrong movies that populate SyFy’s Saturday night lineup. These movies are not thought provoking.

Fig. 1: Mansquito: the gold standard of SyFy television movies.

Fortunately, Splice did not make me think of any SyFy television movies. The lead actors, Adrian Brody and Sarah Polley acquitted themselves quite well, but it’s the overall story that was very engrossing.

Spoilers abound, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, RUN AWAY!

Still here? Okay, then.

Well, Adrian Brody and Sarah Polley play two hipster nerd scientists, Clive and Elsa. Clive and Elsa work for an Evil Corporation.

They’re geneticists, or bioengineers…or something. It’s never clearly stated what kind of scientists they are. Suffice it to say, they’re sciency. Anyway, they’ve created two creatures they call “Fred” and “Ginger” (how quaint!) and are about to reveal to the world that they’ve…done something. Whatever, it’s not really that important. What the movie needs to establish is that Clive and Elsa are Hotshot Scientists. They think they have the world by the tail. Elsa is snarky and totally pushy, and Clive is totally whipped. It is Elsa who thinks that their experiments with Fred and Ginger need to go a step further–the Evil Corporation is about to take over their lab, so Elsa decides to initiate their planned experiment on creating a human/animal hybrid.

Of course, they’re successful. They’d have to be, or this would be a pretty short movie, no?

Fig. 2: Awww, baby! Evil, crazy baby!

Anyway, this creation leads to a WHOLE lot of consequences and repercussions. It is at this point that the movie lets you know: this is NOT your standard sci-fi/horror flick. To hide their experiment, which is rapidly growing, Clive, Elsa and Dren (“nerd” spelled backwards) retreat to a farm Elsa’s mother owned. Dren’s presence creates all kinds of tension between Clive and Elsa. Clive wanted fully human children, while Elsa resisted having children. However, Dren reveals all the faultlines in the marriage.

Fig. 3: Dren and Clive are having a moment. A very creepy moment.

The movie turns into take on Lolita at warp speed. After Elsa begins morphing into her own abusive mother and, in a very disturbing scene, removes part of Dren’s tail, Dren develops a…connection with Clive. Let me rephrase that: they start fucking like rabbits. Oh, and did I mention that Dren has Elsa’s DNA? Yeah. So Clive starts having crazy sex with his wife’s semi-cloned human/animal hybrid.

And Elsa walks in on them. Oh, SNAP!

Well, then Dren gets sick and then dies. Movie over, right? Oh, no, children. Here’s where it goes from crazy to super crazy. You see, Dren then morphs into a male and starts killing people, specifically, Clive and Elsa’s overbearing boss and Clive’s brother. Dren almost kills Clive and then chases Elsa. The now-male Dren catches Elsa, pins her down…and rapes her.

Fig. 4: Yup. You are seeing this. You can’t unsee it. Besides, “unsee” isn’t a word.

Dren also kills Clive, and is killed by Elsa. Nevertheless, the damage is done. At the end of the movie, it is revealed that Elsa is pregnant with Dren’s child and is going to carry it to term for the Evil Corporation. She stands next to the head of the Evil Corp in a scene that is quite reminiscent of

This is a modern interpretation of Frankenstein. Even moreso, as I think about what happens in this movie, I can’t help but think of it as a sci-fi take on the creation myth and expulsion from paradise. You see, Clive and Elsa function as demigods, or sci-fi Adam and Eve. They have a proverbial Tree of Life in front of them, but Elsa is too intrigued with the possibilities to consider the consequences. She continually asks, “What’s the worst that can happen?” At every turn in the movie, we see the worst that can happen. Her reckless curiosity condemns her husband to death…and her to bearing the first of a new species. Clive and Elsa’s desire to push the boundaries of science results in their expulsion from their single, hipster nerd paradise.

It might appear that this movie trades in misogyny. After all, it’s Elsa who’s damaged–her mother was abusive, Elsa doesn’t want to have children, and her motive for creating Dren is to have “an experiment she can control.” Ultimately, it is Elsa’s fault that her husband and brother-in-law are dead; and she has to live with the consequences by having Dren’s offspring. However, I see it as a riff, an interpretation of the previous religious myths that precede it. Elsa is Eve, but she’s also Pandora and Prometheus and Victor Frankenstein. As the mother of a new species, we might view Elsa as a Titan—-perhaps this new species will rise up and slay her as Dren slew Clive.

Despite this potential problem, I think that this is quite a provocative movie. As we acquire greater scientific capabilities, we need to be ever cautious about our ethical responsibilities. If we are ever capable of creating new lifeforms, what are our responsibilities to those lifeforms? What does it mean to be homo sapien if we create something that could be called homo sapien superior? What are the limits of our scientific explorations? What I love about “Splice” is that it has an open ending. Nothing is neatly resolved—-in fact, things are worse than before. The ambiguous ending is unsettling and invites speculation. I would hold this in the same vein as last summer’s “District 9”: provocative, surprising, and atypical summer fare.

That said, I hope they don’t make a sequel.

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