Sunday, March 23, 2014

Splice isn't what you think it is

When I saw the trailer for Splice, I predicted yet another Hollywood dud exploiting technological fears. Looked like yet another routine science-gone-wrong tale in which a monster of some sort preyed on stupid characters within a laboratory's endless corridors. Needless to say, I wrote it off. Too many movies to watch, too little time. The director's name, however, has been attached to the Neuromancer adaptation (which will probably never be made) so I finally decided to give Splice a try. You know, to get a feel for how awful the Neuromancer movie will be if Hollywood actually gets around to filming it.

the trailer doesn't give away as much as most do, but it's best to avoid it

The film opens with the birth of a human-designed creature. It's the second of its kind—a gross, slimy monstrosity about the size of a football born in a lab whose acronym is NERD. We're introduced to the lead scientists on the project, a couple of lovers played by Sarah Polly and Adrien Brody. They drive a Gremlin. They eat pizza at work (research scientists always eat pizza in movies). They think their slimy creature is cute. Brody's character, by the way, wants kids, but Polly isn't in a hurry.

The scientists are on the cusp of curing the Bad Things that tend to happen to the human body. Naturally, the beurocrats that all movies like this have conspire to take the project away. The scientists' goal isn't profitable for their investors. The public, they say, isn't ready for what would probably be the world's greatest achievement. Whereas this comes off as nonsense in most movies, the company people actually make a good point. So does Polly's character, who counters with the line, "If we don't, someone else will." I don't know about you, but I'd rather Americans pave the way in this kind of research as opposed to, say, North Korea. Considering how fast technology advances these days, we can avoid the inevitable, but for how long and at what cost? So here's the first breath of fresh air: this isn't an anti-science movie. It's actually pretty thoughtful, though not particularly deep. Still, it's more than a bunch of fatty technobabble and pretend morality.

Naturally, Polly goes through with the project against the wishes of the company. It results in what some might call a monster which sort of resembles a human fetus outside of the womb. The scientists keep it secret, but this of course causes one complication after another. If you're anything like me, you'll be waiting for the standard horror stuff to start any second. Thankfully, the usual shit doesn't come until about the last seven minutes of the movie. By then it's not that bad. The movie's often bizarre and wonderfully gross in the way of Cronenberg's The Fly. The "monster" (and I'm trying not to give too much away here) has more in common with Frankenstein's monster than you might suspect.

When was the last time you sympathized with a movie creature? I can't remember my last time. But this movie does it and it does it well.

So. Do you like body horror? This picture's got it. You like character-driven science fiction? Well, I'm glad to say this is one of the few decent examples of it in the movies. You like dance scenes? There's a pretty good one, at least if you're as wrapped up in the movie as I was. Sure, sometimes you know where it's going, but that's part of the fun: the suspense comes from knowing none of this can turn out well for our heroes.

If this is the guy who makes the Neuromancer movie, maybe we're in for a treat after all.

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