Horror. Worldview. Faith.

Splice – Review

Splice – Review

Jun 8, 2010

reviewed by hallo
directed by Vincenzo Natali, 2010

Vincenzo Natali’s 2010 sci-fi/horror release Splice provides a fascinating two-tier exploration for discerning movie-goers.  One the one hand, the movie must be evaluated on the rudimentary premise of overall theatrical quality.  In other words, is the movie well directed, does it make sense, does it keep your attention, does the viewer leave satisfied?  On the other hand, Splice provides a critical commentary on the underlying question of eugenics and the ongoing dilemma between innate moralism and the contemporary reality of a biological revolution.  There are issues raised in Splice that must be addressed, and in fact will be addressed within our lifetime.  For that reason, this film makes me shudder.

Splice is about a romantically involved couple, Clive and Elsa, who are also brilliant scientists leading a team of fellow biologists in the creation of two “self created” species.  Taking the DNA from a host of various animals, Clive and Elsa managed to splice together two creatures who have the capability to provide helpful biogenetic samplings that will increase agricultural productivity.  With their success comes their desire to take what they have “created” to the next level:  human DNA.  Clive and Elsa are convinced that if they are allowed to include human DNA in their process, then many health issues and diseases would be able to be instantly remedied.  Unfortunately for them, they are given the stop sign by the folks who have the money.  That, of course, will never do.  So, Clive and Elsa set out in secret to make their new human spliced creation.

Interestingly, Clive begins to have doubts.  He raises the appropriate moral questions about bringing the sanctify of human live into a test tube situation.  Elsa, on the other hand, is more concerned about the moral question of the millions dying from life-threatening diseases.  As we will discover, her desires are far more reaching, and soul stirring, than just science.

It was at this point in the film that I realized I was watching a different variety of the 1999 horror masterpiece Deep Blue Sea.  In that wonderful film, sharks brains are being altered in order to provide a cure for Alzheimer disease.  It is the lead lady that is fixated on seeing the study through to the end, even when that means going against the guidelines set forth by the pharmaceutical company.  As we all know, the end result is a bunch of people getting eaten by really smart sharks.

When the new human spliced creation is birthed, Elsa immediately begins treating it like a daughter, or as Clive cautiously puts it, a pet.  He, on the other hand, wants to remain in science mode and treat the creation like any other specimen.  Sensing the need to give the creation a name, Elsa comes up with Dren.  As Dren continues to get older, we begin to see a fascinating switch in roles.  Clive becomes more lovingly involved with Dren while Elsa begins to take step backwards into science mode.  This comes to a cringing climax when Elsa, in Clive’s absence, straps Dren to a table and cuts off part of her tail.  We learn that Elsa comes from a mentally troubled family and although the unknown factor of having a child has kept her from pursuing motherhood, she was able to find peace in the control forum of the laboratory.  When that control begins to disappear, Elsa becomes more and more fixated on science and experiment rather than life and nurture.  From that point, the concepts of normalcy, decency, and human dignity become blurred beyond the point of recognition, so that Clive ends up sleeping with Dren and correctly explains to an appalled Elsa that “we have changed all the rules.”  The movie reaches its conclusion with Dren experiencing a sex change and becoming violent.  Ultimately, after raping Elsa, he is killed.

Judging Splice based on its effectiveness as a good, entertaining movie is difficult to do because, in my case, the cultural, theological, and human issues carry great weight.  That, of course, is part of the director’s intent.  Yet, I found the movie to be poorly directed in certain points, especially when Clive and Elsa are working to create the new human DNA creature.  Those scenes came across as a couple of high school students studying for a science test the next day; it just wasn’t believable.  If folks are not able or interested in wrestling with the deeper undertones of the film, then it will fail to capture their imaginations.

On the other hand, Splice is a textbook example of why horror movies are extraordinarily important for not only increased cultural awareness on crucial issues, but more importantly for the continued need of a Christian worldview.  At one point during a presentation of Clive and Elsa’s first two created beings, the president of the company funding their work proudly announces that these creatures “were not born because of luck or fate, but by design.”  Embedded within her introductory remarks is the nerve-wracking, victorious implication that we are now able to “play God.”  From a Christian point of view, the Bible gives humanity the blessed dual-obligation of both dominion and stewardship over creation.  This certainly provides an interpretation that our use of animals can and should be for the betterment of humanity when possible.  At the most basic level, we acknowledge this when eat a hamburger.  Yet, we are not without limits on the dominion side of our rule and it must be coupled with proper stewardship before God.  Clive experiences a profound revelation of this fact when he acknowledges to Elsa that they have changed all the rules, nothing is sacred any longer, nothing is “right.”  Despite the scientific and technological advancements that make our world a better place to live, Splice solemnly reminds us that we are the created, not the creator.  Whenever our ambitions take us to a level beyond our created purpose and entice us to play the God role, the consequences will be disastrous.

Finally, both Splice and Deep Blue Sea (and others) force the viewer to wrestle with the “Robin Hood” ethical question.  Robin Hood, of course, breaks the law in order to serve a good purpose.  In both films, the motivating factor in playing God was to ease the suffering of humanity.  Yet, both films are built on the conclusion that such noble pursuits are not always the end-all be-all.  There are other, and at times more critical, issues to consider.  Besides, Splice demonstrates that the humanitarian reasons are actually a red-herring for Elsa who is instead motivated by her desire to conquer her family demons.  In a sin-cursed world, just how pure are the assertions of altruism?

Thus, Splice is mediocre when it comes to well-crafted story telling and directing.  It is powerful when it comes to critically thinking through human issues.  For that reason, I commend it to you.


  1. Rex /

    This is a horror movie, so obviously things are going to go wrong/crazy; but I am intrigued by the concept that you commend it because it “is powerful when it comes to critically thinking through human issues”. Lets assume that characters all behaved exactly the same way to the extent possible, but Dren ended up being wonderful for humanity and was loving and benign in all ways and saved all disabled childred everwhere, and ended world hunger and caused world peace….(lol, the flip side of what happens in a horror movie by the protagonist creature)…would you still think it “is powerful when it comes to critically thinking through human issues”? My point is I’m not sure any real critical thinking comes from this..(a) as the movie stands today, if people are against the genetic issues involved, they can feel good about it, if for the genetic issues involved they can say, “its a horror movie for pete’s sake, its not based in science” and (b) if the movie was modified as I discuss, people supportive of the genetic issues can say, “see this is what we could gain,” and people against the issues would say “this is just liberal crap, its just a movie and in any event whether Dren does “good” or not isn’t the point–it isn’t right.”

    Actually, maybe this comment is about society, not your review!

  2. Hallo /

    Thanks for your comment! I’m afraid I don’t really follow your point. You seem to be saying that folks are incapable of critically thinking through issues because they already have a strong position – which following your logic would extend to any arena, not just a horror film. Based on your comment, the only way an individual (or society) is capable of thinking critically is if the medium, be it a conversation, a sermon, a movie, a song, etc, never comes down on a position or makes any conclusions, or if the person does not already have an established opinion. If I have judged your remarks fairly, then I think it is safe to say I disagree with you.

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