Thursday, June 10, 2010

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I Hate You, Splice

Splice is a very uneven movie. It starts out promisingly enough, with Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley as kick-ass (or, as most reviews call them, rock star) geneticists who are so awesome, they made the cover of Wired. And as Sarah Polley says, "Losers don't make the cover of Wired." Bam. They're splicing genes together to make new species that will hopefully develop a protein that can be used to do something amazing with livestock, and if they can continue with their research...maybe cure human ailments too! They secretly develop a human/animal hybrid that evolves rapidly, and the movie centers on their raising this thing and the eventual problems that arise. Evil, horrifying problems.

And it's so incredibly stupid. So fucking dumb. The beginning is so great, and the first encounter with the baby creature, eventually known as Dren, is genuinely suspenseful and terrifying. I expected it to be a movie that served as a metaphor for parenting, and it certainly is...albeit a strange, inconsistent, retarded metaphor. Webster tells me that retarded means "slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development or academic progress". Therefore, my word choice is apt, for this view of child-rearing and parental jealousy and Daddy Issues and Mommy Issues, despite being written by a 40-year-old, seems to have ceased its own development during a pot-influenced conversation where every idea seems profound because you're leaning forward importantly and squinting. It is SO DUMB.

Beware, now, for spoilers lie ahead. Some of this was spoiled for me prior to my showing, and the events still took me off guard. Why? Because of the insane leaps in logic and character motivation.

Really, though, the first twenty minutes are pretty neat. I think it was when they named her that I first got worried. She spells the word Nerd using Scrabble tiles. Sarah Polley looks at it from the other side, where it spells Dren, only with the letters all upside-down and backwards and bim-bam-boom it's got a name. After this scene, it slowly starts to get more and more ridiculous. At one point, Dren spells out "tedious" with the Scrabble tiles, and boy is she right. What began as a promising, Cronenberg-esque horror with potential for actual insight becomes a sub-Freudian mess. All character motivations become hazy and illogical, as though the director told his actors to play one emotion at a time.

"No, dammit, we don't need anything like motivation, just be maternal in this scene! Okay, now you're cold-blooded! What do you mean why? It's a comment on how we become our parents! And sometimes, we wanna fuck them! It's deep, man, it's Freud! It's intellectual! Pass the bowl."

Who could like this movie? Who? Certainly not the audience I was with, who right after the Dren naming scene all banded together to mock the film. We almost high-fived each other, with one girl claiming that, were it not for my roommate and I, she would've fallen asleep and wasted her ticket.

Sarah Polley is head-slappingly uneven. Adrien Brody actually seems to be trying, but then it just made me wonder if he thought this script was profound, so then he began to irritate me. Everyone reads their lines like they're lines. Every single person is ACTING, but it never seems intentional. The only person I believed was Simona Maicanescu as the Frenchwoman funding the splicing research. She alone sounded like a real human being, give or take a scene or three with Polley and Brody.

The score was good, at least. It just boggles my mind that this thing has a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes. I can't believe the critics that think this is a smart, well-acted, finally-something-for-adults horror film. Are they so desperate for "adult" horror fare that they'll accept anything that doesn't rely on jump scares? Admirable, yes, but it takes more than that to make a good horror movie.

Perhaps Final Girl, who I love and adore and who you all should read, put it best:

"By the time the horror actually happens, I was deeply ensconced in disappointment...This film wants you to think there's something going on below the pretty surface, but there ain't much beyond some CGI-laden soap opera drama."

3 comments:

Caleb Strul said...

I hated it too. So many reviews beforehand said this was good smart horror/sci-fi... that it broke the regular boundaries that hold other films in mediocrity. Perhaps, the later is true... but they didn't break any positive boundaries. They somehow managed to break all of the boundaries that keep mediocre movies from being completely awful. This movie sucks worse than the Jacket... and it leaves me scratching my head. Why did anybody think it would be a good idea to subject others to this piece of garbage? What asshole said, oh I've got just the perfect idea. It's an idea that countless others have thrown away because they didn't think it was good... but I know better? For he surely was misinformed about the meaning of the word good. I hate you, Splice. I wish you'd go back to the hell filled with awful ideas that you came from.

TomS said...

I was teetering on seeing this, after a surprisingly positive review on NPR.....Oh well. What saddens me is that Sarah Polley, after he amazing work directing "Away From Her", has to accept roles like this to stay employed...
Glad to have you back...were you away?

Walter L. Hollmann said...

Caleb - Damn. That's the best, and most accurate, review of this movie yet!

TomS - I KNOW! This movie almost destroyed all my goodwill toward her! Drives. Me. Nuts. Glad to be back, btw. I was production designing a movie at film school. Oy. Not for me.