Considering how rare genuine sci-fi thrillers are these days, "Splice" is a refreshing, chilling and thought-provoking little film well worth checking out, especially on Blu!
Splice (2010, Blu-ray)
Directors: Vincenzo Natali
Writers: Vincenzo Natali (screenplay) & Antoinette Terry Bryant (screenplay) and Doug Taylor (screenplay) Vincenzo Natali (story) & Antoinette Terry Bryant (story)
Features: VIDEO: 1.78:1 widescreen VC-1codec. BD25 disc. *** AUDIO: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1 with English SDH and Spanish subtitles *** SPECIAL FEATURES: Documentary, BD-Live Digital Copy, DVD Copy
Adrien Brody ... Clive Nicoli
Sarah Polley ... Elsa Kast
Delphine Chanéac ... Dren
Brandon McGibbon ... Gavin Nicoli
Simona Maicanescu ... Joan Chorot
David Hewlett ... William Barlow
Abigail Chu ... Child Dren
Available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, On Demand and for Download 10/5! http://bit.ly/splicefb
From time to time, DVDFuture will be inviting guest writers to review various films coming to DVD and Blu-ray. The guest writer for this review is Scott Mendelson.
In a sea of pretenders, "Splice" is the real thing. It is a genuine thriller, rooted in a small cast of developed characters and thoroughly engaged in its moral quagmire. It is frighteningly plausible and deliciously humorous. It is less concerned with scaring you out of your seat than in slowly creeping you out. It is a true original, a buttoned-down variation of the classic 'science has gone too far' story, but rooted in realism and sympathetic characters. It works because it takes the time to make us give a damn, and we give a damn because it works.
A token amount of plot - Scientists Clive Nicoli and Elsa Kast (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) have just made a genuine genetic breakthrough, basically splicing genes together to make a completely original life-form. Alas, the corporate heads would rather see a practical and profitable use for the protein that made this work possible, so further research is officially put on hold. But Dr. Kast decides to try one last (unauthorized) genetic experiment, this time with a touch of human DNA. What they get is a human/animal hybrid that looks and acts far more human than anything ever created in a laboratory. Dr. Nicoli wants to kill the creation before the illegal experiment is discovered, but Elsa has allowed to the creature to play on her maternal instincts. After all, the creation is aging faster than any normal human, so it would theoretically die naturally in a brief period of time. What's the worst that can go wrong?
The film is quite small-scale and uncommonly intimate, doing much with just several speaking parts and a few key settings. If not for a token amount of special effects work, the film could easily be a stageplay. But what the picture lacks in spectacle, it makes up for with the basics - smart writing and terrific acting. Sarah Polley again brings a dignity and credibility to a genre picture, as she did in the superior "Dawn of the Dead" remake back in 2004 (she generally sticks to art-house cinema, when she's not directing masterpieces such as "Away From Her"). Adrien Brody shines as the occasionally character-ish actor relishes playing a relatively reasonable and level-headed man of science. Everyone in this film is intelligent, and much of the tension comes from the fact that, after the 'point of no return', they basically do what any reasonable person would do in reaction to the circumstances in question. Abigail Chu and Delphine Chanéac portray the proverbial 'test-tube baby' Dren at various stages of her life.
As with a top-notch Stephen King novel, the slow-building horror of "Splice" comes not from shock and surprise, but by the dawning realization that we pretty-much know where the story is headed but are powerless to avert the outcome. Every character is sympathetic, and the parent-child relationship that is formed between the two scientists and their creation quickly reaches disturbing heights of authenticity. The parables are there (the question of when and how life begins, the struggles of raising a developmentally-challenging child, etc), and the film takes these ideas every bit as seriously as the science and the horror elements.
Splice is a completely absorbing, occasionally moving, and uncommonly engaging horror drama. It is a sharply-observed portrait, and it puts the basics of quality storytelling ahead of razzle-dazzle (there is a bare-minimum of special effects and violence). It's also quirky and smart, and it takes its morality and science as seriously as it takes its chills. And, as a bonus, it contains one scene around halfway in that is the single-biggest (intentional) laugh-out-loud moment I've had at the movies in a long time. In a genre beset by remakes and rip-offs, "Splice" is a genuinely original horror picture. In a summer beset by underwhelming mega-movies and downright-terrible tent-pole epics, "Splice" delivers the small-scale goods with style and grace. In an insanely mediocre summer movie season, "Splice" is the sanest choice.
Film Report Card:
Here's a clip from the film:
Warner brings "Splice" to Blu-ray using the VC-1 codec on a single-layered Blu-ray disc. As is often the case with low budget titles, image quality here is not quite as polished as many top tier titles in Warner's catalog. The film looks a little soft, with less details than I imagined there would be. There's also a very faint tinge of noise present throughout. Still, the film's steely palette of cold greens, silvers, blues and grays does give the film a nice atmospheric look despite whatever flaws may exist in the encode.
The film's richly dynamic DTS-HD 5.1 MA track picks up the slack for the good (but not great) transfer. Expect plenty of bumps and jolts, and loads of atmosphere. Dialogue is clean and crisp, surrounds are active, and bass chimes in during all the appropriate times. While the track is certainly too extraordinary, the lively palette enriches the film's creepy atmosphere quite a bit.
Extras, unfortunately, are mostly nonexistent, save for a 35-minute documentary titled "A Director's Playground" (presented in SD). The documentary takes a look at director Vincenzo Natali, detailing the shoot from a fly-on-the-wall perspective. The disc also BD-Live connectivity.
Disc two is a combo disc featuring a DVD copy of the film as well as a Digital Copy. Both, naturally, are presented in standard definition.
Considering how rare genuine sci-fi thrillers are these days, "Splice" is a refreshing, chilling and thought-provoking little film well worth checking out, especially on Blu! Now, I'm curious to see how much 20th Century Fox's "Rise of the Apes," an allegedly heady sci-fi thick reboot of the "Planet of the Apes" series, apes (pun intended) the plot of "Splice."
Blu-ray Report Card:
HD Content: N/A
Recommendation: Buy or rent this one!
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----R. L. Shaffer