Scientists Clive and Elsa are employed to play God, creating hybrid animals in the name of medical research, before they are due to begin introducing human DNA the project is cancelled. The commercial need to patent and sell what they have already discovered takes priority over everything else, but that doesn't stop the couple from taking their work to the next phase, the result being something which looks like it ought to have burst through John Hurt's stomach crossed with a giant chicken drumstick, and then it hatches...
Their new creation is as adorable as it is strange, seeing it laid unconscious you can't help but want to see it thrive, and thrive it does - accelerated growth sees her develop rapidly and become more humanlike, it's hard to see her as a scientific subject and Elsa's maternal instincts start kicking in, soon she loves `Dren' as if she were her own child and talks about her like any other proud parent would. Splice provides a great opportunity to explore the value of life and the ethics around creating it artificially. The secret 'family' find themselves dealing with situations a parent wouldn't usually experience, but the most striking aspect of their unit are the moments which any other parent can relate to - from stroppy teenage years, illness, to taking pride in their development.
A great concept doesn't feel fully exploited, the film gathers momentum but the tension and intrigue is underused and a title which relied heavily on psychology starts to abandon it in favour of visual horror, it almost feels as though the film starts to run out of ideas and lazily resorts to more formulaic devices to fill time, perhaps the studios wanted to push this as a horror when it never really feels like one. This is a good film, but it could have been a great film and doesn't deliver the powerful drama that it seemed to promise.
This Blu Ray release is one of those films where you have to flick through a few trailers (and a Mars bar advert!) which seem targeted at horror fans until you get to the main menu. When the film starts there is some hideous banding during the opening credits which make this look like an online stream through a narrow bandwidth connection, but thankfully I didn't notice it again after this stage. The picture is impressive, especially the early scenes set in the lab where the electric lighting and shiny surfaces look sharp and clean. Even though much of the film is dimly lit the graining is never intrusive and details on faces are clear, there is subtle yet frequent use of CGI which can risk looking obviously fake in High Definition, but thankfully it remains convincing throughout in Splice and the magic of the illusion is never shattered. The film doesn't have a massive collection of features, there are two half hour long documentaries with "director's playground" giving us a tour of the sets and showing us some of the props, while "behind the scenes" consists of interviews with the cast and crew. The interviews clearly define the artistic vision of the film, and much of it is evident in the final product - it just seemed a bit watered down towards the end.
In a nutshell: Splice works hard to invest time in a gripping and thought-provoking story which reflects some of the social fears around genetic engineering, but much of it is undone with a sloppy finale which seems to happen for the sake of convenience and to satisfy those who were expecting a body-shock horror. In the extras, Producer Guillermo Del Toro says that for him this is a "horrible family story" - if the film hadn't lost focus then this could have been a modern sci-fi classic and that's a shame because Dren was a beautiful monster and deserved to exist in a film where she was better utilised.