James Whale’s The Bride of Frankenstein comes face to face with one of David Cronenberg’s body horrors by way of John Milton’s angels in director Vincenzo Cube Natali’s latest immersion into the world of scientific paranoia.
Geneticists and lovers Clive and Elsa (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley, notice the very direct reference to Whale’s 1935 camp horror masterpiece) work together and spend their days creating ugly, unstable, slug-like new life forms for their corporate bosses in the hope of the major breakthrough to secure research funds. When the project is aborted, Clive and Elsa stay late at the lab and have one last go at creating a stable being. The result is Dren, a bald, female semi-human being, who they have to keep hidden from their employers. Dren soon grows into a beautiful young woman (Delphine Chanéac), Elsa becomes obsessed with her creation and Clive worries about the ethical and practical implications of it all. They are both about to pay the price of bad science.
Splice is a whole load of fun. It plays, as all good genetic horrors should, with the ideas of the creator/god complex, empty womb syndrome, the sins of the parents and peer pressure with a twisted and depraved abandon. Though less venereal and intellectually grounded than the Cronenberg horrors, it is so obviously influenced by (most noticeably The Brood and Dead Ringers), it is hard not to admire the sheer gusto that Natali and his cast and crew bring to proceedings. That the film begins to run out of steam and takes an awkward veer into the metaphysical is regrettable, but the denouement is a killer.
Cameo, Edinburgh and selected release from Fri 23 Jul.