Splice seems like it wants to say something. Two eager young scientists create new life, a bizarre blob-like creature that carries enormous value to their pharmaceutical higher-ups. In the process, Clive (Adrian Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) create another being, this one with distinct human properties.
With this set-up, Splice may be headed to say something about corporate greed, playing with god, or maybe the value of life itself. Where it goes is simply incomprehensible, a sequence of such high camp that it is utterly unfathomable who thought it was a good idea. It’s hopefully the lowest point of Adrian Brody’s career, because it’s certainly hard to imagine it getting much worse.
Clive is initially against the idea, while Elsa becomes a mother figure to it, giving it the name Dren (look at it backwards). Things change as Dren becomes more unpredictable, even dangerous. The roles reverse, and Clive… makes love to it. There are hardly any words that can portray the sheer stupidity of this sequence, completely out of place as to destroy every ounce of credibility the film was trying to build. Worse yet, it seems to have no effect on Clive and Elsa’s relationship, the married couple arguing more about the creature than Clive’s actions.
There is a story implication in what Clive has done, something that switches the film from a slow-paced sci-fi drama into a generic, predictable creature feature. Splice certainly isn’t building towards that; it’s a film that wants to be different and stand out. With its generally seamless visual effects, Splice wants to show that emotional attachment, showing there is some humanity even in the misdirected science of man… and then it starts killing people.
It is hard to say which is worse, Clive’s desperate attempt at love or the head-slicing finale. This is that rare film that completely destroys itself in the final twenty minutes or so, even though up to that point it was all potential. Screenwriters, take note: creature sex is a truly stupid idea, unless you’re casting Natasha Henstridge and the entire thing is played for camp.
Warner’s VC-1 encode reflects the bland, stylized look the film is going for. A chunk of the movie takes place in sterile laboratory settings, tinted with a cold blue filter. The white walls and lab coats are not much to look at. Maybe the blue lighting is there to add some type of color. Even outside of the lab setting, the film continues its cold streak, the finale taking place in the snow. Only a few sporadic scenes carry any warmth, those early in the couple’s home and certain interactions with Dren as the relationship grows.
There is depth to the image, with or without color. Whites are bright enough, blown out on purpose during a conference, and black levels are certainly adequate. They rarely reach a rich, deep level, just enough to get by. The VC-1 encode resolves a light, barely even noticeable grain structure without fault, the compression seemingly fine at a base level.
It’s when entering into the realm of facial detail that the transfer begins to break down. Up close, despite some consistency problems, high fidelity detail can shine. A number of zooms resolve an impressive level of texture, even on Dren, the face surely a digital creation for the most part. The same goes for the wholly human actors, Polley and Brody both given close-ups of note.
The film is not the sharpest in the world, although it tends not to appear like filmwhatsoever in the mid-range . A number of shots appear processed or all together digital, one of the first at 15:45. This is not impressive material. The immediate cause for concern is the typical Warner encode, poorly compressed, but this doesn’t actually seem to be the case here. The fine grain, even during a spike at 1:15:37, stays well resolved without disappearing into a sea of artifacting. This one seems tinkered with, either at the digital intermediate stage or yes, when performing the encode (more so than usual).
Not much happens in Splice to invigorate this DTS-HD mix until the finale. Prior to that, you’ll find the usual modern audio trappings, including well resolved dialogue, a clean score with a natural bleed into the surrounds, and some minor ambiance to go around when in the lab. It’s fairly drab.
A convention livens things up ever so slightly, a packed crowd clapping with the presentation and breaking down into screams when it goes south. Dren becomes increasingly athletic too, zipping around her barn, splitting the stereo channels and zipping around the rears. It’s effective and smooth in terms of transitions.
It’s all a set-up for the finale, an aggressive, bold piece of audio design. Dren sprouts wings and begins diving into to grab victims, a bit of bass aiding the proceedings while those surrounds reach their peak. Everything blends beautifully, the combination of the increased musical punch, surround presence, and dialogue mixing perfectly. This is a grand way to send the movie out sonically, if not the narrative.
This review is based on a rental exclusive which has no bonus features since Warner has not sent out a review copy.