Movie review: 'Splice' is inhuman punishment

By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 4, 2010

The yuck factor spins off the charts in "Splice," a thoroughly repulsive science fiction-horror flick that slicks up its B-movie tawdriness with high-gloss production values and two otherwise classy stars. Oscar winner Adrien Brody famously kissed Halle Berry when he got his award, and he apparently got some iffy career advice from her that night: He delivers his own "Catwoman" groaner here as a brilliant genetic researcher. Sarah Polley, herself nominated for an Academy Award for her screenplay for "Away From Her," plays his ambitious girlfriend, who while working for a biotech company goes rogue and creates her own part-human, part-animal hybrid.

And the animal? A hairless, E.T.-like creature, she seems to be cobbled together from a harp seal, a deer, an albatross and Polley herself, who possesses the same lambent dark eyes and ethereal pallor. As the being -- which the protagonists name Dren -- grows, the three form a weird kind of family unit, with the usual psychodramas and tensions. When it's not trafficking in creepy images of gooey, squishy things that go blurp in the lab, "Splice" trots out every tired plot trick and risibly sudden reverse ("You never told me you had a farm!") in the how-not-to-write-a-screenplay book.

Horror movies have always been defensible for offering either catharsis or camp value. "Splice" boasts neither, even though a scene of a bunch of stockholders getting splattered with mutant guts could have qualified as a kitsch classic. Instead, "Splice" joins Warner Bros.' similar offering from this time last year, "Orphan," as a singularly cynical enterprise, exploiting our anxieties about reproduction, parenthood, control and betrayal while engaging in the crudest forms of sensationalism. (The movie contains not one, but two scenes of interspecies sex, each with its own incestuous overtones.)

It's difficult to know who the filmmakers hold in more contempt in this goopy, gory, grotesque exercise: the characters or the audience. Either way you slice or dice it, you get the same result: Yuck.

No stars R. At area theaters. Contains disturbing elements, including strong sexuality, nudity, sci-fi violence and profanity. 104 minutes.

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