Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Splice (2009)

Fig. 1
Vincenzo Natali's Splice is a bizarre science fiction horror, that captivates its audience with the unexpected twists in the plot. The film focuses on a young scientist couple who create a splice with a difference, using human DNA they create a modern day Frankenstein. The couple bring the splice up and in turn they begin to see the specimen as their family. Natali’s bold creation ‘Dren’ (the creature) plays out Freud’s Oedipus complex, which is depicted with both Elsa and Clive. Other themes that are brought out within the film include nurture vs. nature and the idea of playing God, moral conceptions.
Peter Bradshaw states, "Vincenzo Natali, director of the cult 1997 mystery Cube, has confected a bizarre black-comic horror, a cross-breed mutant Frankenfilm with bits of Ridley Scott's Alien, David Cronenberg's The Fly and David Lynch's Eraserhead. It's also an entertaining and cheerfully subversive satire on corporate ambition, and on the consequences of suppressing one's sex drive in favour of one's work drive." (Bradshaw 2010) Bradshaw connects Splice to other hybrid films and basically tells the viewer it's a modern, unique version, brought to life by Natali. 

Fig. 2
It is obvious Natali's influence for the film features heavily on James Whale's Frankenstein, for instance you only have to know the protagonists names to recognise this. Dren is brought up as if a human child, being dressed in little dresses and given toys. Elsa's character at the beginning seems compassionate towards what her a Clive have created, giving Dren her childhood toys and when Dren ages putting make-up on her. She treats her as if she is her own daughter, but it becomes apparent her own upbringing was abusive. This is apparent when she turns on Dren taking away the cat, Dren's only other comfort. When Elsa later tries to give the cat back and make a mends, Dren changes from a fragile, trapped creature into a grotesque, evil monster. Elsa then appears completely insane when she chains Dren to the table and strips her of her clothing, which is shocking to the audience as they had no longer thought of the creature as an experiment, but as human (almost). The film then follows Dren's spiral out of control and the results that come from it. Kim Newman states, "Frankenstein’s crime was not loving his monster. This film asks what may happen if a mad scientist loves the creation; the creature shyly adores the labcoats who have bred her, but is still capable of jealous anger. There are as many heartfelt, emotional scenes as acute horror moments. An oddly disjointed third act offers more conventional action/horror but feels curtailed (major plot points, even characters, get swallowed between scenes) and less poignant than the build-up." (Newman unspecified date) Newman has cleverly observed the key theme and ingredient of the film, which is nature vs. nurture. The film appears to be blaming the two scientists for the way they brought Dren up, making the humans come off worse than the creature itself. This is highlighted strongly in the end scene with Elsa and the corporate head of NERD (the company Elsa and Clive worked for).

Fig. 3
Roger Ebert agrues, "I wish Dren's persona had been more fully developed. What does she think? What does she feel? There has never been another life form like her. The movie stays resolutely outside, viewing her as a distant creature. Her “parents” relate mostly to her memetic behavior. Does it reflect her true nature? How does she feel about being locked in the barn? Does she “misbehave,” or is that her nature?" (Roger Ebert 2010) Ebert feels that Dren's character isn't established fully enough within the film, however others may argue that her body language speaks clearly. From Dren's actions and body language the audience gets the feeling that possibly she can telepathically control the people around her. 
On a personal level certain parts of the film seemed in some way clichĂ©, for instance the location - the forest - and specific lines, "What's the worst that could happen?" (said by Elsa). Also for whatever reason the two protagonist's characters didn't seem believable, relatable therefore some members of the audience would feel detached to the horror on the screen. 

List of illustrations

Figure 1. Natali, Vincenzo (2009) Splice Movie Poster. At: (Accessed on:12/10/11)

Figure 2. Natali, Vincenzo (2009) Elsa and Dren (as a child). At: (Accessed on:12/10/11)

Figure 3. Natali, Vincenzo (2009) Elsa and Dren (grown up). At: (Accessed on:12/10/11)


The Guardian Peter Bradshaw (2010) Splice. At: (Accessed on:12/10/11)

Empire Kim Newman (Unspecified date) Splice. At: (Accessed on:12/10/11)

Roger Ebert (2010) Splice. At: (Accessed on:12/10/11)


  1. Hey Lydia,

    A good review again - and you're working back into the quotes you use - and that's a really important aspect of evidence based writing. Just one thing - you mention the Oedipus complex - but don't demonstrate your own knowledge of the theory. In future, if you're going to allude to a key idea or theory - a term that is specialised (i.e. 'expressionism' or 'Freudian' or...), then you need to include a definition of the idea within the discussion ; it's always a good idea to assume no prior knowledge of specialist terms on the half of your reader, as this prompts you to ensure your critical writing is 'self-contained' - rather like a perfectly packed holiday suitcase in which everything the traveller needs is 'inside'.

  2. Thanks Phil, will do that in the future :)