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Splice and Its Horrors
monsters
catvalente
So we saw Splice over the weekend.

One of the things that really bothers me about movie reviewing these days is that it's conventional wisdom that you cannot spoil the movie in the review, even though it would be ridiculous for the spoiler-wary to go seeking out reviews before seeing the film. It hamstrings the review to not be able to directly discuss any of the actual events that take place in the movie. How can you engage with the text without acknowledging anything within it? It's infuriating. Especially because it implies that the only worth of a movie or book is the shock value in a turn of plot, nothing else. If you know the ending of The Sixth Sense going in, it's somehow a failure as a film. I hate this. I hate it. What is a movie review for if not to analyze what happens on screen? And because of all this, I haven't seen a single review of Splice that deals with the INCREDIBLY UPSETTING final act, even though it's not a twist ending or anything, and I know a whole lot of people who would prefer to know going into an SF film if there is going to be something that awful and dare I say triggering in it.

And yet, I'm going to yield and put my review under a cut, because if I didn't I'd have comments howling about spoilers and I don't want to deal with it. But I hate cuts, too, because most of you won't click on it, so I might as well friends-lock the whole thing. Nevertheless--this review deals with the actual plot of Splice, which is FUCKED UP, YO. If you like my snarky rants, you'll want to click.


So. Unpleasant Hipster Boy Scientist and Unpleasant Hipster Girl Scientist have a wonderfully stupid CSI Fake Science montage (Oh Noz! Computer says: Red Light, violation of God and Man no work! Yay! Now computer says: green light, abomination is very yes!) in which they Splice together all sorts of different animals (supposedly none of which have any predatory or dangerous characteristics, but you know that science! Always flipping out and making monsters) to make two gross blobs that are a new life form. The blobs proceed to have sex with each other and everyone's happy because of a magical protein or something. They aren't really clear about how this will CHANGE THE WORLD but it definitely will. Then, UHBS and UHGS illegally add human DNA into the mix for the lulz. I mean, there aren't any laws against this per se as it's not actually cloning so much as Dr. Frankenstein's WackyFun IVF, but people keep talking about going to jail and trial for this sort of thing, so whatever.

Yay, a baby! It is gross and has a crazy spike-venom dripping tail which none of the bunny/frog/cuties we saw in a brief flash of what animals they used had, but as I said, science is a stone cold bitch and she will fuck you for the fun of it. Also, most importantly, the gross blob (third gross blob of the film) is aging super-fast, and so almost instantly becomes a cute little girl with a tail and then a super-hot chick with a tail, which is more or less the goal of all SF movies, to skip to the part with the hot alien chick.

The little girl creature sequences are cute, but mainly serve to establish two important things:

A. The creature is intelligent and can spell things out with Scrabble tiles. At no point in the entire movie will either of these two moron scientists ever try to directly communicate with her via Scrabble, EVEN WHEN SHE EXPRESSES HER BOREDOM BY SPELLING TEDIOUS, WHICH IS NEITHER A COMMON NOR PHONETICALLY SPELLED WORD OH MY GOD.

B. Unpleasant Hipster Girl Scientist is the worst mother in the world. She didn't want to have kids in the first place because she is an Unpleasant Hipster and also a Career Girl Who Must Be Punished (the Hipster thing is all through the film. Their apartment looks like a joke from Unhappy Hipsters, she wears plastic yellow sunglasses and Soviet fuzzy hats, he has long scraggly hair he never ties back in his GENETICS LAB, etc). She treats the creature like a pet and names her Dren because it's nerd backwards, but at the same time if they were really all that nerdy wouldn't they know that "dren" is "shit" in Farscape-speak? I think so. Her parenting skills are only out-crapped by UHBS, who ignores the kid and doesn't want it around, just like a real dad, aw!

So then we move into the next and more or less final phase of the movie, which is what I really want to talk about. Dren is a full on totally hot supermodel by now. Her face is almost normal except she's bald, and she has giant bird legs and a tail with that upsetting stinger on it, which no one ever puts a cap on or anything. The actress playing her is amazing and deserves All the Parts from here on out, but everything gets SUPER PROBLEMATIC at this point.

See, the hipsters twain are at this farm owned by UHGS's mother, who was apparently crazy or something. They don't really get into it except to say bad mommy. So they keep Dren in the barn and hang out with her and continue to not try to talk to her via Scrabble at all. Dren gets a makeover and a Barbie from UHGS, which is not confusing at all even for human girls, and not even for a second does the movie stop to ask why UHGS feels the need to force this child to perform adult human gender and sexuality by slathering sultry make up all over her face. But fine, whatever, she's a bad mom or something. (She also takes away a cat that Dren found and took care of and VERY NOTABLY did not eat. For no particular reason.) Finally, Dren starts drawing obsessive portraits of Unpleasant Hipster Boy Scientist and then when her bad mommy is out of the room, seduces (sort of) UNBS and he has enthusiastic sex with her. This is not actually the upsetting part. The audience in my theater laughed a lot. Frankly, I think this would have been a lot more believable and less problematic considering subsequent developments if Dren had had some kind of pheremones that made this less than consensual on UNBS's part. It seemed to hint at that a little but you couldn't say it was actually text. More on that in a second.

UHBS apologizes lamely (or not at all really) and reveals that he magically knew by looking at Dren that UHGS had used HER OWN DNA DUN DUN to make her. Which I guess makes it ok in that anyone having SEX WITH THEIR DAUGHTER is ok because she's really the same as her mother? I give up. He also says they blurred the lines between right and wrong by even making her so apparently it's game on for inappropriate sex with your lab rat. Then he says: "You never wanted a normal child because you didn't want to lose control" which makes no sense of any kind. Shit is not under control now, yo. That statement is bananas, Gwen Stefani style. I can't even unpack it. Also, would you have had sex with your normal child, Unpleasant Hipster Humbert Humbert? She's like a week old, dude. (Note: movie drops the rapid aging plot as soon as creature has reached maximum hotness. Color me shocked.)

Then comes the best scene in the whole movie. They show those original blobs (remember them? The not hot ones) to some kind of press/stockholder group. Apparently leaving Dren alone in the barn she has escaped from several times, but ok. And instead of having sweet blobby sex for the stockholder's delight, the blobs go STRAIGHT UP FIGHT CLUB ON EACH OTHER and rip each other to shreds in front of, like, Google, or whoever these people are supposed to be. IT IS AWESOME. Apparently, the blobs can switch gender for no reason. (I whispered: JURASSIC FROG DNA! but the movie was like: bitch, I do not need to explain myself like some CRIGHTON VEHICLE.)

So at this point you know Dren is going to flip genders. The rest of the movie is just waiting for her to do it. And then she does. And becomes male, with totally different facial features because she can't be hot anymore now that she's a he.

And Dren? Immediately and graphically rapes his mom.

Now, this makes no sense as at the time Dren is being chased by various who want to kill him and has just killed two of them but UHBS is still about with a sharp stick. We are in fight or flight mode, not make myself vulnerable by raping my mother mode. But no survival instinct can be trumped by the need to punish the childless shrew, and so, without making the smallest attempt at seduction as Dren did when female, he leaps on top of his mom (and says either Elsa, her name, or "inside you." justbeast   says it was the latter but that is so fucking gross and awful and stupid I refuse to accept it. Either way, a convenient time to develop speech--the minute Dren becomes male, therefore truly intelligent, of course, and then he uses it only as an instrument of sexual terror) and graphically rapes her. I keep saying this because reviews refer to it as gratuitous sex or one of the sex acts in the film, but it is rape, and it is horrible, and I haven't been able to get it out of my head for days. Remember that the father figure here was not actually related to Dren, but the mother figure is. So welcome to child-on-mother rape. Aren't you glad no reviews warned you about that?

The gender stuff here is vile. Girls seduce and giggle and trill, even when they are not even 1/8 human. Boys rape. No questions. This is why I say pheremones would have been better in the first case of parental sex. Then it could have been about Dren herself, and her relationship to a sexuality she has no way of understanding because neither of her awful parents will talk to her. About how the sexual drive, divorced from society, is maybe always selfish and violent. But no, only boys are like that. Girls are sweet and coquettish. IT'S NATURE, DAMMIT. Not to  mention it's all very heteronormative--switch genders, switch parent-obsession. I mean, no confusion at all, where Dren is still attracted to her unpleasant father-figure despite being in a new body? No, no, that would be complex. The implication is also, of course, that the Freudian model of parent-child interaction, ie, Oedipus and Electra, is somehow hardwired and natural and universal, which I call crap.

But the real flaw of the film is that at no point do we understand why Dren does anything. Her motivations are a black hole at the center of the narrative. That cat her mother takes away? Eventually she gives it back. And Dren immediately kills it. We have no idea why. We don't know why she does anything. Why does she want to have sex so much? What is her internal monologue? What does she think about the nature of the world? Why is it more important to mate with a parent than to get away from imminent danger? This is all the more frustrating because Dren has demonstrated via Scrabble that though she can't talk she can communicate and these poor excuses for scientists never even bother to spell out W-H-A-T'S-U-P-W-I-T-H-Y-O-U-L-A-T-E-L-Y? This is extremely poor writing. And without understanding Dren, who genuinely doesn't seem to be malevolent, but who behaves malevolently, there is no way to understand her or pity her. All you have are her actions, which suck. I mean, everyone in this movie sucks, and is incredibly irresponsible and unpleasant, and I rather think a version all from Dren's point of view would have been more interesting given how poorly she's treated, but fine, instead we have "shocking."

Obviously, in the end, Unpleasant Hipster Girl Scientist is pregnant with Unpleasant Hipster Alien Baby. Because that should definitely be a viable mating, outside of a lab, when the father is only like 1/10 human and various of its parts are fish and amphibian. Whatever. Since everyone else is dead UHGS is all nihilist and going to carry it to term for the company to use it for Evil Science and I don't even care anymore, it's all stupid. But it's like a law that horror movies have to end with a sequel tag and/or IT'S NOT DEAD YET tease, so I guess Splice is in compliance.

Ultimately I found the movie to be so upsetting and revolting that I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. And contrary to popular belief, that doesn't mean it was good. It was also poorly paced and boring through long stretches. Everything about it is vile and ugly and borderline offensive or actually wildly offensive. If it weren't so clearly trying to be deep I would be fine with it--I don't rant about Species. But if this is the thoughtful, non-explosiony SF I'm in for from here on out, I may stay home in the future.

For what it's worth, I appreciate the behind-the-cuttedness, because even people not seeking out reviews will see posts on friendlists -- and my eye has the most annoying habit of picking out the relevant spoiler information whether I'm looking or not! My ears can do the same thing. I once overheard a single sentence from over 20 feet away that spoiled a season finale. I didn't hear anything else of the conversation, just the one important sentence. I was so annoyed at my brain!

I just don't think that for movies without twist endings discussing the final act is much of a spoiler. The movie is more than that. Plus--how long before you can discuss something without a cut? Lost? How about the Farscape finale? It's a tough call.

And of course everyone thinks it's just great!

Yeah, I'm having trouble understanding why people seem to think it's awesome. But then, I'm in that position a lot.

I'm so so glad you posted this spoiler filled review as the husband likes to watch bad horror movies on the movie channels. And if that was one and the rape scene came on I would have been massively triggered. So now I can just veto it.

Seriously, thank you.

This is why I was saying I hate that none of the reviews address it--I do not want to see graphic mommy rape, and would have appreciated a warning! I am glad to have provided one.

I've read other spoilery reviews (it looked like something I ~might~ want to see so I sought out more information... spoiler: I'm not going to see it) and I have to say that it seems to me almost like the plot was also spliced together using the DNA of a bunch of unrelated sci-fi tropes, and they work together almost as well as a random collection of genetic traits from unrelated animals would.

I was going to go see this today, and it sounds like I should be glad the plans fell through. I'm not sure I could refrain from shouting at the unbelievably fucked up gender issues.

Ew. Thank you for writing this, because I had wanted to see the movie and now I very much don't. I knew that there was a seduction scene with the male scientist, but no review that I read mentioned anything about Dren raping the female scientist. So thank you for saving me 10 dollars and some distress, I appreciate it.

Oh dude, and it's BARELY seduction. She kisses him, he says no, don't do that, and then IMMEDIATELY jumps her.

Doesn't no mean no? (Anonymous) Expand
The "Now it is male and it must RAPE RAPE RAPE" plot doesn't surprise me in the least, and I am glad to hear about it. I wasn't really planning on seeing the movie, but now that I know it would potentially cause me a rage-related brain aneurysm, it's a definite no.

I will not even tell you how often I have been told to my face that taking testosterone will turn me into a MONSTER OF RAGE AND DOOM.

Well, that's certainly how you struck me when we met. (That is sarcasm, to be clear.)

It's not even MUST RAPE. It's MUST RAPE MOM. Because Dad, who we have already established is willing to have sex of dubious morality, is like RIGHT THERE and he ignores him. Because gay is upsetting! Rape is the natural way though! And then I tear out my hair.

Yeah, so...I won't be watching this one. Thanks for the heads up.

*shudder*

(Deleted comment)
Welp, I'm glad I trusted my instincts and clicked on the cut. Yiiiiiiiiiikes.

Ah. I knew I would hate it just from the horrible science in the descriptions I'd seen, but now I'm absolutely totally positive I would hate it. I appreciate the detailed review.

I too saw Splice this weekend, but I think for me, the movie got to such a ridiculous level of absurdity that I wasn't as affected by the sex or rape scenes because I was so detached from the characters, the plot, everything. It wasn't the movie I saw advertised, so I checked out way before the end credits scrolled and I'm so glad I did.

Yeah, everyone in it was an idiot and personally unpleasant, but the way the rape scene was shot, the close-in on her face as his thrusting shakes her body and she has that dead look in her eyes, when you know what's happening but the camera slowly pans back to reveal it...it was too much.

Your Name Here (Anonymous) Expand
(Deleted comment)
I can't tell you how much I agree with that. My fellow sci-fi friends make fun of me freaquently for having no clue about various Tv shows, movies, book series etc. What they fail to understand is how OUTRAGED I am at content like that. I think it says alot about our society's simple lack or respect and caring for others. Patrons in movie theatres, readers, everyone sits there desensitized and disconnected from what's going on. It's also a slap in the face to all who've lived through attacks.

Word (Anonymous) Expand
Thank you for this review. That ending would have... argh...

I wish more reviews listed trigger warnings for the movies they cover. I mean, would a simple "has rape in it" flag really spoil anything? Sigh.

As you might know, I totally agree with you about spoilers.

And having read this, I'm appalled that no one else has called this movie on its shit. Even Ebert seemed to like it (seriously. Only one commenter at Videogum is the only person I see other than you who's acknowledged the problem.). I'm glad I didn't rush out to see this one; from the comments, this was being hailed as Gattica 2, and it's clearly a lot more Species than Gattica, even before the rape scene.

Oh it's not EVEN CLOSE to Gattaca in terms of atmosphere, acting, or thoughtful interaction with the issues. Part of the reason I wrote this was that I saw NO ONE else dealing with the horrible issues at the core of the film.

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