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?
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.