Opens Fri., June 4
Dialogue is overrated. In The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, the latter talks of seeing a film (Paris, Texas) in which the lead character spends the first 40 minutes not speaking. When the protagonist finally spoke, he immediately lost interest. Splice, the latest from Cube maven Vincenzo Natali, does him one better: One of its main characters spends the entire film unable to speak. There’s a reason for that: Dren (a blend of special effects and the actress Delphine Chanéac) is a hybrid creature created by a pair of brash geneticists (Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody) from the DNA of humans and various animals.
Born a moaning creature that resembles an armless baby velociraptor, she ages rapidly and keeps revealing new features. Appendages grow, as do a tail, human-but-not-that-human eyes and eventually wings, but she never develops speech. Both the audience and the characters are limited to trying to decipher her facial expressions. It’s hard not to be captivated, wondering what she’ll do all the more because her intentions can’t be voiced.
Of course, since Splice has been advertised as a killer beastie movie, audience members may simply wonder when she’ll start racking up a body count. Their wait won’t be in vain, but it will be an absurdly long one. Almost all horrors (or genre films, for that matter) mask commentary of some sort. But Splice is particularly blatant about its subject, the nature of parenthood and relationships.
And it goes to some uncomfortable and eventually fucked-up places. Crazy in love, our overqualified leads are split up by their “child.” Polley, who is adamant about remaining childless, finds her maternal instincts summoned, then fights with rejection as Dren grows older. Meanwhile, Brody turns from skeptic to defender, only to develop more, ahem, carnal feelings as Dren grows more traditional lady parts. Whether Splice goes too far in its nutso final reel is up for debate; it’s possible Natali doesn’t have as firm a grasp on his ideas as thinks he does. But like many genre films, it says more about the parent-spawn relationship than 100 allegedly serious films.
Let’s just say the scene in which Adrien Brody’s geneticist mates with the animal-human hybrid beastie he’s “fathered” isn’t the most messed-up cross-species sex act in the movie.
Jonah Hill co-stars as schlubby, put-upon record company staffer Aaron Green, who spends his days absorbing profane insults from his tyrannical boss (a monstrously funny P. Diddy).
2014 Films: The Year’s Most Likely