I had my first Slender Man dream last night, so I got that going for me.
"Splice" has been stubbornly occupying my mind, which is usually the sign of an effective movie. Given that I now have had more than one hour to reflect on it, I am compelled to write a bit more. This will have spoilers.
This film frustrates me. It's the kind of story that I wish I had written. Everything I like, it's all there--biochemistry, creator/creation interplay, psychosexual mindfucking, black comedy, body horror, and a playful attitude toward "established" taboos. It begins well enough. Brody plays the "cool nerd" archetype, to which I have been partial ever since seeing Jeff Goldblum play Dr. Ian Malcolm in "Jurassic Park." The female lead (who for the rest of the post will be referred to as the sadistic psychobitch), on the other hand, comes across as a psychopath right away, at least to me. Granted, I may have some bias due to the fact that her later "treatment" of Dren had been spoiled for me, but I don't think her character had any subtlety, even in the opening scenes.
The meat of the film arrives once Dren emerges. Her scenes are all equal parts engaging, intriguing, and unsettling, and I have to give a lot of credit to the actresses and makeup effects for making her seem so believably otherworldly. An entirely CG Dren would not have worked nearly as well, and, in fact, the effectual evolution of Dren from an entirely CG...thing...to the human/makeup/CG hybrid is a pretty ingenious touch, emphasizing her development from something disturbingly alien to something disturbingly human. The reason people got freaked out by her was not due to her weirdness, but due to her humanity. People tend to find it easier to look at things in a dichotomous fashion, in an "either/or" sense, whereas Dren exists within the boundaries between worlds. She is no "either/or." She is a "yes, but also." Her presence forces the viewer to re-examine preconceptions, to dissolve boundaries, and in that light it becomes easy to see why this was a polarizing movie.
One of the most brilliant things about Dren is that she is attractive. She had to have been very deliberately designed that way, because it creates an entirely new degree of discomfort and re-examination for the viewer. Her seduction of Brody is pretty quick, I will grant that, but it is believable otherwise. The Other, the Unknown, can be frightening and sexy at the same time, and with the same reasons for both. Another "yes, but also." Brody and Dren begin their tryst with some passionate kissing, which is certainly not new ground for Hollywood (or the French-Canadian equivalent of such). But then, Dren pins Brody between herself and a table by making her tail wrap around the table leg, pulling her body, specifically her pelvis, closer to his. That is pretty fucking hot. As the sex scene progresses, we see other visual cues, like the emergence of her wings and the extension of her stinger, which further add to the foreignness and sensuality of the act. The sudden appearance of the sadistic psychobitch in the doorway seems almost comical afterward, and perhaps also deliberately so. It gives the audience a chance to laugh and relax, to release the tension that had been building up. Now, I may be doing nothing here but providing evidence of my sexual deviancy, but I think that scene, in an iconic fashion, summarizes a lot of what makes Dren so effective.
Then the script has the brilliant idea to turn the last ten minutes into a slasher film. It feels like such a cop out, especially when, as I have described, there is such richness to Dren, both as a concept and, more so, as a character. She never talks, but she shows more emotional range and complexity than the sadistic psychobitch, and I would not have minded another half hour, or hour even, of watching her continue to grow up. What if she and Brody had continued that relationship? How quickly would she run through the rest of her life cycle? What if she did raise a family? Questions! Questions I have because the film was so promising up until the very end. I did kick myself for missing Chekhov's Sex Change, but turning Dren into a killer male was a really poor choice. It removed a lot of what had made her so effectively creepy, so effectively sympathetic, and turned her into just another monster. Slasher films do have their place in cinema, but not in this movie.
Of course, the one-dimensional main character with the Freudian excuse is the only survivor at the end, and, of course, she is carrying the child of the SUDDENLYMALENOWGUYZ Dren. I guess they wanted to end on a very "The Fly"-type note, open enough to allow a potential sequel, but I am not digging it. Nope.
So that is why "Splice" frustrates me. Its decent-enough story plummets with the ending, and Dren is brilliant but underutilized. This is the kind of film for which I would have no qualms with a remake. I want to see more of Dren, and I want to see more of my reactions to Dren.