By Phèdre von Kallenbach

I consider myself a pretty well educated horror-movie buff. As a child, my brother lovingly showed me movies like Critters” and Ghoulies, along with the Halloween and Friday the 13th series. Freddy Krueger scared me no more than Ronald McDonald did (and no, I don’t have a fear of clowns). I have pretty much grown immune to horror films and their ilk, so it takes a lot to get a rise out of me. Sadly, like many many others, Splice failed miserably in doing so.

Meet Clive (Adrian Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley), two very cliché, defiant scientists who lead their industry by creating a prototype of the first ever genetically engineered creature. These two creatures, dubbed “Fred” and “Ginger”, claim a genetic code that they hope to someday use for veterinary and medicinal advances. In light of their success, Elsa conveys her desire to start working with human genes, a desire her supervisors immediately shoot down. Ever rebellious, Elsa and Clive begin splicing human genomes on their own, hoping to create a creature that will be unequaled in its genetic capabilities and advances. Yet their result turns out to be something far more humanoid than previously hoped. Soon they find themselves with a creature, lovingly named “Dren”, that’s startlingly human and yet embodies the abilities of amphibian and bird, a creature that’s capable of employing human emotion and intelligence while reveling in its animalistic tendencies. Even with Elsa's nurturing, their experiment takes a turn for the worse.

At first I had high hopes for this film. It was an independent film that premiered at Sundance (it's also being shown currently at the Seattle Independent Film Festival), had Adrian Brody as its lead, and one of my favorite directors, Guillermo Del Toro as one of its executive producers. All in all, I thought this might prove to be one of those rare horror-movie exceptions. But I was wrong.

Remember that time when you first watched Saw in the movie theater, and how comical that scene was where Cary Elwes' character is sawing off his leg to break free to save his family, only to have the game end less than an hour or so later? It was supposed to be one of those "dramatic" moments but everyone ends up laughing instead. Yeah, that's kind of what happens in Splice. Numerous times throughout the movie, the audience ended up laughing at the more dramatic moments. Sadly, the plot in and of itself was decent.

Perhaps if there had been a bigger budget or if more attention had been paid to the acting and the movie's resolution it might have turned out in much better form. It's my understanding that the original Sundance film had been edited and altered, thus resulting in what we see. Whether this was for better or worse, I've no clue. Given the ridiculous ending and the generic horror-movie allure, it flopped terribly and the ending just seemed thrown together more than anything else. Plus, if the plot didn't get under your skin, Dren's chirps and warbles would.

The opening credits were amazing (I have to give credit where credit is due) and the beginning scenes weren't terribly bad. Overall, the movie is more comical than terrifying and the plot weaker than watered-down instant coffee. There are far too many holes in the storyline and Adrian Brody's character wasn't strong enough to carry a cast as obscure as this. I would wait to see what the DVD would hold for this one. Maybe the extras will help fill in the gaps or the unedited film will present itself in a different light?

1.5 out of 5 stars