Sunday, February 13, 2011

Splice's Flawed Finale


As much as I enjoyed Vincenzo Natali's Sci-fi Horror hybrid, Splice, the film is littered with a number of minor issues that, for me, can be overlooked in the big scheme of things. However, one major problem I have with the film - and something that truly holds it back, in my opinion - is the final act where the viewer is given the long awaited opportunity to see what the man-made monster, Dren (Delphine ChanĂ©ac), is truly capable of. Obviously, this will be a complete spoiler, so go away if you've not already seen the movie. Don't get all pissy about it…you can come back later on after you've seen the movie. Anyway, as you know, Splice ends with a scene where it is believed that Dren - the creature created by Genetic engineers, Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) - is dead. Clive and Elsa take Dren's body and bury it outside of their secluded farmhouse where they had been hiding Dren from the always-pesky pesky-people that love to do pesky things. You know the type.   

splice3Soon afterwards, Clive and Elsa's poorly fleshed-out boss, William Barlow, shows up along with Clive's brother and co-worker, Gavin, when Dren - who underwent a metamorphosis that transformed her from a female, to a male - suddenly attacks both men. After killing both Barlow and Gavin, Dren goes on to rape Elsa and kill Clive after he stabs her with a branch. Elsa delivers the final blow with a rock to the head and that would seem to do it for Dren. Now, I should mention that this whole scene is very well put together - outside of the ridiculously handled rape, of course - and should work in a way that is a sort of a payoff for the slow moving, character driven time spent leading up to this action filled finale. The wooded setting is absolutely gorgeous, with how the moon's rays cast ominous shadows, illuminating the snow-covered ground to make for quite the incredible backdrop for a scene of violence and action.


So, where exactly does my problem lie with the ending of Splice? Well, as I mentioned earlier, before Dren attacks she makes a drastic transformation into a male. She becomes a different creature (despite being played by the same actress), and it's very clear that the monster known as Dren is not present in any real way that translates to film (because her internal thoughts and feelings clearly do not translate to celluloid). All of the time spent with Splice is time spent with Dren as she is. A female. We watch her grow and mature into what may be one of the finest looking monsters I have seen in quite some time. A truly original creature that is almost, dare I say it, sexy (I know, gross), but in a way that is dangerous and frightening at the same time. Dren has a horrifying elegance as a monster that goes well beyond Splice as a film, and it's a complete shame to sit through an entire movie with this wonderful creation, only to have it taken away at the last minute for the sake of a plot device.

splice2And what was that plot device again? Earlier in the film, Clive and Elsa's purple booger experiment goes awry when the female hybrid creature they created turns into a male and the two purple boogers kill each other. This would seem to be the clue that Dren would also swap sexes, but the question is, why? Why does the purple booger have to change into a male to become volatile? Is it to show that the male is more aggressive than the female thus the male Dren attack scene at the film's end? Dren already showed intense signs of intense aggression and a lack of rational thought, so that throws that theory out the window. The only reasonable explanation to make Dren a man is solely to impregnate Elsa. Regardless of it serving the purpose of a cliffhanger/plot-twist, I really do not see any reason why Dren, as was, couldn't be capable of impregnating someone herself. 

To ask your audience to suspend their disbelief and accept the fact that a female gendered science experiment, complete with a serious phallic symbol, could impregnate a human woman, is not the tallest of orders. No one knows how this created creature would mate, procreate, or do anything for that matter. If anything, I find it more believable to just have Dren be able to do this because she isn't a human and can quickly adapt to move her new brand of species forward. Evolution for the sake of survival. Her aggression, as well as that of the purple boogers, can be as simple as that, an experiment that resulted in chaos, which is sort of the film's point, correct?! Therefor, this entire unnecessary plot point serves no real purpose but to try to be smart, but instead takes away a major piece of the puzzle from what is essentially a monster film. It takes away the monster.

What sayeth you?!


  1. Great review, and well stated. I've got to say, despite the fact that this movie was, for the most part, batshit, I was there with these people. I enjoyed it, I let them take me on their journey. It was crazy, but fascinating and good. And then the ending totally went off the wall. And not in a good way. The sex Adrien Brody has with Dren? It's weird, but it's built up. It's earned. This ending, and you pointed out, was weird and definitely not earned. It really did feel like the director knew he had to finish the movie, so he hashed out some halfhearted ending and that was that.

  2. I actually liked the ending -- it went places I wasn't expecting, which is unusual these days -- but I had problems with the essentialist sexism too. The problem really is that the film, much like culture, confuses sex and gender -- sex being biologically constructed (often literally, with surgical alterations neatly fitting us into two strict boxes) and gender being socially constructed. I really like your idea of a transgender monster (aren't all monsters transgender?) -- that would have been really exciting.

  3. A valid point, though I still thoroughly enjoyed the film and didn't get hung up on that metamorphosis.

    I'm hardly a science geek, but I was under the impression certain creatures change sex in nature when there is an absence of one gender--frogs do that I think. Dren's case seemed to be an artificial side-effect of the genetic engineering. No idea how that works, so I just went with it.

    I suppose the whole male aggression thing is the biggest thing to provoke this change, but there are creatures where the poor males are eaten after procreation. I think Species alluded to that.

  4. M.: I still really like the film even if I have issues with the ending. It does seem like a kitchen sink type of ending, which really wasn't at all necessary. It's too bad because it was all built up so well, and I think that the rape scene feels so misplaced, which is funny because the scene with Clive and Dren felt like it fit right in for some creepy reason!

    GGG: I would love the ending if not for the change, and I do think it's great that Natali took such a bold risk with a lot of the film's events, specifically the sexual ones. It would have been very bold and the sex and gender confusion would have been nonexistent had Dren been able to both have sex with Clive, as well as impregnate Elsa. It would have been equally ironic, too.

    Fox: I have heard of the gender swap with other species, so I could buy it, but its less about the details of the change and more about not having that same creature for the film's pay-off. Dren as a female was quite striking, but as a male, not nearly as interesting. In fact, the male Dren was bland and lifeless looking, as opposed to the feminine Dren.

    And you are right about Species and the dominance of the female creature in those films, which is actually quite interesting and would have worked perfectly in Splice. Maybe there was a need for the filmmakers to separate their film from that one for the sake of comparisons? Still, complain as I may, I did like Splice, so I guess that says something about the film as a whole.

  5. Hee hee. Dren + Jessica Rabbit = 2 chicks you probably shouldn't tell your girlfriend you'd bone.

    I put this comment on a Splice Blu Ray giveaway at Freddy In Space, but sadly, it didn't take the cake.

    Love the Blog!

  6. Ha's funny because it's true! Thanks for stopping by and for the comment!


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