The Fly - 1958
Director - Kurt Neumann
Plot Summary/ Review
A Scientist invents a machine capable of teleporting matter from one "pod" to another. The Scientist in question accidentally splice's his genes with that of a house fly.
I was extremely pleased to find out we were going to watch this movie as part of our anatomy course. It's one of those golden oldies I have always meant to watch but never got round to it.
I was surprised to find the movie starts at the end and we have the benefit of seeing the events unfold through Helen Delambre's ( played by Patricia Owens ) flashback. This gives the film a "murder mystery" type feel and hooks the audience from the very beginning.
Variety.com Extract of a review from 1958.
"One strong factor of the picture is its unusual believability. It is told as a mystery suspense story, so that it has a compelling interest aside from its macabre effects. There is an appealing and poignant romance between Owens and Hedison, which adds to the reality of the story, although the flashback technique purposely robs the picture of any doubt about the outcome."
We start with a grizzly murder involving a machine press and Helen calls her Brother in-law Francois Delambre ( played by Vincent Price) confessing to the murder of her husband. Francois calls the police and the investigation begins after it has been confirmed that Andre Delambre (played by David or 'Al' Hedison)'s head and arm has been crushed. Helen will not divulge her motive but admits to the Inspector she did it. Her behaviour becomes even more erratic, overcome with emotion when her maid kills a fly and is always looking for one with a white head.
To obtain the truth, Francois tells Helen he has captured the fly with a white head and will give it to her. We flashback to find Scientist Andre Delambre and his "amazing teleportation" machine. Andre demonstrates his machine to Helen on a plate, unfortunately a side effect of the machine reveals the plate has been inverted. We then discover the machine unfortunately cannot transport living objects, very unfortunate for the family cat, who is lost to space and time.
After fixing the problem, Helen is puzzled as to why she hasn't seen her husband and the maid confirms he hasn't eaten his dinner. The suspense builds. He refuses to open the door and when he eventually does he's draped a cloth over his head, is wearing a trench coat and isn't talking.
We discover Andre experimented on himself, only a fly was in the teleporter with him, leading to the famous reveal that he is a man/fly and somewhere in the house is the fly/man.
With no proof, the Inspector deducts she is insane and has her committed. It concludes with an exciting ending and a rush to save the white headed fly which Helen's son found, stuck on a spiders web on the park bench. The proof Helen needs but is dashed when the Inspector kills the white headed fly, about to be devoured by a spider. The inspector and Francois cover up the murder and we have a curious happy ending with Francois, Helen and her son!?
I did enjoy the film and took it with a pinch of salt. I kept in mind the time it was made and the resources available at the time. I admit I already knew the plot and feel a little cheated. In this day and age with the internet and youtube, I had already seen the infamous rubber mask reveal and squeaky "help me, help me!" ending. But back in 1958 when films were not leaked, endings ruined and people believed what they were watching, I can see how this would have been terrifying.
New York Times review - Published: August 30 1958
"It does indeed contain, briefly, two of the most sickening sights one casual swatter-wielder ever beheld on the screen. At one point, the hooded hero discloses his head as that of a giant-size fly. And the climax, when this balcony-sitter nearly shot through the roof, is a fat close-up of a fly, with a tiny, screaming human's head, trapped by a spider on its web. To any random customer expecting a pleasant doze, watch out! Short as these two scenes are, there's no escaping them."
The film also raises other interesting questions, slightly touching on a possible love triangle between Francois, Helen and Andre, racial issue's (black maid/ servant), euphemism (is it right to kill someone you love, even if they want you too) and the biggest fear of the time, man, machines, medling with nature and having too much power.
Patricia Owens performance was excellent. Totally beleivable as a loving wife and mother of the 50's and her breakdown showed genuine trauma, emoting sympathy and distress. David Hedison showed real passion, drive and determination as a scientist on the verge of the next big thing, to change the world! His downhill struggle to control his animal instinct and anger ( the hand with a mind of it's own) was maybe a bit theatrical but acceptable in the 50's. Vincent Price's character baffelled me, the biggest name in the film as supporting actor? Strange for the time but none the less keeps the plot ticking over. You discover with him the events as they unfold so connect with what he's going through.
Kurt Neumann's Direction is good, I felt he had a good balance of mystery, suspense and terror. The build up to the reveal really hits home although the prosthetics look a little dated. The camera work for the "fly's eye view" adds to the horror, confusing the audiences eye giving a sense of panic and heightened fear.
BBC.com review: August 2007
"Any humour in the situation quickly drains away as Hedison battles to stop his personality being consumed with his new found predatory instincts. Meanwhile his 'other half' is trapped in a spider's web. This desperate 'double' struggle cleverly detracts from the cheap-looking monster effects and allows a dramatic and quite poignant film to form."
I'm not sure on the "happy" ending with Francois taking on the role as the dad and the family living happy ever after. Maybe the Director had to bow to Studio pressure and conform to a traditional Hollywood happy family ending?
I'm glad I can say I have seen it now, after all without this we wouldn't have a certain David Cronenberg "retelling" which honestly did terrify me as a lad!
The Fly - 1986
Director - David Cronenberg
Plot Summary/ Review
A brilliant but eccentric scientist transforms into a human sized Fly after his teleportation experiment goes horribly wrong.
It was a pleasure to revisit this movie, especially as some of my fellow students had not seen it before. It was fun to listen and witness their reactions to some of the films most famous scenes.
Billed as a remake of the original 1958 title of the same name, I see this movie as a retelling. The general plot remains the same, (Scientist on the verge of new invention, has an accident in his teleportation machine) but any similarities end there!
This film opens, (after an excellent title sequence; reminded me of cells or a virus multiplying in a petri-dish) with Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) wooing reporter Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) at a science exhibition. Already comparisons of youth's laid back approach to sex.
Veronica reluctantly goes with Seth to his warehouse apartment where he demonstrates his teleportation machine. As with the original, there are still problems to iron out as the machine can only teleport inanimate objects. Veronica agrees to cover his story exclusively and will publish when the machine is working properly. As their relationship develops we discover Veronica has a past love interest with her sleazy Editor in-chief.
After successfully teleporting a live creature, Seth is eager to celebrate with his new love, however, Veronica leaves to stop her editor publishing the story first. Seth in haste and a drunken, jealous state decides to test the machine on himself, without realising a fly is in the teleporter with him.
BBC.com review: 1st Jan 2000
"That's it until Goldblum suspects Geena of going back to her editor boyfriend and in a drunken rage puts himself through the booths not realising there's a stowaway fly on board too. This is where the whole tempo of the film alters from third-rate B-movie to utterly fascinating all-out gross fest."
Seth emerges seemingly fine. In contrast to the original, where the result is instantaneous resulting in two beings, this film sees a single, genetically combined being with a slow, metamorphosis transition into the "Brundle-Fly".
After realising that Veronica is pregnant, Seth's logic and conflicting personalities leads him to kidnapping her and attempting to fuse all of their DNA into one. Believing the result will be more human than his present form.
After a climatic battle and an unlikely hero situation, Seth gestures to Veronica to kill him which she reluctantly does.
Jeff Goldblum gives an outstanding performance, not only as a brilliant scientist, but in his descent into madness and the animalistic anger within. His subtle twitches and insect like flinches are amazing. Even when his body physically falls apart and he performs surreal food consumption, we still feel sympathy and remorse for the character.
"The one consistently strong element in the midst of Mr. Cronenberg's haywire, tone-deaf direction is Jeff Goldblum's performance, a just-controlled mania that fills the screen without threatening to jump off it. As he becomes a creature, we can still recognize his voice and see his eyes peering through the increasing layers of rubbery goo that encase him."
Geena Davis' performance also takes us on an emotional roller coaster. You see her develop real love and affection for Seth after being in awe of him. (Maybe helped by the fact they were a couple in real life?) You genuinely feel her horror as she witnesses her love transform into a new life form. Not to mention the dream sequence! The image and sound of her screaming as she gives birth to a maggot is etched on to my brain.
John Getz plays Veronica's boss and former lover Stathis Borans, who himself develops from a sleazy boss into a hero. He saves Veronica from the teleportation machine after losing his arm and leg to Seth's regurgitation procedure.
David Cronenberg has succesfully updated "The Fly" into a genuine horror classic, coining the phrase "Be afraid, be very afraid". The pace of the film is just right keeping you interested from the start and terrifying you until the end. Cronenberg is famous for his love of gore, flesh and blood and this could well be his masterpiece. The film still holds up today and I'm intrigued to hear he may be remaking his own remake. Be afraid, but very excited at the same time.
Film4 review - 24th Sep 2007
"He'd (David Cronenberg) also come across a script - by Dragonheart scribe Charles Edward Pogue - that would allow him to indulge his passions for science, experimentation and horror of a particularly graphic and invasive variety."
La Belle et La Bete - 1946
Director - Jean Cocteau
Plot Summary/ Review
Classic fairytale in which a beautiful daughter of a once wealthy Merchant falls in love with a half man / half beast residing in his magical castle.
I wasn't sure if I would like this interpretation of the classic Beauty and the Beast fairytale. I am only familiar with the basic outline and have little to no memory of the Disney version.
The film opens with an introduction to a seemingly wealthy family consisting of Adelaide, Felicie, Ludovic and Belle. Adelaide and Felicie are the shallow older sisters who's only interests are looking beautiful and spending the family fortune. Ludovic is the brother who detests the older, spoilt sisters but is protective of Belle, who is seen as the family servant. We also meet a friend of Ludovics', Avenant who is in love with Belle who subsequently refuses to marry him.
When returning from business, the father of the four, get's lost in the forest and stumbles upon a castle. Unaware it is inhabited by a Beast man, the father unwittingly picks a rose for his daughter Belle. The Beast confronts him and sentences him to death unless one of his daughters takes his place.
The father returns home and a guilt ridden Belle sneaks out to the castle in place of her father. She enters the wonderfully surreal castle with candles held by living arms, moving statues and magical mirrors. I was pleasantly surprised by this, it made me feel like I was watching a living Salvador Dali painting.
New York Times review - 24th December 1947
"The concepts are so ingenious that they're probably apt to any rationale. From the long corridor of candelabra, held out from the walls by living arms, through which the wondering visitor enters the palace of the Beast, to the glittering temple of Diana, wherein the mystery of the Beast is revealed, the visual progression of the fable into a dream-world casts its unpredictable spell."
The Beast is besotted with Belle and cannot bring himself to kill her, instead offers his hand at marriage. She refuses. The Beast romantically returns everynight at 7:00pm to ask her again. Their relationship grows and Belle begins to see the Beast has the heart of a man and is actually a tortured soul. She discovers his inner beauty and he offers her the key to his kingdom and a magical teleporting glove. However when news reaches her that her doting Father is ill, the Beast allows her to return home, only if she returns within a week.
When the rest of the family discover the events in castle, they decide to intervene, all with different motivations. Avenant and Ludovic plot to kill the beast but are distracted by the Beasts fortune and attempt to steal it. This results in the death of Avenant, shot in the back by a living statue. Meanwhile Belle finds the Beast writhing in pain and only when the Beast let her go, does he (amusingly) spring up and transform into the handsome Prince.
Movie Reviews UK - 1997
"The aura of amour drifts through every scene, underpinning the story and leading us to a triumphant conclusion which celebrates the victory of love over all obstacles (although it is intriguing that the transformation removes an essential element from the Beast). We believe in this fairy-tale and that is how it should be."
Although some of the effects and techniques seem dated now, (reversed filming and dodgy prosthetics) I have no doubt the audience of the time would have been drawn into the magic of it all. The set pieces are extraordinary for the time. When Belle first enters the castle, you really get a sense of it being a dream like sequence, but somehow foreign and creepy.
Upon further research, I have discovered that the Director; Jean Cocteau was a poet and writer who directed the film in his sixties, which in it's day, is impressive. The film is a visual feast and plays more like a poem or theater production and should be seen as a work of art.
The Guardian - 1st July 1999
"Faithfully, but not totally innocently, based on the fairy tale by Madame LePrince de Beaumont, it is almost purely visual, even if a Freudian analysis is possible. And it is certainly completely different in atmosphere and style from anything that had gone before, at least in the commercial cinema."
Cat People - 1942
Director - Jacques Tourneur
Plot Summary/ Review
A beautiful, Serbian-born fashion artist living in New York struggles with an ancient curse as she falls in love with an "average-Joe" American.
The movie opens in a New York zoo where we find Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon), curiously sketching and tearing out pages of a Panther in it's enclosure. Here she meets Oliver Reed (Kent Smith), they strike up a conversation and are immediately attracted to each other. As they leave the zoo, the wind catches one of Irena's drawings and we glimpse a Panther with a dagger through it and the page ripped through it's head. A subtle insight into Irena's mind?
Irena and Oliver return to her apartment for "tea" and the mystery surrounding her deepens, as she tells Oliver about the history of her people. We learn that she descends from a village, notorious for devil worship and witches, who, under extreme emotion, can change into Panthers, "The Cat People". Oliver dismisses this as an urban legend, they begin courting and within a few months are married.
Oliver is concerned for his new wife as it becomes apparent that she treats the story of her people as more than a myth. It is clear that Irena has an affect on other animals, as they all seem to act strangely around her. She is frightened to consummate their marriage and be a "true" wife for fear of killing him. A beautiful scene finds Irena and Oliver on opposite sides of the door, full of sexual tension which quickly diminish's when we hear the near by growl of the Panther at the Zoo.
Film Four Review
"Famously making a virtue of its limitations, the film features no actors in cat-suits, no explicit special effects, just terror in the shadows. The challenging plot devices of frigidity and repressed lesbianism are impossible to avoid. Its techniques would be adopted by noir, its themes are aped by horror films and thrillers today."
Oliver confides in Alice Moore (Jane Randolph), a friend at work who recommends Irena goes to see a psychiatrist, Dr. Louis Judd (Tom Conway). Irena and Oliver's relationship, now struggling, becomes worse when Oliver discovers she has stopped seeing Dr. Judd. After an argument, Irena finds Oliver with his confidant Alice in a Cafe. Her fear of loving now turns to jealousy and rage aimed at Alice. We are then treated to a wonderfully filmed stalking scene when Irena follows Alice through the park. The suspense builds with every footstep which quickens like a frightened heartbeat, only relieved when a bus pulls into shot and Alice boards to safety.
After a day at the museum, Irena fails to meet Oliver and Alice at an agreed time. Another stalking scene ensues, this time with Alice going for a late night swim. The dark gloomy interior heightens the sense of terror as Alice dives into the pool for safety as she's pursued by shadowy Panther figure and growls. Her screams echo around the building and alert the desk clerk and cleaning lady and we find Irena, seemingly looking for Oliver.
Oliver and Alice, with the guidance of Dr. Judd, decide to have Irena committed and their marriage anulled for everyone's safety. We discover Dr. Judd has an ulterior motive and secretly harbours adulterous feelings for Irena. After attacking Oliver and Alice at work, Irena returns to her apartment to find Dr. Judd. Irena changes into a a panther and kills him after his advances towards her, but gets wounded by his cane.
Irena returns to the Zoo and with a stolen key, stricken with guilt, advances and provokes the Panther from the start of the film. The Panther recoils in fear, eventually retaliating, leaping and killing her.
I had no prior knowledge of this film and was expecting it to be a cheesy 1940's B movie. What I found was a multi layered, tragic love story, full of atmosphere, lust and crucially, symbolism. For it's time it must have been seen as an incredibly raunchy, steamy film. Ahead of it's time in so many way's, women are seen as work colleagues equal to men and obviously strong, sexual predators. The core of the film is it's metaphor of emotions like love, lust, jealousy, anger and rage are evoked from our animal, beast like past.
Simone Simon is the perfect casting choice for the role of Irena. She excellently portrays her character's lonely, tortured soul with a terrifying inner strength with a longing for companionship and love. Kent Smith is the hapless husband caught in the middle of a vicious love triangle, but plays it with heart and suitable bemusement as events unfold. Jane Randolph's character would not be out of place in the modern world. A career driven woman with a hidden desire for her co-worker. She really makes the stalking scenes what they are and sold me the felling of dread and terror.
Filmcritic.com - 4th October 2005
"Moody and intense, the film is hardly a gore-fest, and the body count is minimal. But the way it messes with your head -- and Jacques Tourneur's deft ability behind the camera -- make it quite the '40s standout."
The Director has made a masterpiece of symbolism and psychological horror, in a style that reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock's work. The suspense in the stalking scenes and suggestive filming putting the fear in the audiences imagination. The light and dark tones of the film can be compared to the different sides of Irena's personality. Subtle references to Cats and cage like shadows add depth to the film.
"The stalking sequences -- as 'other woman' Jane Randolph is pursued through Central Park or menaced in a swimming pool by an almost-unseen force -- are still chilly, but the power of the film is in Simon's queerly appealing performance. Lewton was allegedly given the job as head of the RKO monster movie unit because someone misheard his claim to have written 'horrible novels' as 'horror novels'; a man of taste, he rejected the monster mask approach of most earlier fright films and opted to paint the screen with shadows, knowing the audience would imagine far worse horrors than an effects man could create."
The Company of Wolves - 1984
Director - Neil Jordan
Plot Summary/ Review
A pre-pubescent girl dreams of a life in an enchanted World which is inhabited by Were Wolves.
Of all the films we have watched (so far) as part of our Shapeshifter reviews, I struggled with this one the most. It is packed to the brim full of symbolic folklore and metaphors for sexual desires and adolescence I found it hard to keep up. Not to mention the fact we seem to travel from reality to dreams, to stories in dreams, to stories in stories within a dream and so on!
New York Times review - 19th April 1985
Among other things, ''The Company of Wolves'' works almost as many variations on the story of Red Riding Hood as Mr. Darnton reports in his book. It's also absolutely jam- packed with the kind of symbols that delight Freudian analysts of culture, particularly of folk tales.
The movie starts with a mother and father returning to their country side home in the 80's. We discover they have two daughters, the eldest Alice greets the parents when they arrive home and is sent upstairs to wake up the youngest, Rosaleen. Shouting through the locked door the Alice complains that Rosaleen has stolen her lipstick and is being a "pest"!
Rosaleen's first dream is more a nightmare. She dreams her sister is running through the woods with oversized toy's pursuing her, doll houses full of rats, eventually she is muled by wolves. A subtext for leaving her childish possessions and maturing too quickly? The next dream starts with the Alice's funeral (a projection of their sibling rivalry) in a magical forest. Here we meet her grandmother who tells stories of handsome strange men, whose eyebrows meet in the middle, are hairy on the inside and are not to be trusted. We are told of a wife who re-married after her initial husband apparently left her and was killed by wolves. The first husband returns and is enraged to find she didn't wait for him and his anger triggers his (gruesome) transformation.
A re-occurring phrase I noticed throughout the film is when Rosaleen is constantly told to "stay on the path" when walking through the forest. I think the path represents life and if she were to stray or be bad, she would wonder into the monsters/ animals of the forest.
Rosaleen is also the object of a boys affection who constantly flirts with her, she strays off the path with him one day and is hiding in a tree and comes across a birds nests with baby dolls in it's eggs and a mirror. I think this scene relates to young mothers or girls having children to young as a result of caving to their sexual desires.
With obvious comparisons to "Little Red Riding Hood", the grandmother meets her demise at the hands of a Werewolve / Huntsman. He decapitates her with a swipe of his claw and her head smashes like a porcelain doll seen at the beginning of the film. A reference to the Wolf taking Rosaleen's last bit of childhood? Rosaleen arrives at her grandmothers cabin and some more Riding Hood references are intertwined with sexual innuendos. "My, what big arms you have? All the better to hold you with." Rosaleen seems in control the whole time and is almost willing it to happen. When the stranger transforms into the Wolf, Rosaleen seems to have tamed him, petting and stroking it and telling him a story of the "she-wolf". She herself turns into a wolf and runs away from her family into the forest with her new companion. A sign she has matured into a woman and has left her controlling parents.
Chicago Sun-Times - 22nd April 1985
The movie ends curiously in the real world with wolves invading her home and the final shot of a wolf smashing through her bedroom window, notably flinging and destroying some of her toys from the window sill.
I am normally a fan of symbolism and metaphors but I personally think this film went over the top with it. I'm still not sure why it had to jump from different time lines, I think it would have worked alot better in one timezone and given it more consistency. Sarah Patterson gives a solid performance as Rosaleen, exuding maturity far beyond her characters age. Angela Lansbury is likeable as the barmy granny. The strongest area of the film lay with the makeup and prosthetics department. Some of the transformation scenes show real ingenuity and still hold up today.
Movies.tvguide.com - 30th July 2003
"THE COMPANY OF WOLVES has a complex and dreamy narrative structure built on intermingled fantasies, myths, and fairy tales. Nearly every scene is compelling and haunting; and the special makeup effects are impressive."
The Elephant Man - 1980
Director - David Lynch
Plot Summary/ Review
Heart wrenchingly emotional story of a heavily disfigured man living in 19th Century Victorian England, rescued by a sensitive surgeon from poverty, exploitation and persecution.
Another one of those films I've always meant to watch but never got round to it, upon viewing, I think my movie collection has an imminent addition. I knew it was based on actual person and however "historically correct" it may be, I think it is an excellent snap shot of what life might have been like for "Joshua Merrick", the real Elephant Man.
The film, in terms of it's plot can be summed up in a sentence. However, the execution of the cinematography, filmed in black and white, adds to the realism of Lynch's 19th Century England. Perhaps David Lynch's finest piece of work, you feel like you are transported back in time. The streets are gritty and have a sense of realism. The lighting and music reminded me of horror films but used to much better affect here. The pacing of the film captivates from the start, I immediately felt the curiosity around the character, which changes from shock and horror, to genuine sympathy and remorse for how he was treated.
New York Times review: 3rd October 1980
"The Elephant Man uses some of the devices of the horror film, including ominous music, sudden cuts that shock, and hints of dark things to come, but it's a very benign horror film, one in which "the creature" is the pursued instead of the pursuer."
The empathy evoked from the actors is outstanding! Namely Anthony Hopkins as the kind Surgeon Frederick Treves is an early powerhouse performance in his illustrious career. The film opens with Dr. Treves trying to track down the "side show freak" in seedy London alleys. When he eventually finds him, the audience only glimpses the shadowy figure of the Elephant Man, the trauma and sympathy is sold in Dr. Treves' expression.
Movieline.com review: 6th November 2001
"Hopkin's performance is the performance in the film."
John Hurt plays John Merrick and delivers a tortured, frightened soul with hidden depth and intelligence to a tee. As the film progresses and his character opens up to his new surroundings, we discover beneath the monstrous deformity lies a sensitive, intellectual mind. The prosthetics and special make-up affects still hold up today and aide John Hurts Oscar nominated performance.
BBC.com review: 30th May 2001
"Buried under an incredible mass of make-up, John Hurt still manages to invest his portrayal of Merrick with dignity and courage. His moving performance contrasts with the Victorian world of industrial horror that director David Lynch tries to crush him with. The result is a glimpse into a nightmare from which a beacon of humanity clearly shines out, despite his hideous disfigurement."
The films underlying message is "don't judge a book by it's cover," and asks the audience who is the monster in film? Is it the disfigured, abused man? Or the men who seek to make profit out of his illness and showcase him as an animal in a circus. It's a question Dr. Treves asks himself. Wrought with guilt, he feels he saved him from Bytes, (John Merricks captor) only to showcase him in front of Dr's and Surgeons, famous Theater actors' and even Royalty, for personal recognition.
A security guard within the hospital, aware of John Merricks growing popularity, offers to let people into to the hospital. For a small profit of course. Another metaphor for the everyday man actually being the monster. It quickly gets out of hand and John is thrown around and mocked by the public and subsequently kidnapped by Bytes.
Bytes takes his prisoner to France and resumes his circus show but John collapses mid "performance". Bytes gets drunk and beats him, insinuating that John is doing it out of spite. John is poignantly saved by the other "freaks" at the show and manages to escape back to London. Upon arriving, he is harassed by children, which subsequently results in him being chased by a mob after accidentally knocking over a girl. It's here the message of the film is delivered in a frustrated outburst buy John. " I AM NOT AN ANIMAL! I AM A HUMAN BEING! I... AM.... A MAN!"
He is returned to Dr. Treves at his London Hospital and it is here where the movie reaches it's emotional climax. We learned earlier in the film that John could not sleep in a bed normally as he would suffocate due to his condition. After feeling a sense of acceptance and gaining a family, he removes the mound of pillows on his bed used to support him. He then gets into bed to sleep like the child in the picture hanging on his wall, next to a photograph of his beloved mother.
Splice - 2010
Director - Vincenzo Natali
Plot Summary/ Review
Two romantically involved geneticists "splice" human DNA with a mixture of animals DNA to create a beautiful but deadly new life form.
An intriguing and brave modern day spin on the "Frankenstein" story with hidden undertones of ethical issues from abortion to the stresses of parenthood and family conflict. The film stars Adrien Brody (Clive) and Sarah Polley (Elsa) as the courting scientists, who have perfected their "splicing" technology to produce animal hybrids, two maggot/worm looking creatures called "Fred" and "Ginger". From these creatures they are able to harvest certain proteins with the implication of producing new medicines and cures for diseases.
Keen to take their work to the next level, using "human DNA", their hopes are short lived as the Business execs decide to halt any further progress to market what they already have. In haste, they secretly go ahead with their work with the intention to terminate the life form at the embryo stage. Curiosity gets the better of them and the creature begins to grow rapidly.
The film benefits from an obvious big visual effects budget. The motion capture, scene interaction, character design and rendering are very good and well thought through. Elsa becomes attached to the creature instantaneously, her motherly instincts taking over, curious as the subject of parenthood with Clive never interested her before.
Variety.com review: 26th January 2010
"Played as a child by Abigail Chu and as an adult by Delphine Chaneac -- with a huge assist from special effects designers Howard Berger and Gregory Nicotero (who developed 11 different creatures for the film) and visual effects supervisor Robert Munroe -- this splice girl is a bizarrely beautiful beast, commanding both pity and awe. At times resembling a cross between Gollum and Sinead O'Connor (or perhaps one of Nicolas Roeg's "Witches"), Dren leaps and flies with lithe, animalistic grace, yet remains pathetically earthbound by the lusts and emotions common to the human species."
As the creature grows, she develops more human characteristics and the relationship between the surreal "family" is put under strain. Clive is initially cautious and eerie of his miscreation, a feeling reflected by the audience as we see a more child like creature, in a girls dress and playing with teddy bears.
Elsa names their child "Dren", the adult version played extremely well by Delphine Cheneac and she becomes a full time mother, hiding Dren at her old family farm. We get an insight into Elsa's childhood and an apparent rough relationship with her own mother. Clive begins to grow "fond" of Dren the more time he spends with her. An elegant and technically brilliant scene of Dren and Clive dancing in the old barn heightens the tension.
The movie for me is let down in it's final third. The Director opts for a typical horror chase scene ending with Dren, changing sex after apparently dying. The horror of man playing god is replaced with a graphic, rape scene leading to a predictable ending, no doubt with the intention of a sequel and possible franchise.
Daily Mail review: 23rd July 2010
"It is being marketed as a bog-standard, scary horror - which is precisely what it isn't. Despite an over-conventional, slasher-film climax, Splice is an ingenious piece of science fiction, with a fresh angle on an old subject and a couple of highly intelligent performances at its core."
All in all I enjoyed the movie, apart from the end. The first hour and a half feeling very much like a psychological thriller with elements of horror only to end in a bit of a cliché. That said, the Freudian family relationship, the very current issues of Gene splicing/ patenting are dealt with in a smart way! Somehow the film retains originality, even after borrowing certain parts from other films like "Jurassic Park", "The Fly" and "Frankenstein".
New York Times review: 3rd June 2010
" The Cronenberg influence here is evident in Mr. Natali's interest in the body and birth and in an initially subdued, near-narcoleptic atmosphere that helps build a nice sense of foreboding."