December 2, 2010

Justify My Netflix: Splice

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)


Today's movie: Splice, 2009 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this B-grade horror flick by Guillermo del Toro protege Vicenzo Natali (unsurprisingly produced by del Toro himself) received an unusually high amount of praise when first coming out last year, for its surprising intelligence in what's otherwise yet another boobs-and-bloodfest excuse for teens to make out at the mall on a Friday night.

The reality: Not too bad, actually! Although as I learned the hard way the other day over at Facebook when first mentioning this film, it's critically important to take that "not too bad" statement in the relative context of other films of this type, because otherwise this still has all the earmarks of some low-budget straight-to-cable thing, destined mostly for ironic enjoyment by those former mall-kissing teens once they become undergraduate stoners; the story of two Boing-Boing-reading hipster scientists, under contract by a corporate interest to mess around with genetic manipulation (specifically, the challenge of growing non-intelligent organisms as a way of feeding a human "organ farm"), an illicit experiment in adding human DNA to the mix one night results in the "birth" of a strange "daughter" of sorts, who grows quickly into hot teenage form, providing all the environment you need for a gratuitous amount of sex, violence, and all the other crap so eagerly eaten up by those monsters you call your loving teenage children. But like del Toro at the beginning of his own career, Natali keeps things here as smart as humanly possible for such a situation, adding all kinds of sly Freudian issues, ultra-realistic dialogue, and an abundance of references to popular indie-pop bands and Wired magazine; and it's this plus the highly inventive special effects that keep things so lively and darkly delightful here, and not the insufferable trainwreck so many movies of this type are. del Toro seems in fact to be crafting an entire farm league of young smart genre filmmakers these days, using his resources as an Oscar-nominated Hollywood master to nourish a whole generation of artists who all seem to have the same attitude; that even when a film is deliberately designed to be nothing more than a cheap, fun, ultimately forgettable piece of gory T&A entertainment, both it and the audience deserve to be paid as much respect as possible, and a finished movie delivered that at the very least keeps you on your toes. If you go into it with this attitude, there's a lot about Splice to like, and a lot more from Natali to look forward to in the coming years.

Strangest piece of trivia: Natali's first film was the well-regarded 1997 cult classic Cube, which I've also reviewed in the past.

Worth your time? If you're a fan of blood and boobs, then yes

Filed by Jason Pettus at 3:23 PM, December 2, 2010. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |