Parenting the Monster in Splice

13 May 2010 at 17:13 (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’ve been doing a little digging of late to see what’s coming down the pike over the summer and have been pleasantly surprised by what will be on offer. Particularly interesting to me: Splice, a Canadian/French co-production directed by Vincenzo Natali of Cube fame. Check out the trailer for Cube below:

I’ve not yet seen Cube, but I can’t help but notice some parallels with Saw. But don’t let that dissuade you–Cube received solid reviews and a small but enthusiastic fan following. In other words, it’s a cult classic.

Some, such as Variety reviewer Justin Chang, expect that Splice will prove more lucrative. For one, the film stars Sarah Polley as Elsa and Adrien Brody as Clive. I am especially excited to see Polley in the lead role. Polley’s no stranger to the horror genre, as her turn in the Dawn of the Dead remake demonstrates:

Splice offers Polley the perfect horror role for such an accomplished actress. She plays Elsa, a geneticist working with her fellow scientist and lover, Clive (Brody), combining DNA for the purposes of gene therapy. Elsa and Clive propose a more radical project mixing human DNA with that of other animals to create a new species, but the corporate powers that be reject the idea in favor of the safer and more profitable route. Elsa and Clive continue with the project in secret; the trailer will explain the rest:

Several things immediately jumped out at me upon viewing the trailer. First, I find it interesting that the film transfers the Frankenstein story into a heterosexual couple. Scholars like Harry Benshoff have argued that by pairing a male scientist with a male assistant to create a new life together, many Frankenstein films can be read as queer texts. With the use of a straight couple in Splice, the implications of parthenogenic birth change. When Clive calls their creation (named Dren) a “mistake” and attempts to gas it, the subtext that comes to mind is that of the unmarried couple faced with an unexpected pregnancy and debating the option of abortion.

Along with the heterosexual coupling comes some pretty stereotypical depictions of gender roles. Elsa appears to be the the most protective of Dren, and the trailer shows her picking her up as if to hold her. She also takes offense when Clive calls Dren a “specimen,” clearly exhibiting an emotional attachment to Dren that defies rationality. Clive’s comment also plays into the tired idea that men make detached, logical decisions while women allow their feelings to determine their courses of action. It’s like Elsa and Clive are a good cop/bad cop parenting team.

In short, I’m excited to see Splice (the early reviews are mostly positive) but more than a little leery about the gender politics it will espouse. Then again, maybe the most subversive thing about Splice will be that conventional, heterosexual parents are the ones who create the the monster that takes down the human race.

The poster for Splice. Image taken from


1 Comment

  1. See Splice Now! « Dark Room said,

    […] those who missed my previous post, Splice follows a couple of scientists, Clive and Elsa (Brody and Polley, respectively) tasked with […]

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