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Film / Splice

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With that tail, she'd better not be.

Splice is a 2009 sci-fi/Body Horror film directed by Vincenzo Natali and starring Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley.

The movie is about two young scientists and lovers, Clive and Elsa, who are world-renowned for both their research into gene splicing and their brash, iconoclastic attitude, and have made the cover of Wired magazine for their efforts. After creating two artificial organisms, named Fred and Ginger, for use in obtaining enzymes for medical research, they decide that the next step is to put human DNA into the mix.

Acting in secret to avoid getting busted by their bosses at the pharmaceutical company, Clive and Elsa create Dren, a hybrid creature made from human and animal DNA that exhibits remarkable intelligence and physical attributes, as well as accelerated aging. Initially treating their creation as a cute pet, they soon have to move her to Elsa's old farmhouse once she grows too big for her britches. In addition, they have to worry about Gavin, Clive's brother and co-worker at the lab, once he figures out about Dren and threatens to spill the beans to their boss.

There's also the fact that Dren, once a cute child, is now entering the equivalent of her teenage years, with all of the hormonal swings that this implies...

Has nothing to do with Nelvana's animated series Spliced, even if both are Canadian works and involve freaky genetic hybrid monstrosities.


  • Abusive Offspring: Dren becomes this to Elsa, violently raping her after turning male, because of the lifetime of abuse she's endured from being emotionally abused, and the Questionable Consent element of her "relationship" with Clive.
  • Abusive Parents: Elsa and Clive are terrible parents. Elsa starts out alright, acting very motherly and tender toward Dren. However, as the movie progresses, she starts doing things that could be considered abusive. There's sealing Dren in a box against her will (even if it was to keep her hidden as they moved her), isolating her in a barn and never letting her leave, yelling at her, not letting her have a cat she found, arguing with Clive in front of her, and the absolute peak of it has GOT to be when she decides to cut off her stinger tail after she kills her cat.
    • Elsa is implied to have had an abusive mother herself. She doesn't have many fond memories of her, to say the least.
  • Anger Born of Worry: After Dren runs off when they get to the farm, Elsa initially yells at Dren. After calming down she apologizes, and tells Dren that she's not angry, just worried.
  • Arc Words: "What's the worst that could happen?"
  • Bald Mystic: Dren is completely bald and it only serves to highlight her alien/not fully human nature.
  • Beware My Stinger Tail: Dren has one of these. At one point, she uses it to kill a cat that Elsa gave her just to spite her.
  • Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: When Dren switches from being female to male its breasts disappear, its face becomes harsher, its skin becomes darker, spines emerge from its lower back, and it its dorsal fins become larger and more monstrous-looking.
  • Blood-Splattered Innocents: The people in the front row at the press conference get showered with blood once Fred and Ginger, the two transgenic organisms created by Elsa and Clive, start fighting.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Ginger's spontaneous sex change. Since Dren had much of the same genes Ginger had, of course she eventually turns into a he.
  • Child by Rape: Male Dren rapes Elsa, resulting in pregnancy.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Though it was mainly a case of "we're just interested in money" at first (the corporates only held off human testing for PR reasons), morals go out the window when they find out Elsa is pregnant with Dren's child.
  • Cradle of Loneliness: Dren does this with a cat at one point while Elsa and Clive are away.
  • Cute Monster Girl: The fetish angle to Dren is played up to the hilt.
  • Destroy the Abusive Home: Elsa burns down the cellar where she lived with her abusive mother.
  • Disastrous Demonstration: The live media event promoting Fred and Ginger turns into a complete debacle when Ginger (now male) and Fred gorily battle to the death.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • Dren's stinger coming out when she orgasms during sex with Clive. It looked like she was going to kill Clive at that point.
    • Fred and Ginger are very phallic. This visual similarity subtly foreshadows the latter's sudden sex change.
  • Downer Ending: After a whole movie of treating Dren terribly, Dren turns into a male and kills Clive, Barlowe, and Gavin, and rapes Elsa, who is forced to kill Dren after bonding with them by bashing their skull in. Elsa is then shown pregnant with Dren's child, and, apparently having learned nothing from the whole experience, chooses not to abort the unknown, incestuous, hybrid being developing inside her.
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal: Dren uses her stinger to yank off the necklace holding the barn key after she kills her cat and pins down Elsa.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Dren turns into a bloodthirsty killer after her Gender Bender... which is quite jarring when comparing that to her naive, childish female form. Though you would be pretty pissed off too if you had to claw your way out a grave your parents dug for you. They did think she was dead, but her mother had also just finished cutting off her stinger the night before.
  • Fan Disservice: Adrien Brody shirtless? Awesome! Adrien Brody shirtless during and after a sex scene with an inhuman creature that's also supposed to be be his character's adoptive child? NOT awesome!
  • Fetus Terrible: The final scene reveals that Elsa is pregnant by Dren's male adult form, and she's persuaded by the genetic engineering Corrupt Corporate Executive not to abort the whatever-it-is she's carrying, so that it can be studied alive.
  • Flight: Dren eventually sprouts a pair of wings that enable her to fly.
  • For Science!: Subverted. On the surface, Clive and Elsa seem to be at least as motivated by fame and fortune as by the pursuit of science. Elsa also has another motivation — to have a child that she could have complete control over.
  • Foreshadowing: At one point, Gavin comments to Clive that Ginger seems to have lower estrogen levels than before. Ginger turns into a male in front of an auditorium full of shareholders. Oh, and since Dren has so much of their genes in her system...
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Dren has three fingers and a thumb on each hand, due to the fact that she a hybrid creature spliced from an unholy mixture of animals' DNA that widely varies in the number of fingers each species has.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Dren is being made, the DNA sequences on Clive's computer are from the Diposaurus dorsalis (desert iguana), Bufo cognatus (Great Plains toad), and Aquila chrysaetos (golden eagle).
  • Freudian Excuse: Elsa's secret reason for making Dren, as well as her later abusive, controlling nature, comes from her abusive mother.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Male Dren vs. the scientists. He's completely naked as he hunts and kills them.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Clive and Elsa's company is named N.E.R.D., or Nucleic Exchange Research and Development.
  • Gender Bender: Ginger turns from female to male due to hormonal changes, and fights Fred (who was male from the start) during a press conference that unleashes a shower of blood on the crowd. Dren later does the same thing.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Two married scientists pioneer a new technology to 'plug and play' any number of different animal's DNA together to produce new unique organisms. They decide to take the next step and insert human DNA into the mix. This works out about as well as you would expect.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: We see Dren tilting her head when she walks in on Clive and Elsa having sex.
  • Hellish Pupils: Dren has cross-shaped pupils, as an indicator of her hybrid nature.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: Dren starts displaying increasingly erratic and violent behavior as her adolescence kicks in.
  • How Did You Know? I Didn't: Ambiguously. When Dren develops a serious fever, the two try getting it to go down by filling a sink with cold water and putting her in it. When it doesn't seem to be working, Clive suddenly holds Dren under the water, with Elsa begging him to stop. Eventually Dren starts breathing, revealing that she has gills. Elsa is amazed, and asks Clive how he knew she had them. When he doesn't answer, she asks him if he did know. After a pause, Clive says he did.
  • Hybrids Are a Crapshoot: The entire premise. Clive and Elsa create Dren from a hybrid of many different DNA strands, making her a humanoid with gills, wings, and a prehensile tail, but her human side makes her emotionally unpredictable. And that's before she undergoes a spontaneous sex change into a male form (foreshadowed by a similiar transformation in an earlier test subject), and rapes Elsa. At the end, having learned apparently nothing from the experience, a visibly pregnant Elsa agrees to be paid by her company to carry her pregnancy to term.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Said by Elsa word-for-word when Clive sees that she's cut off Dren's tail.
  • I'm a Man; I Can't Help It: While Dren may have been a bit pushy with Clive, it was certainly consensual, but with Elsa, male Dren nearly immediately decided he was going to have sex with her, and didn't care if she wanted to.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Elsa walks in on Clive and Dren having sex, and is appropriately disgusted and pissed off by it.
  • Interspecies Romance: Dren falls in love with Clive, and eventually has sex with him.
  • Ironic Echo: After it has been revealed that Elsa used some of her DNA to create Dren, she goes to explain to Dren that she is a part of her. That she is inside of her. At the climax of the film, just before Male Dren rapes her:
    Elsa: "What do you WANT!?"
    Male Dren: "Inside... You..."
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Elsa goes back and forth on this, at one point insisting that Dren is a "her" not an "it" but switches back to "it" later.
  • Lab Pet: The movie zig-zags with this trope, with the scientists constantly shifting between treating Dren as a test subject, a pet, an adoptive child, and a lover when he/she takes on an adult human appearance.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Alongside Blood-Splattered Innocents, Fred and Ginger's fight reduces them both to a puddle of guts.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Elsa is the only one to come out alive from the events of the last ten minutes. Dren is only killed when she becomes male.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: According to the infographic at the beginning of the movie, Ginger's body contains bird, horse, fish, kangaroo, lizard, snail and plant DNA.
  • Mood Whiplash: Dren can shift the tone of the scene at a moment's notice by switching between animal and human behavior. Either side can be utterly adorable or terrifying.
  • Motherly Scientist: Deconstructed by the triangle of Elsa, Clive, and Dren. Elsa begins as a classic example of the loving mad scientist treating her creation as her child, with Clive (more than a little disturbed by Elsa's actions) attempting to maintain objectivity and think of Dren as the dangerous and ethically questionable experiment she is. As the Elsa-Dren relationship devolves into My Beloved Smother, however, Clive slowly warms to their creation and Papa Wolf begins to intercede in Elsa's increasingly abusive treatment of Dren. This unfortunately only ends up making things worse by causing Clive to ignore Elsa's legitimate concerns about Dren's behavior, while fueling Dren's tangled affections toward him.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: When Clive and Elsa argue after Elsa cuts off Dren's stinger and Clive has sex with her, they both realize just how badly they've mistreated her.
  • Nature Is Not a Toy: Clive and Elsa created a pair of vermiforms named Fred and Ginger for the express purpose of having an easily available source of enzymes and other medical research. When the two specimens prove to be a success, they take their research of gene splicing a little further by introducing human DNA into their next creation, Dren, and take her away from the labs of the pharmaceutical company they work for to prevent them from being discovered. Because Clive and Elsa neglected to keep an eye on Fred and Ginger, they fail to realize Ginger became a male in the interim before the two specimens fight to the death. It's a trait Dren inherits, and after her transition into a male, Dren subsequently rapes and impregnates Elsa, and kills Clive and one of their bosses before Elsa kills Dren herself.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers make it seem like it's going to be a conventional horror movie about a genetically engineered monster that escapes from the lab and starts killing people. Granted, this is what happens eventually, but not until the last ten minutes or so, and before that it's actually a rather nuanced movie about Clive and Elsa struggling with the ethics of what they've done.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: When Dren escapes to the roof of the barn, she reveals that she's grown wings.
  • Not Quite Dead: Dren, who turns into her adult, male form in the process of coming Back from the Dead.
  • Parental Incest: Played with. Dren is treated as the lead scientists' child and was created using Elsa's DNA. After hitting puberty, the creature has sex with Clive, and upon becoming male, it forces itself on Elsa.
  • Perspective Reversal: Elsa and Clive end up switching roles as the film progresses. Initially, Elsa is the one who treats Dren as a living being, while Clive wishes they had killed her before she matured. After they get to the farm, Elsa becomes stricter and colder towards Dren, while Clive begins warming up to her and tries to help her through her emotional outbursts. Elsa then tries to sever all emotional connection with Dren after Dren kills her cat and threatens her.
  • Plot-Relevant Age-Up: The animal genes within Dren cause her to mature to adulthood in just a few weeks. But the cells showed to explain Dren's aging divide really, really quickly.
  • Rags to Riches: Elsa grew up sleeping on a mattress on the floor, and is now a wealthy celebrity scientist.
  • Rasputinian Death: By the end of the movie, Dren has been bludgeoned (twice), drowned, poisoned, and stabbed.
  • Rape as Drama: Dren raping Elsa during the climax of the movie.
  • Rule of Cool: From a purely biological standpoint, Dren's wings would not work very well in real life and don't serve any purpose in the film until the third act.
  • Science Is Bad: While the scientists are the protagonists, their arrogance leads them to create Dren, who devolves into a murderous beast by the end of the film. Further, the ethical questions that are brought up are not explored, just brought up and then ignored by the scientists.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Dren is named after Clive and Elsa's company, Nucleic Exchange Research and Development (NERD).
  • Sequel Hook: At the end of the film, Elsa is pregnant with Dren's baby, and the boss thanks Elsa for her readiness to carry on with "phase two" of the project. However, the creator has stated that he doesn't think there will be one, preferring to leave the film with a 'question'.
  • Shoot the Dog: Subverted when Clive 'drowns' Dren, only for this to cause her gills to activate.
  • Soft Glass: Dren at one point shatters a window and exits through it, suffering no visible damage.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The entire sound track is suspenseful, as would suit a horror film. The film doesn't become a horror movie until the third act.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Elsa does this to Dren in order to cut off her stinger, which serves two purposes — making her less dangerous and giving her a source of tissue for extracting enzymes.
  • Straw Hypocrite: Elsa spends the first half of the movie treating H-50 like a daughter, even naming her Dren. But when Dren kills the cat that she had previously been enamored with and threatens to do the same to her, Elsa straps Dren to an operating table, removes the clothes and makeup she'd given her, and cuts her stinger off while referring to her as H-50 again, citing "disproportionate species identification" — which she had been actively encouraging earlier on — as an explanation for Dren's "dangerous psychological developments".
  • Succubi and Incubi: While a creation by science via gene splicing, Dren actually fits the bill for a succubus and incubus pretty closely.
  • Tempting Fate: "What's the worst that could happen", Elsa? Turns out you could end up creating an ungodly, chimeric hybrid that tries to kill you, steals your man, turns male, kills him, his brother and your boss, and last but not least, rapes you and leaves you pregnant. And even after all that, Elsa's still at it.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Considering what it has been capable of, just staying and looking after whacking Dren with a rock once, is this, since Clive's death could have been avoided.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: When Elsa takes the cat away from Dren, the latter is heartbroken. When Elsa later relents and gives the cat back, Dren promptly impales the cat with a Psychotic Smirk and then threatens to do the same to Elsa while stealing the key to the barn. This prompts Elsa to stop treating Dren like a human.
  • The Voiceless: Dren. Except for two words. It also makes several screeching noises too.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Dren did not choose to be created by two renegade scientists, then kept in a barn as their secret experiment/love child/pet. After maturing, it becomes a dangerously unstable monster who has no qualms killing or raping its victims.