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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...

Not to be confused with the Canadian animated series Spliced.


  • Abusive Parents: Elsa and Clive are terrible parents.
  • 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?"
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Probably a result of her life cycle: mate with a male, kill him, turn male yourself, impregnate a female; Electra and Oedipus in one!.
    • It's worth mentioning that Fred and Ginger are also very phallic.
    • Possibly unintentional, but stripped of its sci-fi elements, Dren's story is a pretty close match to what Real Life pet chimpanzees often go through: pampered like human babies as infants, then locked up and treated more like animals as their strength increases, and eventually driven by frustration and cross-species sexual confusion to violent outbursts that get them put down.
  • 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.
  • Dysfunctional Family: Would be darkly funny to watch if it wasn't so simultaneously sad and disgusting.
  • 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.
    • Also happens to Fred and Ginger after the latter changes sex, although "face" is an odd description for creatures that don't really have one.
  • 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: See Gender Bender. Also, Dren's drawings of Clive before they have sex lead to drawings on Elsa before, well, see Gender Bender.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • Elsa's secret reason for making Dren, as well as her later abusive, controlling nature, comes from her abusive mother.
    • It could be said that Dren has one of these as well.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Male Dren vs. the scientists.
  • Fun with Acronyms: 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: Dren, though it's more accurate to call her a transhuman.
  • Healing Factor: Dren seems to have one of these, as she is capable of regrowing her stinger and surviving getting speared through the chest with a tree branch. Bashing her/his brains in seems to do the trick, however.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: We see Dren tilting her head when she walks in on Clive and Elsa having sex.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: Dren starts displaying increasingly erratic and violent behavior as her adolescence kicks in.
  • Hot Scientist: Elsa, and Clive depending on who you go for.
  • "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.
  • Idealized Sex:
    • Averted with Elsa and Clive having a rather undramatic quickie on the couch. Rather than adhering to The Modest Orgasm trope, Elsa (and Clive) climaxes with audible but restrained gasps and groans to avoid waking up Dren who is asleep in the adjoining room. It doesn't work.
    • Played straight between Clive and Dren
  • 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:
    • Apparently Clive decides to screw Dren for reasons known only to himself. Perhaps since she had some of his girlfriends features and is mostly human he figured she was better than a cold shower and waiting an hour for his girl to come home. Or something...
    • Also, note how 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 squicked out and pissed off by it.
  • Inter Species Romance: Dren falls in love with Clive, and eventually has sex with him.
  • Ironic Echo:
  • "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.
  • Kick the Dog: Many examples from the scientists can be seen as Shoot the Dog moment, but when Dren is given back her cat... well...
  • 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.
  • LEGO Genetics: Though at least they don't add further features later on.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Alongside Blood-Splattered Innocents, this was the result of Fred and Ginger's fight.
  • Mad Scientist: Elsa and, to a lesser extent, Clive, although he is more reluctant about creating Dren.
  • Meaningful Name: Fred & Ginger, Clive and Elsa.
  • 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.
  • Mood Whiplash: Due to the Uncanny Valley, 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.
    • A slighty slower but no less unsettling u-turn is seen in the changing relationship between Elsa and Dren
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Like you wouldn't believe.
  • My Beloved Smother:
    • The relationship between Elsa and Dren eventually devolves into this. It doesn't help that Elsa used her DNA to make Dren.
    • Elsa had to deal with this with her own mother.
    • Clive and Elsa's boss is an older woman. At the end of the film, she clears up her kids' mess (i.e. organizes a cover up), and puts a consoling hand on Elsa's shoulder. One expects that she will be keeping a closer eye on the kids in future ...
  • 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 veriforms 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: Actually somewhat of a positive case: 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.
  • Not Quite Dead:
    • Dren, who turns into her adult, male form in the process of coming Back from the Dead.
    • Not Quite Dead occurs multiple times throughout the film, generally foreshadowing a new change in Dren.
  • Our Demons Are Different: While not a demon Dren is resembling the classical succubus and even going so far as to changing gender.
  • Parental Incest: Dren with both of her/his parents.
  • Parently Scientist: Deconstructed hard 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.
  • 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 more strict and cold 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.
  • Precision F-Strike: Swearing is fairly sparse in this film, so when one of the characters does swear it really underlines just how upset they are.
  • 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, this is the vibe one gets after the scientists' arrogance (among other things) leads them to create Dren, who does indeed murder her creator, or at least one of them. Further, the ethical questions that are brought up are not explored, just brought up and then ignored by the scientists.
    • Also an aversion, given that nearly everything that goes bad is portrayed as being a matter of human failure.
  • 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: Unintentional; the entire sound track is suspenseful, as would suit a horror film. The film doesn't become a horror movie until the third act.
  • Spiritual Successor: To The Fly (1986), another genetic Body Horror film centered around sex and the dysfunctional family
  • 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.
    • Elsa also does it to dehumanize Dren.
  • 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 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".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The main characters. Full stop. You really have to wonder if making all these weird Frankenstein-esque monsters is actually necessary to get the enzyme or if the enzyme is even really worth it in the first place.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future:
    • It is implied with the technology available to the team at N.E.R.D, (such as artificial uteruses that can grow clones without surrogate mothers), far more advanced than anything we have now, and the common practice of hybridization that this film takes place sometime in the near future rather than present day proper.
    • It should be noted that several monitors clearly show the year as being 2009. They may just be ignoring the current state of science for the sake of plot.
  • The Voiceless: Dren. Except for two words. It also makes several screeching noises too.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: "Not it. Her."
  • Wing Pull: When Dren escapes to the roof of the barn, she reveals that she's grown wings.


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