Splice: The Real Inspiration For The Film (& What It Got Right) – Screen Rant

Vincenzo Natali discussed the real life experiment that inspired his sci-fi horror movie, Splice, which translated with eerie accuracy to the screen.

Vincenzo Natali, the director of the 2009 sci-fi horror movie,Splice, took inspiration for his creature, Dren, and the film's overarching plot from a real science experiment that's almost as strange as the film.

Splice stars Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, and Delphine Chanac and focuses around the commentary of scientific discovery, inter-species experimentation, and the pitfalls of ingenuity when both are pushed too far. Horror master Guillermo Del Toro served as a producer of the film alongside Joel Silver and Don Murphy; in some ways, the themes ofSpliceecho some of what Del Toro would later go on to explore in his Academy Award winning 2017 movie,The Shape of Water. Natali, a Canadian-American filmmaker, didn't enter into the horror genre withSplice; he is also notable for creating theCubefranchise, which combined elements of science fiction and mathematics with a concept that theSawfranchise would go on to adapt in its own way.

Related: Splice Is An Underrated Sci-Fi Horror Movie

Science fiction and horror go hand-in-hand, and have been a well-matched pair since Ridley Scott's 1979 film,Alien, and even before with movies in the 1950s likeThe Thing From Another World, which was re-created by John Carpenter as simplyThe Thing.In modern years, science fiction and horror have combined in shows likeBlack Mirror, which showcases how technology will be humanity's downfall through various advancements in technology, some of which already exists in 2020. Natali's film is certainly a cautionary tale, as many horror movies are, but is made even more terrifying by the fact that its source material was based in reality.

Dren (Chanac) is the name of the animal/human hybrid creature created by genetic engineers Clive (Brody) and Elsa (Polley); while their intention is to simply discard the hybrid creaturewhich is commonly done in scientific experimentsthey become attached to the creature. Elsa, in particular, starts to foster an almost maternal fondness for Dren, treating her like a surrogate child of sorts. Clive ends up developing a sexual relationship with the adult Dren when she is fully matured. In a particularly disturbing sequence of the film, Dren is revealed to be able to change its sex from female to male and sexually assaultsand impregnatesElsa.

While this is an alarming chain of events, Natali sought to explore the pitfalls of scientific discovery when it goes too far; if Clive and Elsa had stuck with their original plan to terminate, the conflict of the movie would have easily been avoided. However, the morality of killing a living being came into play and caused them to second-guess their choices even though they were already conducting their experiments without permission. In an interview with BlackBook, Natali discusses how the emotional emphasis forSplicewas always meant to be on the creature, who is truly just a victim of human ingenuity. Said Natali, "We were always going to be suspect and dubious of the humans and, in fact, in the making of this creature, we discover the monster lurking within the humans". It's a thought process that has been explored since the early days of horror literature with Mary Shelley'sFrankenstein.

The actual experiment that Natali drew on for Dren was known as the Vacanti mouse experiment. The Vacanti mouse experiment was conducted by Charles A. Vacanti circa 1996 at the Massachusetts General Hospital Anesthesiology Department in conjunction with Harvard Medical School. Vacanti created an "earmouse", which was a naked mouse that appeared to have a human ear growing out of its body. It was not an actual human ear, but rather an ear-shaped disc that was grown using implanted bovine cells to experiment with tissue and cartilage regeneration. The experiment caused controversy after a photo of the mouse circulated, and prompted protests about genetic experimentation, specifically those that would cross human genetic material with animal DNA.

The movie correctly invokes feelings that Natali experienced when looking at the picture. Any experiments done on living test subjects can be unpredictable. While Dren is a more extreme example of a hybrid creature that grows to full development, every living being has its own agency and depends somewhat on the benevolence of those who brought it into the world. Natali appreciated the vulnerability of the mouse in the picture, and decided it was a good starting point forSpliceand its commentary on the often murky relationship betweentest subjects in science experimentsand their creators.

Next: Splice: Creature Dren's Origin Explained

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Jack Wilhelmi is the horror features editor at Screen Rant, and has been with the site since 2019. He is a lifelong fan of the horror genre, and loves any excuse to discuss genre-related topics, since none of his friends dare challenge him in horror trivia. He has been published on the independent horror blog Morbidly Beautiful, and has covered major genre film festivals such as Cinepocalypse in Chicago. He has also served as a judge for the Ax Wound Film Festival. In his free time, he is a devoted dog dad to a high-spirited rescue pup named Peter Quill and enjoys volunteering with various animal rescue organizations. Jack likes to travel and explore dark tourism-related and other various haunted locations. He enjoys studying psychology, the paranormal, and will watch literally any schlocky B-movie on the planet for a laugh.

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Splice: The Real Inspiration For The Film (& What It Got Right) - Screen Rant

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