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“Splice” and “Double Take”: A contemporary Frankenstein and an editorial one

“Splice” and “Double Take”: A contemporary Frankenstein and an editorial one (photo)

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You can tell right off the bat that “Splice”‘s genetic engineer couple Elsa (Sarah Polley) and Clive (Adrien Brody) are a poor fit for button-down corporate science, Canadian horror movie style. No cool Cronenbergian remove for these two! They live together in a warehouse loft, drive a vintage Gremlin, wear t-shirts with iconoclastic slogans printed on them, and urge each other on to greatness with reminders like “Wired doesn’t interview losers.”

After their ongoing experiments to create new hybrid animal life (the first of which appears to be the successful union of a guinea pig and a gigantic human penis) reach fruition, Elsa and Clive (surely named after Elsa Lanchester and Colin Clive, the actors who played the 1935 “Bride of Frankenstein” and the doctor in the original 1931 film) prepare to do some DNA knitting further up the food chain.

Their corporate sponsors, however, are having none of it. The research and development stage of their work is on pause, the pair are informed, until the company makes back some of what they’ve spent at the product stage. Making the most of an opportunity to stick it to the Man and to the Man Upstairs, the two scientists splice human DNA to a cocktail of different animals’ DNA on the sly, impregnate a human egg with the result and wait to see what happens. They don’t wait long.

06022010_splice5.jpgAfter a bloody and very messy birth, Elsa and Clive find themselves the incredulous de facto parents of a two-legged, mostly digital creature that in infancy bears more than a passing resemblance to the cartoon drawing of Foot Foot from the cover of the Shaggs’ “Philosophy of the World.” Before long, the creature gains the name Dren, along with arms, fingers and a lithe body and birdlike face primarily contributed by actress Delphine Chanéac.

While nobody can quite figure out what Dren is, exactly, it turns out that Elsa, Clive and their romantic and professional partnership aren’t what they initially seemed, either. Both use Dren’s cloistered early development in and around Elsa’s derelict childhood home as a run-through for the more traditional parenthood we’re told Clive wants and Elsa fears. But the lost sleep, inattention to their jobs and absence of intimacy between the two that most new parents endure soon pale in comparison to the trials, temptations and confessions they face as Dren begins to spread her wings literally and metaphorically.

Director Vincenzo Natali (best know for 1997’s cult favorite “Cube”) and his co-writers struggle to keep to the storytelling high road as much as latter day horror conventions permit by doling out what feels like two movies’ worth of backstory whys and wherefores driving the couple to the egregious lapses in scientific ethics, marital trust and common sense that trip up their discovery and relationship.

06022010_splice4.jpgPortraying the member of the couple with the extra helping of issues, Sarah Polley struggles mightily to keep a realistic foothold on her character even while interpreting “Grey’s Anatomy”-grade dialogue like “I don’t even know who you are anymore!”, “Was this ever even about science?” and “I just wish things could go back the way they were.”

But the mish-mash of reasons and conflicts that drive Doctor Mom, Doctor Dad and baby Dren to a particularly gruesome sequence of late inning story events involving bondage, surgical maiming, semi-incest, rape and worse seem like mis-matched layers of complications peeled from different narrative onions.

While Dren’s CGI augmented manifestations are sometimes impressive to watch — particularly in a bizarre dance sequence the creature shares with Clive — and Chanéac attacks her on-set responsibility for creating artificial life with personality and energy to spare, Dren’s high cheek bones, big-eyed gaze, and smiling rictus evoke a kind of anti-Amelie more than something wholly original or entirely fascinating.

06022010_splice7.jpgThe only passport that would guarantee an audience safe passage through the film’s brightly lit and maddeningly talky middle third would be for us on our side of the screen to have the same fascination with Dren that her onscreen parents do, and yet that allure, repulsive or otherwise, just isn’t there.

Ultimately, what sinks “Splice” is a complete absence of the playfully mordant myth-making that distinguishes executive producer Guillermo del Toro’s own films. Yes the idea of both scientific advancement and couplehood falling prey to the same human foibles is an interesting one. But does it have to be so single-mindedly joyless ?

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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