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The wonder of Splice is that it takes a very, very old story and makes it feel shiny and new again. In the hopes of bioengineering cures for modern ailments, Clive and Elsa, a pair of geneticists, (Adrian Brody and Sarah Polley) create an artificial life form by splicing together human and artificial DNA. Instantly, hearing the mad-science-gone-wrong plot, you wonder: Is this Frankenstein? Is it The Island of Doctor Moreau? Godzilla? The answer to all those questions is no: By making Clive and Elsa lovers in a committed relationship, Splice instead becomes a family drama that’s alive with gory horror movie thrills.

Splice starts out well, introducing us to Elsa and Clive as a pair of loving, sexy nerds chafing at the constraints of a corporation that doesn’t understand that science can be art, too. Polley and Brody are much more believable scientists than, say, Denise Richardson’s nuclear physicist in The World Is Not Enough; they listen to techno and death metal and jazz, they wear fashionable clothing that fits, and they seem to enjoy the challenge of creating fleshy worm-creatures solely for the freaky love of science. When they create an armless monster they later name Dren (“nerd” backwards, yes, but also reminiscent of an earlier fight between the scientists about whether or not to have children, too), they learn that parenting is maybe not all it’s cracked up to be.

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The effects in Splice are just about perfect. The fleshy creatures are suitably repellant, but they have weight and they react like biological creatures. They shiver and recoil at attacks, and they evoke sympathy in the viewer—they’re just dumb animals, after all. People expecting a jump-in-your-seat-fest will probably be disappointed at the lack of shocks, but Splice’s story—which starts out as a creature-feature, becomes tinged with the Shakespearean as things move along, and then crescendo into shrieking Greek tragedy before the end—should get a reaction out of just about everyone. It’s a creepy, repulsive monster movie with heart; you sure don’t see that every day.

Splice is all through playing at SIFF, but it opens in wide release on Friday. You should go see it.