Today I saw a quite interesting Movie. It is called Splice. You might have heard about it. Enjoy a trailer if you didn’t.

The director of Splice was Vincenzo Natali, who also directed the weird mindfuck Cypher and the low-budget philosophic claustrophobic slasher masterpiece Cube which I enjoyed quite a bit. If you don’t know that last one I recommend it, just stay away from the sequels.

Back to Splice, it’s interesting because it is bascially almost 3 movies. It starts out as a typical sci-fi story where scientists create a monster in a crazy experiment and spend a good portion of the movie discovering all the weird abilities it has. Of course, it all feels quite uncanny so we know there is going to be a bloody payback at the end. That’s the second movie – it turns into a typical monster bloodbath at the end. To be honest, it’s not even a particularly good one and it’s certainly the low point of the movie.

But there is a surprising and pretty engaging psychological aspect to it – that’s the third movie. The mid-part of the movie is spent exploring the triangle relationship between the two scientists and the monster itself. It’s a fascinating interplay of pride, jealousy, seduction, fear, love, loneliness and revenge. At first it seems like the animal / human mixture of the monster will cause difficulties. With time it turns out that none of the three characters is free of animal instincts and each of them is in a way a monster on their own. An ingenious insight into human nature that is certainly on par with some of the thoughts expressed in Cube.

There is just something that bothers me when people treat this kind of stories as genuine warnings on the dangers of biotechnology. The movies fail in this regard because of two reasons.

First of all, the scientists and the science in those movies are pretty bad. Since the 30ies or so, America can’t seem to get over a prejudice against scientists. This prejudice manifests itself in the mad scientist cliché. In almost every Sci-Fi movie, the driving force behind the horror is a scientist. But if you look at it from a real scientific point of view, most of the actions of those scientists make no sense at all. For example, biologic research doesn’t depend so much on individual specimens but on experiments with a large amount of animals. It also involves having control groups. It means taking very precise, regular measurements otherwise all results are meaningless. Before you even begin with experiments, you need establish a theory and define what data you need to take in order to falsify or support that theory. None of this happens in most Sci-Fi movies and it certainly doesn’t happen in Splice. Right off the bat, the scientists get very emotional with the creature, give it a name etc. I’m not a scientist and I can already tell that this is bullshit and that this is not at all how real science works. In this regard, the movie fails as a representation of real scientific work.

The second problem is the biological one. Since the 80ies or so we have learned to associate the word “mutant” with “super powers”. Random experiments with genes somehow always seem to lead to extraordinary creatures which are much stronger than humans and have super-human special powers. Again, not really realistic. It depends on how the mutation was caused but a vast majority of serious mutants end up being much worse off than their non-mutated fellows. They end up dead, you see. From the few that survive having their genes messed around with, most of them will be crippled in one way or the other.

For example Dolly, the first cloned sheep died at the age of 6 while the normal life expectancy of sheep is 11. She had severe arthritis and a form of lung cancer. There are speculations that these problems were caused by the process of cloning. But even she was really lucky. She was the only of 277 clones that made it to adulthood. The other clones didn’t even make it that far. Genes are quite delicate and not well understood. This lack of understanding doesn’t unleashing the devil, it mostly leads simply to the death or at least health problems of the one that is being experimented with.

In that respect Splice doesn’t really work as a realistic warning either. What gene-experiments really might cause is to accidentally unleash some especially resilient virus or bacteria. And in some form it actually has happened already in some cases. But that doesn’t make good Hollywood movies, does it?

But unless you take it as a realistic representation of biology, Splice is quite good! It’s a solid, traditional monster Sci-Fi with a surprising booster of smart philosophy and psychology in-between. Plus, it has some quite uncanny visuals (remember the Chris Cunningham Playstation Ad?). I recommend!

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

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The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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