Now Cube was a lot of things, back in 1997: smart, creepy, fun and inventive. Clearly, it was a huge influence on Saw and its rather more extreme ilk. It gave a formative generation of SF fans something more stirring than dreary latter-day Star Trek spin-offs to root for. All that, and we got writer/director Vincenzo Natali into the bargain. But let's be perfectly frank. Cube was not... how shall I put this? Cube was not a terribly sophisticated film. Its charming successor, the criminally unloved Cypher, comes off better in that respect, though to be blunt, beyond its slick looks and Lucy Liu, it didn't truly have much going on under the bonnet either. And the less said about Nothing, a concept and little else besides, the better.
Well, he's had seven years to mull over his next move, and Splice sure sounded like it could be all that Natali devotees had hoped for. With an award-winning cast, a plot synopsis positively laden with potential - not to mention cultural currency - better and cheaper effects technology, Splice could have been this year's surprise cult smash.
Splice has its moments, I do not deny, but what little beauty Natali's damp squib of a return to cinema can lay claim to is only ever skin deep. Dren is, in and of herself, a brilliant creation. A cleverly conceived and carefully crafted concept brought to life by a combination of impressive Giger-esque CG and prosthetics, and Delphine Chanéac, who dances as the disarmingly alluring young woman Dren becomes (that is when she's not killing cats). Chanéac is superb - she put me in mind of the creepy nurses from Silent Hill, and she's singularly the best thing in Splice.
Which is something of a surprise, given the presence of award-winning luminaries Adrian Brody and Sarah Polley. Sadly, there's an absolute lack of chemistry between them. I'll grant that they bring a certain sense of gravitas to the increasingly outrageous proceedings, and maybe that would have been a good thing if Splice had been half so profound as it wishes it were, but it's not: it's too self-serious, in fact, for its own good. That just doesn't play when you're making a movie that culminates in an encounter that can only hope to recall Species. I mean... Species. You can do better, Vincenzo Natali.