Splice's secret influences: Happy Days, Frankenstein and slug mating habitsS

If you caught Splice this weekend, you might have a few questions about the movie's shocking twists. Director Vincent Natali broke down a few questions we had and explained tributes to other films - just don't compare it to Species.

Oh, and it goes without saying: If you haven't seen Splice, there will be huge genetically modified spoilers in this post.

Beautiful Slug Sex:

Splice's secret influences: Happy Days, Frankenstein and slug mating habitsS

Did any real science influence Splice?

We really took a lot of our design inspiration from real living organisms. For instance, with Ginger and Fred, the two sluggy-type creatures. Their mating ritual or their greeting at the beginning of the film, where they grow these large tongue-like appendages, it was taken from the way slugs really do have sex. It's fantastic. Slugs, you may know, they are hermaphrodites, and they are ugly little creatures. But when they have sex these beautiful flower-like things bloom from the top of their heads and entwine. It's the most beautiful dance you've ever seen. So that was what provided inspiration for that scene [with Fred and Ginger].

Here's a clip of the scene he's mentioning:



Frankenstein's Clive And Elsa

Splice's secret influences: Happy Days, Frankenstein and slug mating habitsS

Is this the modern day Frankenstein?

Clive and Elsa are named after Colin Clive and Elsa Lancaster from the original James Whale Frankenstein films. I also knew I'd be pushing the boundaries, hopefully beyond what you've seen in that movie.

I saw Clive and Elsa as being postmodern scientists. They really are doing a form of collage, where they take elements from different species and they put them together. But in the logic of our science there's a dialectic between these different genes, that when they come together they produce something different than what their ancestors were. And I think the movie is a similar kind of beast.

Splice's secret influences: Happy Days, Frankenstein and slug mating habitsS

Dren and Actor Delphine Chanéac Inspired Each Other

Where did Dren come from, was she always meant to be a woman?

It [Dren] was always going to be a girl. Dren is the child of many parents and she did change but the fundamentals of what she was always the same. She was always going to be, in my mind, a 21st century genetically engineered angel. She was going to get wings. Her evolution was always going to follow a kind of ugly ducking curve. Where she starts as something that only a mother could love and then turns into this beautiful beast that's perhaps a step up on the evolutionary ladder. So those principles were always in place. And our prime directive as designers was to design something that feels real. That was really the main thing.

Then I would say at the end of the day I would say the most influential component was Delphine Chanéac, the actor who plays Dren. She really has a special quality that I think informed all the previous stages. To some degree we reverse-engineered a lot of the earlier design work to suit Delphine. She became our end point and we worked backwards from there.

Dr. Frankenstein And The Monster With A Mother/Daughter Twist

Splice's secret influences: Happy Days, Frankenstein and slug mating habitsS

But Splice is updating the Frankenstein influence by making it a mother and daughter story, right?

There is some similarity. The starting point is the same for sure. Then our film becomes a love triangle, so it becomes a different animal. And while Frankenstein is definitely a father/son story this is a mother/daughter story. Which makes sense: we're talking about the creation myth, it's going to be female-centric. And I think that's sort of unexplored territory. It's interesting to delve into Elsa's psychological issues with becoming a mother, because she has a history. Her family has a history which makes her uncomfortable with the idea of having a natural child. And of course when she creates a child, somewhat unexpectedly, those same issues come into play. At the end of the day, I think that our movie is really about discovering the monster in the people, and the humanity. And where I think we stray from a lot of Frankenstein type stories is, our monster doesn't go on the lose and wreak havoc on the outside world. In fact the opposite happens, the scientists really turn their creature into a hostage. They cage it. And it's about how the creator becomes a catalyst for their own emerging demons [the humans].

Additional Films

Splice's secret influences: Happy Days, Frankenstein and slug mating habitsS

Where else did you pull references from?

There's a François Truffaut film that I very consciously looked at and referenced in the film called L'Enfant Sauvage, The Wild Child.

I think there's a little bit of E.T. in there. There's probably a little Eraserhead in there. All kinds of things. And people point things out to me that I can't deny are there but that I didn't intend to put in there. It's just being a child of pop culture and horror films, and that sort of thing in general. Somehow it just steeped into my subconscious by osmosis.

Happy Days

Subconscious osmosis?

Like Dren for instance. I read that there's a Happy Days episode where Joanie calls Potsie a Dren because he's like a nerd, only better, or something. And I thought, "Have I seen that episode?" Somewhere deep in my subconscious did I remember that and put it in the movie with out realizing it?" That's entirely possible.

Spoilers

It's Not Species

Splice's secret influences: Happy Days, Frankenstein and slug mating habitsS

In the finale, there are two sex scenes, and they are both very different. Was it always your plan to include two scenes like that, and can you elaborate on why it's important that they were so different for the audience?

Yes, yes it was always in the script. I'll tell you this, if those scenes hadn't been in the film, I wouldn't have made it. I think at the end of the day, the prime directive of any life form is to reproduce. If you make something like Dren you're going to have to deal with the issue of sex eventually. Especially when it becomes this sort of hermetic drama where parents and children have some uncomfortable proximity and feelings for each other. The two sex scenes are entirely defined on the gender of the participants.

A lot of people are going to want to know why Clive had sex with Dren? Why would the father have sex with the daughter, why?

For exactly the reasons I stated. I didn't look at it as an incestuous thing, as probably most people see it. Because plays a paternal role but he's not the genetic father of Dren. But at the end of the day I think what's really fascinating about this stuff is the whole notion of hybrid organisms it's been with us for thousands of years. Just the thought that perhaps those mythical notions are implanted within us so that one day we would create them for real is a really fascinating notion. And with that is the whole idea of falling in love with something that is not entirely human. Whether it's a mermaid or an angel or whatever. This is an idea that crosses all cultural boundaries and has been around for really a long time.

And it's the one area of this kind of story that I think hasn't been dealt with in a mature way. You can look at Species and say there's sex in that movie, but come on - it's sex with a Canadian supermodel, it's not a creature. And it's a very superficial kind of thing. Whereas our movie much more emotional and much more about the relationship between creator and creation. And that sort of sequence is really informed by natural mythology.