Wednesday, 11 August 2010


Produced by Guillermo del Toro, directed by the guy who did Cube, this B-Movie monster horror is a bit deeper than others, but should it even exist?

I've got a lot of time for movies like this, a high-concept, no bullshit horror film that plays out slowly and dramatically until a final burst at the end. Unfortunately, this movie feels like it should be so much more than what it has become.

This is mainly due to the director - the shots often feel standard and uninspiring yet there are odd moments where some glimmer of creativity comes through. You only have to look at what he's done since Cube to get a feeling that this is his last big shot, and it is in something that his art department background can justify, the monster horror theme.

But what makes this different, and kudos to Natali for co-writing the thing, is that you're never sure who the real monster is. The set-up is that Brody and Polley (who I don't think I've seen since Dawn of the Dead) are doctors playing with genetics to create animal medicines etc., but when they want to combine human DNA for medicines for us lot, they are quickly turned down. So what else to do but do it themselves? I think you can get the rest of it.

The problem is Adrien Brody just can't really hold a film together, his passiveness in The Pianist was either great acting or non-acting and this proves the latter. Polley I feel sorry for, she always seems to be left behind and doesn't seem to ever age, her acting is mediocre at the best of times and she's a strange choice for the role. It's really Delphine Chaneac as the creature Dren that shines through. Her animal-like behaviour and visual confusion is impressive, the brilliant CG and make-up helps, but Chaneac really makes Dren a complete character.

So what of the 'monster' Dren? From the minute she's born, she's an object of disgust so initially we seem to side with the idea of killing it. However, she starts growing at an alarming pace (not evolving - species evolve not individuals) and soon that disgusting thing with a tail is a little girl. The fact that she's mute and relatively sweet makes it harder and harder to consider her a threat as she turns more and more human. The plot moves nicely so that you're never at ease when she's around, there's a nasty streak in Dren and she tends to lash out with ferocity.

You start to realise that this all one big metaphor for how Polley's character Elsa wants to not let Dren down like her mother did her and soon, after a medical incident in a barn screaming metaphors (Freud would enjoy this film), you start to sympathise more and more with Dren. Is she being kept alive for the sake of Elsa? Is she actually just as bad a mother as her own? It's only about two thirds through the film that things start getting a bit weird, Brody's character Clive soon breaks loose from being the audience's grounding force to start messing with things he shouldn't - and for what reason I have no idea. Then when all hell breaks loose and Dren develops again, it gets really incestuous to the point of sickening. Dren's suddenly changed completely (in more ways that one) and has become a true monster. Was this from the result of her 'upbringing'? Or was this because of her genetics? See what they've done here? Because, to be honest, Dren goes through a lot in a short space of time that would mess anyone up, let alone a creature that doesn't know if it's even human.

So what's wrong with this picture? Firstly, the acting is pretty atrocious from everyone concerned, there's not enough tension as I would have liked there to have been and why the characters are doing what they are doing isn't explained fully enough, or there's not enough reference to any subtext to justify it. The effects, CG, make-up and everything in creating Dren is pretty damn good and looks authentic and it's the disturbing plot that wins it over from being some weird farce.

Overall, this is a great original story that takes a few chances that pay off. But ultimately, there's not enough method in the madness and it all seemed to happen so quickly that we couldn't get close enough to Dren to fully engage with the character. I enjoyed the idea, the story and the film itself but I was left feeling disappointed.

And also Brody's nose kept drawing my attention away.

Great film to kill some time and get you thinking about the morals of messing about with God's work, but ultimately more forgettable than it should have been.

Rating: 7/10

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