Tying in with their big Sundance Film Festival premiere this past weekend, the producers of the sci-fi chiller SPLICE shared an exclusive creature shot (seen below the jump) with FANGORIA, showing the lab-spawned female being Dren (Delphine Chaneac) on the run. We also spoke with director/co-writer Vincenzo Natali, who gave us an update on the film’s U.S. release status, which will get a boost from its Park City debut.
“Well, it’s never a bad thing to be at Sundance; it’s one of the great festivals and kind of the perfect way to introduce SPLICE to North America after [Spain’s] Sitges,” Natali, the acclaimed Canadian director of CUBE, NOWHERE and CYPHER, tells us. “It’s the right crowd, plus we have [SPLICE stars] Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley [attending], who are Sundance darlings—and we’ve got a creature, which most films at Sundance are lacking,” he laughs.
For those unfamiliar with the plot, “SPLICE is about two young geneticists who are creating hybrid animals by splicing DNA from different species, but they want to go for the gold; they want to use human DNA in their experiment,” Natali explains. “And when their corporate handlers tell them that’s not possible, they covertly add a little spice to the witch’s brew and end up with something they didn’t expect.”
Unexpected too has been SPLICE’s delay in getting into theaters. Financially strapped distributor Senator International abandoned the movie’s original September 2009 release plans, and the film subsequently went up for sale. “Some births are difficult, and SPLICE has definitely had a difficult birth, probably because it’s a very challenging movie in every respect,” says Natali, who co-wrote the film with Antoinette Terry Bryant and THEY WAIT’s Doug Taylor. “SPLICE pushes the technology, it pushed the limits of our budget in terms of what we put on the screen, and then creatively it pushes buttons that scare people. It’s a movie that really goes to places that most horror films, certainly creature films, are afraid to tread, and that has made it a very delicate beast when it comes to presenting it to the marketplace. We’ve had to handle it very gently, but I think the wait has been worth it.”
Natali hopes that SPLICE’s festival exposure will help ongoing negotiations with potential distributors. The film will be screening four times at Sundance (see the fest’s official website for more details). “It’s all in the works right now, actually,” he says. “I believe Sundance might seal the deal, but we’re talking to a bunch of people and I am sure that SPLICE will be hitting screens at some point in the first half of this year.”
After SPLICE finds its audience, Natali hopes to be in production on HIGH RISE, his adaptation of the 1975 novel by CRASH author J.G. Ballard. The slightly futuristic tale is set in a 40-story apartment tower whose affluent tenants begin to violently turn on each other. HIGH RISE’s production outfit, The Recorded Picture Company, has previously delivered such eclectic fare as TIDELAND, NAKED LUNCH, THE DREAMERS, FRANKLYN and THE SHOUT, as well as the film version of CRASH.
“It’s a project on the go, but we’re not at the stage yet where we’re casting it,” Natali says. “Like SPLICE, it’s something that’s very near and dear to me and that I’ve been working on for a long time. HIGH RISE is really an outrageous, cool, dystopian science fiction yarn. Very much in keeping with Ballard’s other books. It almost forms a trilogy with CRASH, which was adapted by Cronenberg, and another book called CONCRETE ISLAND; they were all written around the same time.
“It’s actually a very timely book even though it was written over 30 years ago, because the Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest building/condominium, just opened, and that’s what HIGH RISE is about,” the director continues. “It’s set in an enormous condominium, almost like a vertical city, which is inhabited by very well-to-do people in a very isolated environment. And it’s about how, in a hermetic setting, the society gradually crumbles from within. It’s a really fascinating psychological experiment and a great opportunity for any filmmaker, because to design the high rise is to really design a whole world.”
The basic outline of HIGH RISE echoes the normal-folks-going-bonkers subgenre exemplified by such films as Cronenberg’s 1976 feature SHIVERS/THEY CAME FROM WITHIN and both versions of THE CRAZIES. “I don’t know this for a fact, but I wouldn’t be surprised if David Cronenberg had been influenced by HIGH RISE when he wrote SHIVERS,” Natali says. “They would’ve been around the same time, and if he wasn’t, he was certainly influenced by that trend. At that time in the early ’70s, there were a lot of condominiums and apartment buildings being built; it was kind of a new social and architectural phenomenon. In fact, I grew up in one of those buildings, so [the movie will be] a little autobiographical. It’s very much like those kinds of stories, except that there’s no parasite, there’s no biological agent that causes people to go crazy. It really comes from within, from the fabric of the society. And that’s actually what makes it exciting. But it’s also what makes it challenging to write, because I want this kind of document of a civilization crumbling to be as realistic as possible. A lot of the work that’s been done in the writing of the script has been to make the process of that social deconstruction as realistic as possible.”