Director says Splice is the new Frankenstein

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Dec 14, 2012, 4:09 PM EST

The sci-fi movie Splice, starring Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley, is getting a lot of online buzz based on its initial trailer, and director Vincenzo Natali told reporters that the creature feature is a modern-day Frankenstein.

"In being a 21st-century Frankenstein film, I felt that we had to mutate that story and take it somewhere totally new," the Canadian filmmaker said in a group interview at WonderCon in San Francisco over the weekend. "And while Frankenstein is very much a father/son story, this is a mother/daughter story. And Sarah's character, Elsa, is very much the protagonist. And ultimately this becomes a love triangle. A bizarre love triangle. So while it starts in very familiar terrain, it kind of goes somewhere a little unexpected, ultimately."

Splice stars Brody (Predators) and Polley (Dawn of the Dead) as two scientists who marry human and animal DNA to create a new creature, with disastrous results. Guillermo del Toro produced. Natali is the filmmaker best known among sci-fi fans for Cube.

Natali described the film this way: "This is a film about genetic splicing, and ... we should be cautious with this technology, but I am in no way opposed to genetic splicing and perhaps even splicing human DNA. I think we're destined to go down that road anyway, so we might as well embrace it. And Splice is about what do you do with that technology."

He added: "It's a creature film spliced with a relationship story." In a film with only a few characters, Natali felt that making the "monster" believable was really important.

"If at any way, at any time, you don't believe Dren, which is the name of the creature, exists, the film is a failure," he said. "And so that really was our number-one goal. In a way, maybe to up the ante a little bit. Because as brilliant as Alien is, as seminal as that film is, the creature definitely remains in the shadows. Its enigma is probably what makes it so fascinating. But Dren, in our film, is really just another character. In fact, in what is basically a chamber piece, ... there is Clive and Elsa, and there is Dren. And there are two other speaking parts, and that's it. So Dren, while she is hopefully an amazing visual creation, she's also very much a character that I hope people fall in love with. And in that way, maybe a bit of a mutation from the [H.R.] Giger alien that we know. Because she truly is a character."

So what is Dren exactly? The trailer gives us a peek. "She's a little bit of everything," Natali said. "In the film, she's a hybrid organism. In the making of the film, she was a hybrid of many different processes."

The character will be achieved in part with practical effects, not computer effect, the director said. "Even if I had the money to do a fully CG Dren for the whole film, I wouldn't have done that," he said, adding: "The film is very much a relationship story, and I needed real actors. I think both Sarah and Adrien both give great performances because they're responding to a real actor, namely Delphine Chaneac, who plays the creature in her adult form.

"As brilliant as Avatar is, I still don't think you can replicate the subtlety of that kind of performance with a fully digital character," Natali added, referring to Aliens director James Cameron's megahit. "I always tried to keep it real. And I also think that the best digital effects have a physical basis to them. So even when Dren is digital, and she is at certain points in the film, we would always have a real physical model. We would always have something physical on the set for the effects artist to work with."

Splice will be released in theaters on June 4.

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