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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Horror of horrors: Did the wrong kind of people like 'Splice'?

Sarah_polley Judging from the drubbing that "Splice" took at the box office over the weekend, with the film making a woeful $7.3 million, it's pretty obvious that the kiss of death for a horror film is to get a huge sheaf of valentines from the nation's movie critics.

Rank and file moviegoers loathed the film, hating it so much that it earned a lowly D from CinemaScore, which compiles the reaction from the regular folks who see films on their opening night of release. 

But the critics adored the picture. In fact, "Splice" earned a 74 fresh grade from Rotten Tomatoes, which is the same grade that critics gave "Iron Man 2," arguably the best-reviewed major release of the summer. Everywhere I looked, the film was getting Big Love from a top critic, whether it was Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum, the Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern, the Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert or the Philadelphia Inquirer's Carrie Rickey, not to mention glowing reviews from NPR, Salon.com, Time magazine and my paper.

The Detroit News' Tom Long called the film "daring, disturbing and deliciously twisted," while the N.Y. Times' A.O.Scott, reviewing it for At the Movies, said it was "disarmingly insightful about the psychology of its characters."

Being disarmingly insightful is all well and good, but having seen the film myself, I can tell you why most moviegoers hated the movie. Its stars, Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody, play a pair of bio-engineers who decide that's it's a perfectly good idea to clone a new organism out of the DNA from different animals, even though ANYONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD KNOW THAT THIS IS A LAME-BRAINED IDEA THAT IS SURE TO SPELL DISASTER.

Of course, that's the DNA of horror movies -- people are always involved in some hare-brained scheme that's going to cause them a world of hurt. But Brody and Polley's characters are so singularly unlikable that its no surprise that most audiences were unwilling to root for them after they got in over their heads. Critics, of course, rarely worry about whether the audience has any emotional affinity for the lead characters in a story. They're much more interested in ideas, filmmaking style and the general intellectual frisson of it all.

The New York Times' Manohla Dargis gave away the game in her review, where she dropped the name of one cerebral filmmaker after another, comparing "Splice" to David Cronenberg's "The Fly," seeing affinities to the work of David Lynch and Ridley Scott's "Alien" and spotting allusions to James Whale's "Bride of Frankenstein." For Dargis, it was a delight to see an intelligent film that "explores chewy issues like bioethics, abortion, corporate-sponsored science, commitment problems between lovers and even Freudian-worthy family dynamics." 

But for real moviegoers, all those chewy issues didn't amount to a hill of beans when it turned out that you were trapped in a movie with two nutty bioethicists who seemed far more clueless than the guys who sold you the bag of popcorn that you brought into the theater.  

Photo: Sarah Polley, left, and Adrien Brody in a scene from "Splice." Credit: Warner Bros.

 

 
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So this article based their whole premise on this Cinemascore thing? I've never heard of it. You get a much better idea of what people actually think by going to Twitter Search (type in Splice) and seeing the real-time reaction of people. Or go to facebook and type in Splice and and see real-time postings of what people thought. I've been doing those things because I was interested in what the reaction would be to this film and they were split right down the middle - its a classic polarized reaction. So to the people reading this article don't base everything on this Cinemascore thing that the whole premise of the article is based on, do some of the things I suggested - but sshhhh its a secret way to find out what people are actually saying. And also why were the Friday numbers so low? Who's fault is that?

I just saw the movie last night, and I have to say, I am also not surprised at the "D" rating from CinemaScore. It was a skillfully made movie, and I think the script did a pretty good job of showing why these two scientists would do such a horrible thing. But the film was just creepy and uncomfortable to watch, and I don't mean that in a good way.

I won't give away all the plot points, but suffice to say, there are many parts of the movie that are just unpleasant. There is one scene in particular that is almost laughable and certainly not something that most humans would want to watch.

I suppose there are many financially successful horror movies that have brutal scenes of torture and other mayhem, but this whole movie just made me queasy. I'm sure most other people outside the hardcore sci-fi or horror crowd had a similar reaction.

I actually have to applaud Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley for making pretty despicable characters as sympathetic as they are, but that doesn't change the fact that they do pretty despicable things.

There is probably a place for this movie in the marketplace, but why did the studio think that it could possibly sustain a wide release?

This column is so right. Critics see a zillion films a year. They care more about edgy, far out ideas than relatable, likable characters. But audiences don't want to sit through two hours with characters they don't like or care about, just because the film throws in some film school talking point.

Patrick I know you need to write SOMETHING every now and then but please make sense.

The Cinemascore that you quote is from your BFF Nikki and is not accurate. But hey, Sex and the City got a B Cinemascore. So I guess it matters right?!

People who love movies love the film.

I disagree completely. I really cared for their characters. I found them to be refreshingly intelligent and relatable. In fact, I had the total opposite reaction- their actions were made to seem plausible, even understandable- an enormous problem with most other horror movies

Cinemascore is a scientific polling - they go to cinemas all over the USA and get the opinion of *everyone* in the cinema. Not just those who really love it or really hate it - and post their opinions somewhere. Cinemascore gives you what 100% of the people who saw the film thought.

Whether the D grade is correct or not I don't know...

But there is a difference between subjective opinion (whether you liked it or not) and the facts (whether most people who paid to see it liked it or not).

I hope that doesn't make Don angry.

- Bill

Again, you´re wrong.

The discrepancy between the critics and the opening weekend audience has nothing to do with the characters and everything to do with the marketing. They sold the movie as a horror "creature feature" when it wasn't. It was a creepy, sci-fi drama where (SPOILER ALERT) nobody dies in the first 90 minutes. So obviously, Friday night horror movie fans were disappointed. That´s the reason!

Note to reviewer, the characters were bioengineers, not "bioethicists". Please consult a dictionary next time.

I really loved the performances in Splice and found it an intelligent horror film with an edge.

I really liked this movie a lot! It is not a slasher type movie, but more of a psychological drama. Plus, it has the best "scientists make a fund-raising presentation" scene ever! It is weird and funny and disturbing. See it!

Just saw the film Sunday night and I think the comparison to David Lynch is spot on..it was as disturbing to me as Eraserhead was to me 30 years ago.
I found the film actually just plain disgusting, and not in an Evil Dead, blood flying everywhere sort of way. There were just scenes that really made me cringe. I actually felt kind of sick to my stomach afterwards and a film that makes me want to throw up is not one I would recommend to anyone except my worst enemy.

 
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