|Image copyright Warner Bros. Pictures|
On the surface, this appears to be a set up for a retelling of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, updated to reflect modern fears about genetic engineering, and at first it seems that this might be where the film is heading, especially when the result of said genetic meddling is possessed of a particularly toxic sting in the tail, and a highly violent nature.
However, the film quickly adopts a more psychological tone, as the creature quickly grows into something that the New York Times film reviewer Manohla Dargis described as "...a creature that, with her tail, skinned-chicken legs and cleft head alternately looks as harmless as a bunny and like something that might leap out from Ridley Scott’s “Alien” (or, scarier yet, a David Lynch film). " We watch the tension that looking after this dangerous secret places on the relationship between Clive and Elsa, the former still believing that it was a mistake to let the creature live, the latter treating it like a pet at first, then almost a child. Her affection for the creature that she has named "Dren" is almost reminicent of the mothers in "the Midwich Cuckoos", and is equally as unsettling.
The action shifts from the lab to the old farm that Elsa grew up on, which provides the scriptwriter plenty of opportunities to hint at the traumatic past she endured, and the neuroses that this has bred. At the same time, Dren has matured to an eerily beautiful adolescence, trapped in the old barn that has been adapted to serve as her home. At the same time, the relationships between Elsa, Clive and Dren shift, revealing, as Time Out reviewer Nigel Floyd says, "the arrogant human scientists revealed as monsters, even as the ‘monstrous’ Dren reveals her complex, vulnerable humanity". This is helped by the fact that Dren is restricted to a (non the less expressive) limited collection of chirps and clicks, or spelling out words using scrabble tiles when she wants to communicate.
|Image copyright Warner Bros. Films|
Overall, I think that SFX film reviewer Dave Golder put it best when he said "The film spends three quarters of its running time desperately – and largely successfully – fighting against being the kind of film you expect it to be, before becoming exactly the kind of film you expect it to be…"