Early in Vincenzo Natali's Splice, rogue scientist couple Clive and Elsa (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) watch as their latest massively transgressive experiment is set in motion. They are fertilizing an egg to create a human-creature hybrid, messing with the fundamental building blocks of biology. No one can so much as guess who or what will emerge: Will it be dangerous? Beautiful? Deformed? In horrible pain? They are standing on the breach of the unknown. For a long moment, the camera considers Clive and Elsa's faces as they stare, wide-eyed and beside themselves with excitement, at their handiwork. We're excited too. This is big, existential stuff, and for once the movie seems to know it.

The great English horror writer Ramsey Campbell has written about the value of wonder in the genre: "Many horror stories communicate awe as well as (sometimes instead of) shock, and it is surely inadequate to lump these stories with fiction that seeks only to disgust." In the introduction to one of his venerable short story collections, he wrote that he hopes his work offers "a little of the quality that has always appealed to me in the best horror fiction, a sense of something larger than is shown." A number of authors besides Campbell have intuitively understood this: H.P. Lovecraft and Arthur Machen, with their tales of unfathomable terrors lurking behind a thin veneer of reality; Ray Bradbury's terrifying early short stories (think "The Night," "The Crowd" and "The Veldt"); Philip K. Dick's high-tech paranoia; more recently Stephen King (at his least ponderous) and Clive Barker (at his least gross).