It's unusual for a horror film to become the subject of water cooler talk, but the audacity of The Human Centipede has managed to sneak it onto the cultural radar. While the specific experiment within the film is keeping most viewers at bay (and with good reason -- this movie isn't for everybody), it's not stopping people from talking about it. Despite the sickening subject matter, the movie is a bit of a throwback -- an old-fashioned mad scientist flick gussied up with modern sensibilities.

Hot on its heels is the film Splice, Vincenzo Natali's Sundance success story (the indie was purchased by Warner Brothers for a wide Summer release on June 4). It's basically an entertaining, emotionally complex update of the Frankenstein story. In the film, two geneticists (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) create a humanoid creature called Dren, and then have to tightrope walk between their responsibility as scientists and as defacto mom and dad. Brody and Polley (as Clive and Elsa, a nod to James Whale's Frankenstein films) may be more attractive than Centipede's resident weirdo, Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser), but they share a compulsion to play God, regardless of results.

Could the films signal a revival of the mad science sub-genre of horror? Could we finally be seeing the end of the vampire trend, as we look for something that feels a little more fresh? I understand that vampires are sexier, but, on the downside, they're not real. In that way, mad scientists are a little like slashers, in that they're plausible threats. Natali notes that some of the more outlandish aspects of Splice are actually happening right now -- the UK has already created the first animal-human hybrid embryos. I'm not calling those real-life researchers mad scientists, but the scientific "what if?" factor certainly provides limitless storytelling potential.

What do you think? Is it time for mad scientists to return to their rightful place in the world of horror?

categories Movies, Horror