In 1995, one of those horror/ science-fiction imitators coalesced onto the screen in a titillating tale called Species. This movie combines strong female leads with venerable English actors, hidden surprises and a certain inalienable Alien designed with a jaw-dropping, eye-popping sexuality by Swedish artist H.R. Giger. While this movie might not be groundbreaking or gain any added measures of respectability for Sci-Fi or Horror, Species has one thing that Alien and the rest do not have... In Species, Natasha Henstridge gets naked!
And let me tell you, that's good enough for me, man! Species is pretty cool, is VERY hot and evokes a lot of the great concepts of classic Alien Invasion Sci-Fi (this time with an erotic twist). However, it's also not nearly as brilliant, cohesive or clever as it should be, and relishes far too often in the very elements that make it a misfire. Need I say it's worth watching anyway? Need I add, Natasha Henstridge? Need I continue... just turn off your brain and you'll be fine?
Years ago the SETI program received a response to their interstellar communications. In this response they've been given the formula for an unlimited fuel source, as well as the code for a strange, otherworldly DNA. Scientists elect to blend this DNA with a human female's because, as head honcho Xavier Fitch (Ben Kingsley) informs us, this would make her "more docile and controllable!" Yeah, in what universe are women Docile or Controllable? What is Fitch, a virgin?
Getting over this (and the question of how Ghandi ended up in a silly Sci-Fi horror flick) leads us to a recap of how "Sil" (she's called "Eve" in the sequels) came to escape and need chasing. Accelerating her growth to the point where she's about twelve human years worth of maturity, Sil (played at this stage by Michelle Williams, who later gets naked in Brokeback Mountain) has become a problem for Professor Xavier (hey!!!) and the decision is made to gas her and start over. Jackass. Naturally at that point Sil busts straight out of Compton and goes on a cross country sight-seeing trip of her own.
To either catch or kill home chick, ol' Ghandi assembles a Crack(ed) Team of his own X-Men to clean up the mess. He's got the tough guy (Michael Madsen's Preston Lennox), the smart guy (Alfred Molina's Dr. Stephen Arden), the nearly-precognitive Empath guy (Forest Whitaker's Dan Smithson) and the requisite no-nonsense genius female love interest (Marg Helgenberger's Dr. Laura Baker, who is briefly topless). They seem to realize that they're mostly stock characters, but they don't really realize that the issue has grown beyond some twelve year old wanting a subscription to Tiger Beat!
No, Sil, via a super-nasty Cocooning process, has grown up to be super strong, super hot and super naked. Now she's looking a lot like Natasha Henstridge, somewhere around the age of 21, happily old enough to get into bars, and hopefully old enough to go get her some. Yep, Sil has grown up horny as a brass section and is on the prowl for someone to satisfy the urgings of her biological clock. Naturally, this means that the Earth could be overrun by millions of tiny Sils, quickly growing to sexual maturity! But... actually... that sounds pretty good. Why is she a villain again? Hmmm...
Anyway, through various stages of undress (including the "completely" stage) Sil seduces as many men as she can. She starts with a guy named John Carey (Whip Hubley), which is a shame because starting with a guy named "John Kerry" would've given me PAGES of material. What follows is completely implausible as it details someone who looks like Natasha Henstridge repeatedly trying and failing to get laid. It doesn't help the Professor F's Howling Commandos keep popping up to ruin things for her. Man, these guys are worse for weekends of hot sex than an inflammation of "The Herps". (Not, uh... that I'd, like, know.)
Naturally, the whole thing leads up to an ending that is final, but still left open for a sequel. Species is fun, sexy and well worth the time to watch, but is not nearly the film it should, or could have been.
Director Roger Donaldson and writer Dennis Feldman are both aided and thwarted by this film's similarities to Alien. On one hand they're given great leeway to play with the formula (because "The Alien" had never been "On Earth"). The concept of sexing up the Alien/ Predator formula and using that to put a cool spin on the Invasion Subgenre is fun and hot to watch. On the other hand, this is still a formula, and one that has been done. It's hard not to compare this to its superior forebears. Further, in the need to have certain major Plot Points as prerequisites, the majority of the action feels like mere connective tissue between the peaks, and the feeling that just about anything could have filled these valleys is noticeable. Look, you've got Natasha Henstridge Naked... when she's not, she's just walking around in a tiny little bra and tight jeans. This makes the movie, kids. Stick with the theme!
The special effects and makeup are good and compliment the weird, surreal designs of H.R. Giger. Further his work on a dream-sequence Choo-Choo train (which he also built) is exquisite and contributes to one of the more memorable, non-nudity, scenes. That monster is something to see, too (the fact that man of 1,000 voices, Frank Welker provides the voice of the creature doesn't hurt either)! However, the effects aren't always consistent. In 1995, CGI was just starting to become a useable tool. At the time the mere presence of CGI was an attention-getter. Today, on the other hand, it's hard not to notice the big seams between the prosthetic rubber of the topless alien and the CGI double that steps in for some of the more impossible moments. Sure it was cutting edge for the time, but then, so was Al's Cape in 1997's Spawn. It's not that CGI was a bad choice, it's the inconsistent look that the mix of the two causes that strikes a chord. Thankfully, Natasha, in human form, is 100% woman.
Species is an a-list B-Movie, which is not always a bad thing. As such, it has gained a lot of fans, who have supported two sequels, both also featuring Henstridge in some capacity. It may be a no-brainer, and it may fall short, simply because it so closely resembles smarter, better movies. However, Species isn't bad, and makes for a nifty little Sci-Fi/ Horror time passer. Three Stars out of Five for Species, the Alien rip off that's not afraid to RIP OFF some clothes. It's a fan boy's dream come true. I just wonder what it must be like for such a lovely lady as Natasha to have to deal with eight hundred pound, bathing-optional, oil producing Sci-Fi geeks in three-size-too-small clothing showing up at conventions for an autograph and a photo with her. I bet she longs for the less horrific Alien Murder scenes in Species when that happens. I think I'll go find out! See you in the Next Reel!
It's trying to get inside your body, then back out!
But this time you won't mind...
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