Species 1995 Review

What if we took the implicit sexual subtext of H R Geiger’s “Alien” designs and made them explicitly hyper-sexual? What if, instead of a trans-dimensional travel capsule, the aliens in “Contact” sent through the genetic blueprint for the ultimate MILF (where the M stands for monster)? Thus came “Species”, a gleeful mash-up of sexploitation, sci-fi and horror; a soft-core B-movie with delusions (and a cast) of grandeur.

When SETI receives a message from outer space containing instructions on how to create a limitless energy source, they decide they must be dealing with a benign alien race. So when the next message contains instructions on how to combine the alien DNA with human, they figure ‘why the hell not?’. Immediatelyt abandoning the idea of cheap, limitless energy (and never mentioning it again), they create a hybrid embryo which rapidly grows into a young girl called Sil. But when Sil escapes into downtown Los Angeles, the race is on to track her down before she achieves her prime objective: reproduction.

There are a number of ways to interpret “Species” – a proto-incel’s fearful view of female sexuality or perhaps a Trumpian nightmare of illegal immigration and the quest for the all-important anchor baby. Ultimately, though, it’s probably not that deep. Now shallow doesn’t necessarily mean bad – although in this case it does get pretty bad – but it’s rarely less than entertaining.

Natasha Henstridge, in her acting debut, makes an immediate impression as Sil. No, not just because of that you dirtbags, but her performance is far better and more nuanced than you might expect in this kind of movie. It’s a tricky ask to give a character a profound naivety and ruthless sexuality but Henstridge manages to covey both sides of Sil without it feeling gross or particularly weird. Credit too, to a young Michelle Williams who plays Sil pre-pupal puberty.

The rest of the cast is a curious mix of big names given little parts and atrocious dialogue to chew their way through. Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina probably emerge with the least collateral damage. Michael Madsen and Marg Helgenberger suffer a bit more having to carry an underdeveloped and almost entirely unnecessary romantic subplot as well as representing the yin/ yang of scientific inquiry and shoot first, ask questions later. However, special sympathy must be reserved for Forest Whitaker: he’s given the thankless role of a supposed clairvoyant who has the astonishing ability to state the bleeding obvious with breathless pretension.

It’s got a fair amount of gore to keep genre fans happy and the practical effects still hold up well. Geiger’s creature design is fantastic – if familiar – and here and there the movie has some good sci-fi ideas. Unfortunately, it’s all bound up in a ramshackle and directionless plot that has the alien strike-team chasing their tails for most of the movie until a series of incredible coincidences that results in one of them having a close encounter of the fourth kind. “Species” is decent, decadent fun for a midnight monster movie, but really it doesn’t offer much more than tentacles and titillation.

Halloween Score 6

6/10

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