a critiQal film review Species (1995)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: In 1974, the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Project sent a message out to the galaxy, including the makeup of human DNA. In 1993, they received a response - including an unknown DNA chain. When scientists manage to splice this new DNA chain to human DNA, the result is Sil, who matures at an extremely rapid rate. When she escapes after a failed termination attempt, lead scientist Fitch (Kingsley) assembles a unique crew to track her down and destroy her - before Sil can find a mate and breed humans into extinction.

621 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 6s)

After spawning more than it’s fair share of sequels, the 1995 summer horror flick Species has slowly started to garner some attention as to it’s place in the horror genre. Was this a revolutionary new take on horror, or was it just more of the same, and MGM is just using it’s theme of sex and gore to cash in?

When one of the sequels popped up on NetFlix® – and I couldn’t remember if I had ever seen the original – I decided to see if NetFlix® had the first film available for instant viewing. When I discovered they did, I jumped in, ready to see if Species was more than the typical horror schlock I had been thinking it was for more than a decade.

For a horror movie, Species did manage to attract a considerable amount of talent. Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Alfred Molina, Michael Madsen and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigations” (TV) alum Marg Helgenberger all pop up in starring roles – a stellar cast for what looks to be just another horror flick. Of course, Species is more well-known for introducing the lovely Natasha Henstridge, despite her career flagging shortly after (her role in the Jean-Claude Van Damme starrer Maximum Risk (1996) is the only other one that immediately comes to mind). But was the cast up for the task?

For the most part, the answer is yes. While this seems an odd choice for Molina, the rest of the actors do a good job of slipping easily into their various roles, keeping the viewer sticking around. Unfortunately, most of their characters aren’t that interesting, and while they do a good job with what they are given, the viewer mainly sticks around to see which ones will fall victim to the alien. Natasha Henstridge, on the other hand, manages to capture the viewer’s attention from the start. While this is expected – after all, she is the main focus of the film – for an introductory role, it’s decently impressive.

Unfortunately, the movie around her slowly falters and dulls as it continues. At first, it’s interesting to see this human/alien combo mingle with the unsuspecting public, and the viewer should enjoy watching her first forays into the reality most people take for granted. From her first eating experience to her forays into shopping and her first interactions with cash and credit, Henstridge manages to bring an innocence to her role, despite the film’s attempts to destroy it.

At it’s heart, Species seems to about an innocent outcast looking to bring new life into this world. While the film twists that by making that outcast a human/alien genetic freak, and doing it’s best to get the viewer to despise this villain, that innocent outcast quality isn’t quite dismissed for a majority of the film.

Sure, she kills – but only when threatened (as many characters like to state over and over again throughout the film). Surely, she’s just misunderstood, right? Well, wrong – and the movie goes out of it’s way to prove just how vicious and violent this abomination is to the world at large…and our heroes in particular.

Unfortunately, taping on the typical horror finale (a fight to the finish – or is it? – pitting the just and true heroes against a beast that seems indestructible), manages to destroy the uniqueness of the film, degenerating it into just another shlock horror flick.

Species starts out strong, but – almost in spite of the solid cast – can’t break away from the horror mold long enough, and becomes nothing more than just another disappointment in the horror genre – albeit a money-making one for MGM. In the end, Species isn’t groundbreaking at all…and that’s just a shame.

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