Species (1995) — Never trust alien supermodels

“More docile and controllable, eh? You guys don’t get out much.”

Justin’s rating: Made me swear off kissing, let me tell you

Justin’s review: You know what your tax dollars are funding if you’re an American? Let me tell you, because I learned a whole lot about this from watching Species. Your money’s going toward the government listening for E.T. to send instructions on how to build a lethal alien of our own that will quickly break out of its lab, grow into a supermodel literally overnight, and then start mating for the purpose of a Trojan horse invasion.

Also, the rest of the tax dollars go toward a search party of quirky personalities that’ll probably get eaten along the way. It helps to round off those numbers when alien accountants take over the firms and make sure the human race made budget before becoming extinct.

Aye, Species is yet another strong entry in that mid-tier ’90s horror/scifi craze that gave us flicks like The Faculty, Screamers, and Body Snatchers. These weren’t A-list efforts, but they had some decent support to keep it from falling any further than a B grade. Man, I loved these movies. They seemed to be more inventive and have more fun than your mega-budget blockbuster at that time.

And just look at what firepower Species has going for it. The cast is stocked full of big names like Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, and Alfred Molina, the creature design is by Alien mastermind H.R. Giger, and even Christopher Young pumps out a pretty good score.

Model Natasha Henstridge (and a young Michelle Williams) take on the weight of playing Sil, a homebrew alien who breaks out of a government lab before she’s gassed to death. Because maybe it’s not a good idea to trust the intentions of intergalactic radio jockeys? Anyway, Sil rather quickly infiltrates L.A. society, looking to become a mama as quickly as possible while killing anyone she pleases. She’s weirdly bad at the first but great at the second. Also, she wears a fanny pack around everywhere, a detail that never ceases to amuse me.

The government, not very competent at anything it tries to do in this movie, farms out the job of hunting Sil to a colorful crew that includes a merc (Madsen), an empath (Forest Whitaker), and a pair of scientists (Molina and Marg Helgenberger). They’re a fun bunch, mostly there to make us like them enough to feel bad when they die later on. Like most well-funded B-movies like this, the cast gets more room to cut loose and enjoy the inherent silliness that travels along with them.

Species became a really strong hit for what it was, making a huge profit and spawning (heh heh) three sequels. Even though it is just a chase movie that gradually builds up to a full reveal of the Giger-created Sil suit, it’s got that “something more” that made it an easy watch. Maybe it’s the relatively snappy pace of the movie, or the creepy concept of an alien takeover via reproduction, or the fact that, at one point, Henstridge French-kisses a guy through his skull. It also helps that we kind of like both the good guys and Sil, even though there’s never going to be a happy ending for all parties.

On the flip side, there’s no denying that there’s a certain exploitative vibe that goes on with Henstridge and the amount of nudity that she was asked to do here. Yeah, I get that the alien is fixated on reproduction, but some of these scenes are just vacant titillation that comes across as pretty skeezy. And if I’m tossing all complaints into a single paragraph here, I have to admit that some of the CGI — especially the tentacles and Sil’s final animated form — does not hold up that well. If it ever held up.

Listen, nobody’s going to argue that this is a great movie, but perhaps there’s room in your heart for a guilty pleasure that only seeks to entertain rather than inspire and inform?

Didja notice?

  • Maybe don’t make your alien cage out of breakable glass next time?
  • Sil has really freaky dreams
  • Man, that’s an old school credit card swiper!
  • The weird bone train dream, now with more worms!
  • CGI face worms
  • When you see a huge alien cocoon, it’s always a good idea to walk toward it face-first
  • Sure, why not wear a wedding dress with a fanny pack out in public
  • This is the least secure lab ever
  • Whee, improvised flamethrower!
  • Spine ripping on the toilet, a fun way to go
  • This guy is way too into showers
  • Everyone loves yelling at Ben Kingsley and giving him a hard time
  • Aliens can heal themselves almost instantly
  • Remember Polaroid cameras?
  • And what’s the point of a tentacle down the throat when you’re already drowning a guy?
  • The moral of this movie? If you do nice things for people, they’ll turn out to be an alien who will kill you or kidnap you.
  • Thumb snipping scene

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