Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Ten Days of Terror!: Species

Film: Species
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

There are a number of drums that I will regularly beat as a part of this website. One of them is the fact that so many science fiction and horror movies make science the bad guy. Scientists, people who are routinely ultra-cautious and rarely even make pronouncements of truth are regularly portrayed in sci-fi films (and by that I’m referring to the lower end of the kiddie pool) as reckless and willing to put the fate of the world at risk for a little bit of knowledge. Experiments are routinely conducted in unsafe places, with incomplete or lax protocols and no oversight. Of course, without that, there wouldn’t be a movie—we have to have someone be the bad guy, and if you want giant mutated alien critters running amok, science is pretty convenient. Enter Species, the nudity-filled template for movies like Splice.

We begin with what looks to be a young girl (Michelle Williams!) being exterminated in a state-of-the-art (circa 1995) lab. Ah, but the girl escapes, and the poison that was used in an attempt to kill her instead kills everyone around her but somehow not her. Off she goes, and she soon adapts as well as she can to life outside of her lab facility. She also is growing very fast—soon enough on an Amtrak train, she cocoons, eats a conductor (whose clothes magically fit the new Natasha Henstridge) version of the creature, and away she goes. It’s soon obvious that whatever this creature is, she’s horny and looking to procreate.

Now that we have our science-created monster, we need to meet the monster hunters. First is Xavier Fitch (Ben Kingsley), who was running the lab at the start and gave the order to terminate the creature, which he calls Sil. We also meet Dr. Stephen Arden (Alfred Molina), anthropologist and Dr. Laura Baker (Marg Helgenberger), molecular biologist. The last two members of the team are a bit more unorthodox. The first is Dan Smithson (Forest Whitaker), an empath who essentially has the ability to read anybody’s emotions, even over videotape or through pictures. Last is Preston “Press” Lennox (Michael Madsen), the wetwork guy. Yep—we’re not hunting Sil to recapture her, but to put her down.

The only really interesting thing about Species in terms of the story is where the creature came from. The story is that SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence group, having sent out a signal, received something back. What they got was information about an alien genetic code along with information on how to splice it with human DNA (since snippets of human DNA is what SETI sent out). Naturally, the experiment had to be tried. The result? Sil—a half human/half alien hybrid that has no morality, no sense of humanity, a desire to procreate, and a penchant to kill anytime it feels threatened, which is basically all the time.

The non-story reason to watch Species is the fact that Natasha Henstridge spends a significant amount of the movie in 1990s-approved-style nudity. There’s a lot of nudity in this movie. There’s also some very unpleasant alien hybrid H.R. Giger-inspired nudity at the end that looks a lot like a very boobily reptile with traffic cones for nipples. I have no idea why I feel the need to tell you this, other than to warn you that it exists.

Species, though, as a movie, is going to follow the path that you pretty much expect. If you have never seen this before, I’m going to guess that you’d correctly guess the fate of most of the main players, you’d have a pretty good guess at the number of partners Sil attempts to hook up with only to kill for one reason or another, and even how the movie ends. In fact, the one surprise, at least for me, was the sequence in which Sil, pretending to be a rape victim, kidnaps a woman so that she can use her as a way to throw off pursuit. It was as if the film’s writers had one moment of creativity in what is otherwise a very standard, straight-ahead “science is bad” film narrative.

And so I’ll be blunt. There are some things to like about Species. I tend to like Alfred Molina and Forest Whitaker, and I continue to try to figure out what I know Marg Helgenberger from (I’m pretty sure it’s Bad Boys). When Ben Kingsley is good, he’s more than just good. But this isn’t good material for any of them to work with. Natasha Henstridge, as attractive as she may be, is sort of a plain, unfilled cake cone of screen nudity, roughly as interesting as a glass of water.

The truth is that this is a very standard monster movie, and it’s one you’ve seen done better. You’ve seen better monsters, you’ve seen better effects (the CGI moments in this may have been great for the era, but they are ridiculous now), you’ve seen better plots, and you’ve seen this made more interesting. Unless you just can’t get enough of a movie where once again we end up chasing the scourge of humankind that wants to breed us out of existence into the sewers beneath one city or another, you can do a lot better elsewhere.

Why to watch Species: Nudity?
Why not to watch: They just can’t stop having science be the bad guy, can they?


  1. I do like this film as this was a film I re-watched constantly in my teen years. Natasha Henstridge still looks good and so does Marg Helgenberger. The sequel though wasn't that good at all due to a bland lead as the alien and not enough Henstridge.

    1. We'll disagree in a sense on Natasha Henstridge. She's attractive enough, but I find her to be completely bland.

      Mainly, though, I'm just tired of science being the bad guy in movies like this.