Creature Features in Review: Species (1995)
We’re back with a brand new review for our soon to be concluded “In Review” series, Creature Features. We put the monsters on hold last month for Fright Fest as the zombie horde took center stage. But as the saying goes, the show must go on. And what an odd 90s movie to begin our trek. Species as I an recall was among those last great VHS rentals at Blockbuster. I remember really liking it back then because of…well…the nudity. Seriously, come on, its a super hot alien hybrid looking for a man to mate with. Of course, this was teenager me thinking about few things other than boobs. As a great disappointment (I’m sure) few things have changed. Still…as an adult now enjoying the boobs is honestly highly important, but perhaps there’s something else going on behind the film. We all know what hormones does to a teenage boy, but what about the ladies? Species makes me wonder, the way it was written, is it perhaps allegory for femininity gone wild?
Before we continue with that question, here’s an IMDb synopsis to refresh your memory of this not quite blockbuster film:
“A group of scientists try to track down and trap a killer alien seductress before she successfully mates with a human.”
Jeez IMDb, SPOILERS! But yes, that’s the basic premise of the film following a string of curious events from receiving signals from space with information on how to splice alien and human DNA to create a hybrid of the two to seeing Ben Kingsley being pretty much awesome (as he is in every role he plays) and being the fella who puts the alien-hybrid project together and grows what seems to be an innocent sweet can-do-no-wrong girl to girl having nightmares and developing rapidly, so rapidly it alarms the science wonder team, namely Kingsley, and he tried to gas her to said now nearly full grown hybrid woman escaping captivity and…well, you know the rest.
Looking back on Species today, it really makes for a curious film. There are a few messages one could derive. Signals from space that instruct how to create monster hybrids…yet even this it begs the question, was she really so monstrous or was she simply conditioned to be such, as Sil, the name of the creature, played by the very voracious Natasha Henstridge, says at some point, “What am I?” Goodness me, that’s a question for the ages, is it not? One also has to wonder which part of Sil was the monster, the human or the alien? Given the tone of movie, one need not guess that the villainy belongs to the unknown, unseen cosmic threat.
I’m not one to read too much into this homosapien snobbery. Movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind doesn’t fill me with a sense of awe and wonder, but rather of dread and horror. While looking up at the stars entices curiosity, I also have to wonder what exactly is up there. And not knowing invites fear. I’m rambling a bit here, I know. And there are those who say this sort of brand of cosmic entanglement is really all about xenophobia…and if so, jeez, what does that say about me?
What I really think Species is about, not intentionally perhaps, but nevertheless, is about a skewed interpretation of female sexuality. Or maybe its about repressed sexuality. Those themes certainly seem to fit the mold. As we see Sil finally escaped and on-board a train go through a sort of metamorphosis. She cocoons herself and emerges very erotically charged and mission orientated. Said mission? Get knocked up. Why? I do not have the foggiest. One could rationalize that Sil is a new species (hence the title) and the genetic directive of any species is to copulate and spread your genetics.
The cast is a hodgepodge of scientific disciplines. Michael Madsen plays the part of a hired killer for the government as only he can. Dan (played by Forest Whitaker) is an empath who can sense what happened in places. Arden (played by Alfred Molina) is an anthropologist, and Laura (Marg Helgenberger) takes the role of a molecular biologist. As corny as all that sounds, they do kinda blend well together. Whitaker’s performance is especially fun to watch. Madsen is…well…Madsen, he could be cutting off ears or playing some hillbilly member of a Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, chances are its going to be entertaining and slightly silly.
Nearing the end is where things get really weird. Sil finally gets her wish and finds a man and is impregnated and then goes through another metamorphosis, changing into an Alien looking thing, designed by legendary artist H.R. Giger. And yet, for all the strange questions Species raises, it attempts to answer nothing, nor does it bring anything else out into the light. I’m not even sure what to make of the movie. It is entertaining and there’s the boobs and sex scenes bit. The design of Sil in full alien mode is cool, though at times suffers from dated 90s CGI. For the most part they used a lot of practical effects, which you have to give them credit. The cast was fun to watch though not at all realistic.
I think maybe Species could have been something more had it not focused so much on the whole mating thing…which gave it an odd femininity gone wild vibe/the dangers of uncontrolled/uncontrollable women. Given that, it probably would have made more sense to have the final showdown in a church than a sewer (zing!).
My rating: 3/5
Who doesn’t love a good story? From great works such as, All Quiet on the Western Front and Salem’s Lot, Thomas S. Flowers aspires to create his own fantastic worlds with memorable characters and haunted places. His stories range from Shakespearean gore to classic monsters, historic paranormal thrillers, and haunted soldiers. Residing in the swamps of Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter, Thomas’s debut novel, Reinheit, was eventually published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein, Lanmò, The Hobbsburg Horror, and FEAST. His veteran focused paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series (4 books and counting), filled with werewolves, Frankenstein-inspired monsters, cults, alter-dimensional insects, witches, the undead, and the worst monster of all, PTSD, are published with Limitless Publishing. For more on Thomas, please visit his website at www.ThomasSFlowers.com.