Species (1995, dir: Roger Donaldson; cast: Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Alfred
Molina, Forest Whitaker, Marg Helgenberger, Natasha Henstridge)
the pitch: The
Terminator as an Alien.
those two films, add a touch of Eve
of Destruction, and the result is Species. A female alien as an unthinking and unstoppable killing force. An
alien designed by Alien designer H.R. Giger. An alien that proves yet again that horror's
strongest efforts are its low-budget entries, for Species is nowhere near as entertaining as such schlocky but quirky films as Galaxy
of Terror, Horror
Planet, or Forbidden World.
Species offers a simple story. Aliens radio a DNA blueprint to the us via
SETI (as in Contact)
on how to genetically engineer a human/alien hybrid (as in V and The
that matures rapidly, until the chief man-in-black (Ben Kingsley) determines
that the experiment (and the little girl) must be terminated. The
girl escapes, quickly maturing into a woman/alien hybrid (Natasha Henstridge).
instinct, no human empathy, Henstridge kills whenever she feels threatened,
which is often (although not so often as to please harder-core gorehounds). Soon in heat, she prowls for a potential mate (a human male) to impregnate
her with healthy offspring. She kills any female competitor who hinders
her mating ritual. She kills biologically undesirable males who get
fresh with her -- she has no desire to breed with drug users or diabetics.
the men-in-black have pulled together a crack secret team to search and
destroy Henstridge. Kingsley's team consists of a wimpy anthropologist
(Alfred Molina), a pretty but brainy molecular biologist (Marg Helgenberger),
an empath (Forrest Whitaker), and a triggerman (Michael Madsen).
is pretty one-note. Whitaker's note is drowsiness. He appears
half-asleep through most of the film, but shifts gears to three-quarters
asleep when he's "picking up vibes." Madsen plays a "jaded tough-guy
with a wounded soul," always glancing about, furrowing his brows, squinting Clint Eastwood-like, and mouthing unintentionally funny tough-guy
talk. Helgenberger is pretty. Kingsley is tense. Molina
is wimpy. Simple roles performed with journeyman professionalism.
is vapid, as emotionless as Schwarzenegger in The
Terminator. It's what the role requires. Sil (the alien)
is a killing force with a single-minded mission (to procreate), instinctively
(mechanically) terminating any opposition. Nothing personal.
initial release, MGM's marketing people emphasized Species's
"introduction" of Henstridge, and Giger's design of Sil. Yes, Sil
and child look cool, and resemble Giger's work on Alien. But whereas Alien was suffused with Giger's vision, here Sil and child are seen only briefly
in their natural states.
Species is pleasant time-killer, but no more. It has less verve, sparkle,
or creativity than many a low-budget horror/sci-fi efforts. Its alien,
its heroes, its effects, its gore, its obligatory car chase, it's all okay,
but largely forgettable.
Review copyright by Thomas