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Species (1995)


I find it ironic that the first entry in former model Natasha Henstridge’s body of Hollywood work is a movie in which she, well, shows off so much of her body. While the “aliens mating with humans” type plot is hard to pull off successfully (and without resorting to tentacle rape), especially in a serious movie, this one also boasted semi-famous actors and a decent plot. Did it succeed? Let’s find out.

Species is a sci fi horror film directed by Roger Donaldson, and starring Natasha Henstridge, Marg Helgenberger, Alfred Molina, Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Forest Whitaker, and creature effects by H. R. Giger.

When SETI was established decades ago, it sent out a polite “hello” to any intelligent races that might be listening, in the form of information about Earth and its inhabitants, including info about our DNA, hoping that someone would say “hi” back. Twenty years later, they got a reply, in the form of information on the creation of an endless fuel source. Cool – they’re friendly! Naturally, when they send their next transmission, a sample of alien DNA and instructions on how to splice it with our own, a government team is set up to see what happens when Tab A is spliced with Slot B. Led by Dr Xavier Fitch, the team tries following the instructions in the transmission, deciding to make the result female in order to avoid any natural aggressive tendencies of a male specimen. Out of a hundred fertilized ova, finally one of them survives gestation, producing a hybrid named Sil, resembling a human girl. She grows quickly and appears to be highly intelligent, but she has violent night terrors which appear to be flashes of genetic memory of home. Her outbursts during these nightmares lead the team to judge her dangerous, and they try to kill her with cyanide gas. She escapes the lab, and a team is assembled to track her down and destroy her before she can mate with a human male, producing more like her and possibly eliminating the human race. Naturally, she has reached sexual maturity since escaping, and is now on a mission of her own – booty.

With a plot like this, one might expect Species to be nothing but softcore porn with only the vague sketches of a plot and shitty special effects to string the sex scenes together. Surprisingly, the movie actually works as a serious thriller. The opening scenes take the time to lay the groundwork for the story, rather than saying, “Here’s a hot alien chick, look at her boobs and don’t worry about the plot.” The story unfolds realistically, with the plot playing out in a logical fashion, winding up to a conclusion that feels genuinely tragic despite its necessity. Sil’s lack of a nudity taboo meshes naturally with her background – she is a creature of instinct, raised in a lab, with heightened senses, greater strength and agility, and the ideal appearance for attracting a mate. She acts and feels like a genuine organism looking for a suitable mate rather than a space slut willing to shag anyone.

The characters are, thankfully, not a cast of morons. While Fitch’s decision to terminate Sil in light of her violent nightmares seems ill-conceived, it makes sense – she is only likely to get stronger and more agile as she matures, and who knows how she sees the world. The composition of the team gathered to hunt her down is also logical: Dr. Arden to study her behavior for clues about her next move, Dr. Baker as a familiar face that Sil might trust, empath Dan Smithson to track her via her emotional states, and mercenary Preston Lennox for when they have her cornered and the time comes to kill her. Even Sil appears to have genuine motives for what she does beyond “gotta get laid”. While she is deadly, she does demonstrate species-perpetuation instincts, and she is decently choosy about her mates (rejecting one hopeful when she senses that he has diabetes). Though she can and does kill several people through out the movie, she is cunning and discreet, and generally kills only to defend herself or erase a sexual rival – this sort of thing happens all the time in nature on Earth – but as a non-native species there is a higher chance of her buggering up the biosphere.

While Species sounds like it might just be a brainless festival of tits and blood, I recommend it to fans of sci fi horror. Giger’s creature effects are amazing as always, Natasha Henstridge is hot, and the whole thing is overlaid on a surprisingly well-developed storyline. Worth a rental.

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