When a beautiful human-alien hybrid escapes from observation, scientist Xavier Fitch dispatches a crew of experts to find her before she is able to fulfill her horrific purpose: to mate with unsuspecting men and produce offspring that could destroy mankind. As her deadly biological clock ticks rapidly, Fitch and his team are hurled into a desperate battle in which the fate of humanity itself hangs in the balance!
"She can have a dozen babies! She can lay a thousand eggs!"
Some movies age like a fine wine. Others age like a french fry that fell under the car seat. In 1993, serial killers, aliens, and femme fatales were the order of the day. It doesn't take a genius producer to think that combining all three of these plot devices would be cinematic gold - it was merely a Hollywood inevitability. So, in 1995, the world was given Roger Donaldson's Species and introduced to Natasha Henstridge as the titular man-killer alien/human hybrid. Granted, the final results wound up being nothing too special, the film's aged digital effects, impressive practical effects, and the gratuitous content makes for a cheesy tongue-in-cheek sci-fi ride.
In the 70s, smart scientists working for S.E.T.I. beamed out a message into space hoping to reach an alien civilization and start up an intergalactic conversation. We sent them details of our world and human DNA; you know, little things. The aliens responded with the key to renewable energy and a way to recombine DNA and mix it with our own. So some even smarter scientists led by Xavier Finch (Ben Kingsley) thought it was a good idea to do just that. The result of this effort was a sweet, innocent looking little girl named Sil (Michelle Williams). When the girl's true alien nature appears, it's decided that the project - and it's subject - is to be terminated.
When Sil escapes, Finch assembles a team to hunt her down and kill her. With the assassin Lennox (Michael Madsen), the psychologist Arden (Alfred Molina), the geneticist Dr. Baker (Marg Helgenberger), and the psychic/empath Dan (Forest Whitaker) on the hunt, it's only a matter of time before the alien/human child is found and killed. Only she's not a little girl. Sil's a grown woman (Natasha Henstridge) and her base instinct for survival and reproduction are in full swing. Finch and his team must find Sil before she mates and gives birth to a new species of terror!
When Species was released in 1995, I was 13 years old. After watching this movie earnestly all these years later, it's certainly a movie made for 13-year-old boys. It's got blood, guts, guns, and nudity in mass quantities. If that sort of thing is your bread and butter, Species is a feast. If you're after some science fiction with a measure of sophistication to its horror and sexuality, I'd suggest you go find yourself a copy of Under the Skin. Species is built as a crowd pleaser - and it doesn't entirely succeed at that. It's fun in a group of people with some drinks and bad food. A true pizza and beer movie.
As I alluded to in the opening of this review, Species hasn't aged all too well. It's a very 90s movie. A cinematic time capsule of fashions, CGI effects limitations, and of course the sexy femme fatale Natasha Henstridge who was cast more for how she looks on camera rather than her abilities as a burgeoning actress. The rest of the cast - Alfred Molina, Michael Madsen, Marg Helgenberger, Forest Whitaker, and Ben Kingsley - doesn't help matters much. Most are giving it only the barest effort (pun unintended) and look to be there just for the paycheck. You can see Madsen enjoying playing the heavy and Forest Whitaker can't turn down the chance to chew some scenery, but everyone else seems to be merely going through the motions. Still, one has to tip their hat to an actress like Helgenberger for throwing out the quoted line above with a straight face!
Where Species earns some points is with the Giger-inspired practical effects. Not fully engulfed by the CGI revolution, practical makeup and creature effects still get to shine. The work done when the young Michelle Williams Sil is about to transform into the fully grown Natasha Henstridge Sil is damn impressive stuff. Where the effects work can falter is when things go digital. During the same transformation scene, CGI tentacles burst out of her skin and start to form a chrysalis. The CGI work was so early in the technology's lifecycle that the effects don't blend and can look weightless. It's worse when Sil's full alien appearance pops onscreen near the end. The audience had already seen a practical Sil creature, so the decision to use CGI on top of the puppet and creature suit for the big climactic battle kinda kills the tension. The different techniques just don't blend and can be a bit comical in places. Just the same, it's nice looking back at a movie that knows how to rip a spine out of someone in a fountain of fake blood and latex.
No, Species is not a good movie. But it is a fun movie. Director Roger Donaldson and his screenwriter Dennis Feldman concoct a sci-fi/thriller that is undeniably entertaining - even if it hasn't aged all that well. With three sequels, the Species franchise went off the rails, but Species II makes for a fun follow-up and a great double feature event. If you've never seen this flick, keep your expectations low and grab some friends and you should have a good time. If you're going into this movie expecting cinematic brilliance, you're liable to hurt yourself.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Species gets the full Collector's Edition Blu-ray treatment thanks to Scream Factory in a two-disc set. The film is pressed onto a Region A BD-50 disc and the bulk of the newly assembled bonus features are pressed onto a Region A BD-25 disc. Both discs are housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case with a slipcover showcasing the newly commissioned cover artwork. There is reversible artwork featuring the original theatrical poster art. The discs both load to animated main menus and feature traditional navigation options.
Minted from a fresh 4K scan of the interpositive, Species arrives looking better than it ever has on home video with this 2.35:1 1080p transfer. However, those expecting true apples to oranges change in appearance may feel a bit underwhelmed. The first notable differences are in the sharpened detail levels. Fine lines, hair, facial details and the practical effects look terrific. A slight layer of film grain is still apparent without ever appearing overly noisy. However, the issue at hand is that the image would appear to display some slight edge enhancement. There aren't any aliasing or banding troubles to speak of, but there is a notable crunchy quality that can be a little distracting. On top of that, the added resolution makes the dated CGI effect work stand out more than it already did. But that's really the only problem with this transfer.
Colors are noticeably bolder than the previous Blu-ray release without appearing to have been pushed into teal/orange territory. Primaries have a terrific pop and presence to them - especially red blood. In the previous release, blood could look like a soupy maroon color, now it's a nice bright and healthy crimson color. Black levels are also improved with a notable inky quality and better shadow separation giving the image a better sense of depth. Wear and tear are also improved as the previous 2008 release featured near constant mild speckling and a fine scratch or two. This new transfer is in vastly better shape as the speckling has been removed entirely without any notable scratches. All in all, it's easy to say this is a vastly improved transfer and fans of the flick should be delighted.
Species screams to life with two terrific audio mixes -- fans can pick from an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix that sounds better balanced and more robust than the one supplied for the 2008 disc. Or, if you're so inclined, you can run the English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track. Like I said, both are very good so it quickly becomes a taster's choice. The stereo mix sounds a little more front loaded, sound effects and scoring can sound a bit smashed without the extra space, but still manages some great atmospherics, imaging, and strong dialogue. For the 5.1 mix, the dialogue is a tad softer as there is more room to breathe, but this mix also provides a more immersive experience with near-constant surround activity. The sound effects and scoring are given a little more separation and that sense of atmosphere and imaging is a bit sweeter. Both tracks are great and are in perfect shape without any age-related issues to speak of.
In true Scream Factory fashion, Species has been given a solid Collector's Edition release with a whole host of new and vintage bonus features to choose from. All of the previous commentary tracks have been ported over and the bonus features disc contains some terrific cast and crew interviews, behind the scenes materials, and a bunch more. Fans of the film will have a great time picking through all of this material. Especially if you've never heard the commentary tracks before, they're a great listen.
Audio Commentary featuring director Roger Donaldson and cast members Natasha Henstridge and Michael Madsen.
Audio Commentary featuring director Roger Donaldson, producer Frank Mancuso Jr., makeup effects coordinator Steve Johnson, and visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund
After Birth: The Evolution of Species (HD 36:43) This newly produced featurette sports new cast and crew interviews - it's really impressive stuff as they go into incredible depth of how they brought Giger's designs to life as well as the casting process for the film.
From Sil to Eve (HD 16:35) This interview with Natasha Henstridge is ported over from Scream Factory's release of Species II, still a great interview and worth looking at if you haven't seen it.
Engineering Life (SD 16:50)
H.R. Giger At Work (SD 12:07)
The Making of Species (SD 49:05)
Designing A Hybrid (SD 15:48)
Alternate Ending (SD 2:11)
Theatrical Trailer (HD 1:52)
While far from being a great film, Species is a great bit of fun. It's got a sexy killer lady alien with fountains of blood guts and gore. Aside from some great practical effects work, there really isn't a whole lot more going for this movie as it can't be viewed in any serious way. If you're going to have fun with Species check your brain at the door. Fans of the flick will be happy to see the terrific work Scream Factory put into their Collector's Edition release. The film boasts a fresh new transfer, two great audio tracks, and hours worth of new and vintage bonus features to pick through. Fans will want to make the double dip purchase, newcomers should consider this release recommended - especially if you dig cheesy 90s creature features.