(I used to LOVE the shit out of this movie, so seems appropriate to be included in out #TBT offerings…Submitted, of course, by Mr. Goon-y Goon himself, Mr. Andrew Peters. Thanks for the mammaries, Kinky Ho-mie!! 😉 xoxo)
The ‘90s was an odd time for science fiction films. It’s like they couldn’t be made properly and nobody wanted them, but dammit, they were trying. Made on relatively modest budgets for what they were trying to achieve, the films themselves were over ambitious and may have missed the mark, but something about them was noteworthy. Films like The Lawnmower Man, Johnny Mnemonic or Mimic come to mind. When you look at those films, you would be shocked at what the special effects they were able to achieve or what stars they managed to rope into them. Of course, none of them were appreciated upon release, underperforming at the box office, but these kinds of flicks seem to be special to fans of this genre and have gained cult following. However, I think the best example of a smaller budgeted, overhyped (at the time) sci-fi film would be Species. Yeah, remember that movie? Unlike the other ones I mentioned, this actually performed fairly decent and I think we can chalk it up to two things…
Natasha Henstridge’s boobs. After this movie came out, this just became the “did you see Natasha Henstridge’s tits in that one movie” movie. It was all anyone talked about in school and I seem to recall one kid loaning a VHS copy to another kid and need it back by tomorrow before his dad noticed it was missing. Seriously, before rewatching Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray release, the only thing I could recall about this film is that she’s some alien chick and you see her boobs a lot. In fact, I seem to remember this being sold as a very dirty, nearly X rated flick because of the amount of nudity and sex in it. However upon this viewing, I found that although the film does contain those, they weren’t nearly as prominent as I had remembered and it focused more on a cool sci-fi story, even if it is a tad underdeveloped. Seeing as how the film made three times its budget back, I would say that selling the sex angle probably helped it.
Species centers around a young woman named Sil (who at this point in the film is played by a very young Michelle Williams), some sort of alien experiment that seems to be rapidly aging. Her life doesn’t seem as glorious as you may expect an alien visitor to have; she’s kept in a bubble and doesn’t seem to have a whole lot to do and now some Professor X looking dude with eyeliner named Fitch (Ben Kingsley) decides it’s a good idea to gas her. Luckily for her, unfortunately for them, the underestimate the strength of her prison and the efficiency of their security staff as she manages to escape and twists a hobo around backwards while on the run, all before boarding a train. Cardio is important, even if you have a train to catch.
While aboard the train, she pigs out on all kinds of junk food before doubling over in pain and with the magic of early ‘90s terrible CG, we’re able to see that something is growing inside her. She cocoons inside a train car and I really loved the practical effect in this scene. It reminded me of the ghosts from Silent Hill 4: The Room where the ghosts would touch the wall and that goop would grow or something out of a Resident Evil game. It’s was pulsating and oozing until it gives birth to a fully formed adult Sil, now played by Natasha Henstridge, who parades around her wonderful ta-tas in a dozen scenes. I also want to point out that every decades boobs seem different from the following decades. Do you know what I’m talking about? Look at ‘70s boobs compared to ‘80s boobs and compare them to ‘90s boobs. Natasha Henstridge had probably the best ‘90s boobs, hands down.
So, unfortunately the have to throw in this boring thing called plot instead of having Sil run around naked the whole time. Ben Kingsley hires team of scientists – or scientist type people – and some sort of mercenary hunter dude, Preston “Press” Lennox, played by a post Reservoir Dogs Michael Madsen, so he was in pretty decent shape and his voice hadn’t quite sounded like it had a bottle brush down it, but was a little quiet and gruff. And seriously, “Press” Lennox? You may as well name the dude Max Power or Slam Chunklift. He and the ‘too-hot-to-actually-be-a-doctor’ Dr. Laura Baker (Marg Helgenberger) seem to hit it off, but honestly I thought she was possibly the weakest character and the film must’ve thought so too, because they give her a sex scene with some nice side boob, but while this sex scene is intercut with Natasha Henstridge and Alfred Molina’s, you don’t really care. Yes, by the way, I did say Alfred Molina. I bet you thought you’d never see Doc Ock from Spider-Man 2 make his “Oh” face, did you? His character kinda becomes the poon hound outta nowhere in a scene when they go out drinking and I think it’s for exposition sake, because if you haven’t guessed already, the whole point to Sil’s rapid growth and obsession with sex is to mate and procreate.
Now the movie never states if it’s because her species are regular horndogs or if she’s trying to recreate her own kind, so to speak, but as the movie progresses it becomes more urgent that she to her that she bangs. I honestly think this may be the filmmakers way of taking a stab at the audience. It’s basically a cat and mouse type of movie at this point, but with plenty of nudity. To be fair, my summary makes this seem much more simplistic than it actually is. Sil’s quite the clever lady and even kidnaps a woman, cuts off her finger and burns her alive to escape, giving her just enough time to change her hair color and become the predator to her prey, the group of scientists that have been hunting her. She manages to turn the tables and the conclusion is a rather interesting mix of creative and very sexualized HR Giger designed practicals to some PS2 level CG. What I took from the conclusion is that I got to see a see a supermodel try and strangle Mr. Blonde with her nipples. Yup, they shoot out like snakes and wrap around his neck. Didn’t see that coming.
It’s funny to me that everyone remembers this movie for having Natasha Henstridge nude for the majority of it when she actually isn’t, but nobody seems to remember Mathilda May being butt nekkid in damn near every scene she’s in throughout Lifeforce. However, for being a sex symbol in what is ultimately a somewhat sleazy, sci-fi/horror film, Natasha Henstridge does put on quite a good show and I’m not just talking about her nude scenes. She’s just as scary as she is sexy and she doesn’t start out totally evil, but instead her instinct and need to procreate overwhelms her she becomes more viscous. She does this transition very well and as I’m typing that out, I also wonder if that was the filmmakers intent, to take another jab at the hormones of the male audience. Or I’ve been overthinking this film way too much. Another great performance I didn’t mention was Forest Whitaker’s character who is kinda clairvoyant, but very emotional when he senses what feelings the other person is feeling. He plays all ends of the emotional spectrum, really showing off his talent and it’s probably why the guy kept getting better and better work. Well, except for Battlefield Earth.
I mentioned earlier that Scream Factory has released Species in a two disc set with the film being a brand new 4K scan and to be fair, that’s probably why the early ‘90s CG looks as bad as it does. It wasn’t really meant to be seen in that kind of quality. The first disc is the movie itself with two separate audio commentary tracks, one of which includes Michael Madsen, Natasha Henstridge and director Roger Donaldson that I recommend checking out. The second disc is home to all of the special features, like the interviews and behind the scenes looks (which there are several extensive ones included), still galleries, trailers and the alternate ending. The main and brand new featurette, Afterbirth: The Evolution of Species is a great look at the pre to post production work on the film and worth watching.
I never disliked Species, but after viewing it this time around, I think I see it in a totally different light and have a newfound appreciation for it. It wasn’t the ultra sleazy, ultra gory taboo film I remembered it being. Sure, the film touches on sleaze, but it has some class and sexiness to it. Most importantly, it has an interesting story with characters worth investing in. It’s not the greatest sci-fi/horror film out there, but hopefully with this release it gets the respect it deserves. There were three sequels, but Species II is the only one that unites the cast and worth watching. Maybe we will see a newly transferred Blu-ray release of that in the near future?