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  Species The Astounding She-Monster
Year: 1995
Director: Roger Donaldson
Stars: Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Alfred Molina, Forest Whitaker, Marg Helgenberger, Natasha Henstridge, Michelle Williams, Whip Hubley, Esther Scott, Gary Bullock, Anthony Guidera, Caroline Barclay, Richard Fancy, Marliese Schnieder, Frank Welker
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Decades ago, the S.E.T.I. project was established to search the heavens with radio telescopes for signs of life from outer space - and a few months ago, they found something. The result of this is a creature grown in the laboratory with a mixture of human and alien DNA, which resembles a little girl, but the director of the experiment, Xavier Fitch (Ben Kingsley) decrees that she should be destroyed as she is deemed too dangerous. They don't know how dangerous until they try pumping cyanide gas into her chamber and she smashes the glass with incredible strength and makes a run for it...

Perhaps inspired by the famous "Wow! Signal" of 1970s research, Species was a fair-sized hit in its day, though no thanks to the general reaction from those who had seen it which was that the sci-fi shocker was pretty silly as a whole. Its selling point was that it had a monster designed by Alien creator H.R. Giger, although he wasn't best pleased with the end product because he wanted more of his material in there, even shelling out himself to fund footage of one of the creature's nightmares (the death train bit, of which a grand total of thirty seconds is used in the movie). The most distinctive thing about his design for many was the killer nipples used to bump off the victims, but murder was not all that was on its mind.

No, Sil, as it is called, wishes to procreate, and thus must find a man now she is out and about. At first, she looks like a young girl (a pre-fame Michelle Williams), but after a spell in a cocoon, she transforms into Canadian model-turned actress Natasha Henstridge, who provided the other main selling point in that she doffs her clothes at every opportunity. Obviously the authorities cannot have some alien woman cruising the bars and clubs of Los Angeles if there's the chance she may breed and spawn more deadly beasts with killer nipples, so Fitch swiftly assembles a crack team of experts to pinpoint Sil's location.

This team are a bunch of character actors of varying eccentricity, with our lead hero Lennox played by Michael Madsen, doing wonders as the man's man who does his best to exterminate Sil without sentiment. Backing him up is scientist Laura (TV star Marg Helgenberger), dopey Brit anthropologist Stephen (Alfred Molina) and most infamously of all, empath Dan (Forest Whitaker) who got the most attention at the time for the scene where he enters the train carriage where the cocoon is, notes the dead body of the conductor on the floor, and utters the immortal line "Something bad happened here". Uncanny, these psychic powers, eh?

But the funniest line was overlooked: it's when Stephen has just had sex in a crucial plot twist, and comments "I enjoyed that immensely!", 'cause that's the kind of thing Brits say after a good shag, isn't it? Pity he didn't have time to thank her, really. Anyway, you could see Species as the summing up of the fears that sexual activity bore when the spectre of AIDS loomed in the nineties, basically a "have sex and die" awful warning, but seeing as how slasher movies had been trading in that currency ever since the seventies, perhaps it was more genre-based than social commentary. More likely, instead of eliciting chills, this was going to have you chuckling, as for all its attempts to take itself very seriously, it was less probable that you would have the same reaction as Sil marauds her way through Los Angeles trailed by a bunch of bumblers. If anything, it could have done with being even more silly, but we'd have to wait for the first sequel for that. Music by Christopher Young.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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