Tales from the End: Species (1995)October 16, 2014
Many people will go on and on forever about how they’re inexplicably a product of the 80s. I, for one, can’t argue with that. I had the same Castle Grayskull packed with He-Man action figures, the same tin can full of G.I. Joes and the ongoing battle between my Autobots and Decepticons was as eternal as anyone’s. But, if our childhoods are rooted in the benevolent 80s then our collective adolescence is surely some weird by-product of the 90s. The last truly unique decade featuring the swan songs of the 20th century: These are the Tales from the End.
I still remember going to see Species with my Dad way back in ‘95. Sitting there in the theatre, I felt the awkwardness associated with watching this much nudity with your old man instantly replaced by the exhilaration of actually laying eyes on such voluptuous curves. I instantly felt an overwhelming need to fist pump the air, yelling statements of gratitude towards the heavens.
Thank you reduced Canadian rating system! Thank you for allowing this fourteen year old boy to be the coolest one of his friends, if only for a few hours. Thank you for allowing me to watch the gloriously awesome sci-fi horror film that is Species!
Species was released on July 7th, 1995 and paired potential new starlet Natasha Henstridge with a flimsy plot that revolves around mankind making contact with extra-terrestrial life. Of course, some top secret government scientists have been developing a hybrid alien/human named Sil who escapes to the City of Angels to find some unlucky schmuck to spawn with.
I’ve never quite figured out why Hollywood is so obsessed with aliens having sex, but it’s baffling how many movies rely on that plot device to move things along. Why can’t an alien just show up and start killing everything? You want to know why so many people love Predator? It’s because the Predator doesn’t spend half the film trying to get into some other organism’s pants.
Fortunately, a producer was able to wrangle H.R. Giger into this project and in doing so allows Species to be one of the few films where alien sex makes quite a lot of sense. Giger is criminally underused here but, Sil’s alien form is still a credible artwork and the dream-train sequence is truly terrifying.
Species isn’t quite as thrilling as I remembered it but, it does have some pretty great moments.
Before George Lucas went bonkers with digital effects, the 90s had already convinced itself that CGI was the way of the future. It’s a shame since only the practical effects really stand the test of time, but the good news is that there are a ton of them on display here in various scenes of cocoon emerging, head busting, spine ripping, and underwater suffocating. And, they’re still super awesome. Even a young Michelle Williams (Yes, that Michelle Williams) gets in on the action when she completely mangles the disingenuous hobo she encounters while riding the rails. I can vividly remember flipping through horror magazines prior to the films release and looking into the dead eyes of that crumpled transient. It’s a solid scene that still looks excellent.
The film’s other strength is the remarkable cast that was assembled for this sci-fi yarn. If you ever wanted to know when Sir Ben Kingsley started working on his Mandarin accent forIron Man 3, you won’t have to look further than this gem. Forest Whitaker, Marg Helgenberger and Alfred Molina toss in supporting roles but Species was, is and always will be, Michael Madsen’s movie. According to IMDB, Madsen plays a character called “Preston Lennox,” but complete with his patented Ray-Ban sunglasses and his Cool Hand Luke demeanor, it’s painfully obvious that he’s still rollin’ with Reservoir Dog radness, and that’s a good thing!
Madsen is the dude that gets brought in when things need to get “taken care of” and he’d totally be the first person I’d call from my 90s era rolodex if things were going to hell in a beer cooler. The guy is a penultimate badass and his performance in Species is no exception. In between kicking alien ass and knockin’ snakeskin boots with Catherine Willows, he’s drinking Budweisers and watching hockey. When the going gets tough, Madsen smokes, drinks and shoots guns at everything around him. Why this guy never had a bigger break is beyond me. We truly owe our cool to you Mr. Blonde.
With the exception of Kingsley, none of these actors had really hit their stride yet and so there’s something inherently awesome about watching them try to make something of such a hodgepodge script. There aren’t a lot of character lines that are funnier than hearing a young Doc Ock proclaim “Oh my dear, I enjoyed that immensely,” after shagging the random bombshell that oddly shows up in his hotel room. A quick dye job for Sil apparently disguises her enough to cause even the most intelligent of men not to think. At all…
The other star of Species are the 90s themselves. We’re treated to the creepiest LA motel clerk ever (What’s that guy doing now? Hey, I’ve got some filmmakers over here with some money to give you), an army of oversized baggy suit jackets and some state of the art “snappy finger” technology. Even the dreaded fanny pack gets significant screen time. However, the most compelling character might be the douchebag bar patron who gets the back of his head blown out by Sil’s viper tongue. It’s revealed in subsequent scenes that “Robbie” was a pretty good guy who got disposed of simply because he was diabetic. Wait a second, didn’t it seem like that guy was going to rape an alien 10 seconds ago? Ahh, the 90s: When equality and chauvinism were fighting to the death in the squared circle of political correctness.
Species isn’t anything to write home about but rewatching it now made me feel all kinds of nostalgia. It’s no Alien, not even close, but it’s worth checking out if you stumble across it in the bargain bin. Hell, if you really dig it, feel free to scope out the first sequel which features the craziest birthing scene you’ll ever see and has Madsen turning up again to clean up another mess and collect another paycheck. Cool beans.
This article was written for the GCE by C.F. Benner