Species Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Roger Donaldson
Written by Dennis Feldman
1995, 108 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on July 11th, 2017
Ben Kingsley as Dr. Xavier Fitch
Natasha Henstridge as SIL
Michael Madsen as Preston Lennox
Alfred Molina as Dr. Stephen Arden
Forest Whitaker as Dan Smithson
Marg Helgenberger as Dr. Laura Baker
Michelle Williams as Young SIL
Scientists at a secret military installation have taken the DNA of humans and mixed it with a genetic code received from outer space to create a hybrid being. The young subject, known as SIL, grows at an accelerated rate and escapes before the team is fully aware of the repercussions. Dr. Xavier Fitch assembles a team including scientists, an empath and a mercenary to track the creature down and destroy it. Soon, the target transforms into a gorgeous adult woman on a mission to reproduce in the city of Los Angeles. She leads Fitch’s crew on a tour of night clubs and hot tubs but they are always one step behind in their pursuit. Can they intercept and stop the monster in time?
Species is one of those rare movies that knows exactly what it is and moves like a bullet to deliver the goods. I’m paraphrasing here, but Michael Madsen’s character sums up the plot quite handily when he says, “You made a monster with some kind of formula you got from outer space; the damn thing got away and now you want us to hunt it down and kill it.” Dumbed-down lines like that wink just enough to assure viewers the filmmakers are quite aware of the type of flick they are making. Taking the formula of a classic 1950s sci-fi movie and combining it with the sexy allure of 1980s horror with a generous level of nudity and violence assures contemporary audiences of a fast-paced thrill ride. Director Roger Donaldson (Dante’s Peak) never takes the material too seriously, but instructs his actors to play the material straight. The film starts on a powerful note as Fitch is preparing to gas a little girl to death. Audiences are unaware that the child is actually a dangerous alien and this in turn leads to a conflict when it comes to distinguishing the story’s antagonist from the protagonist.
Sir Ben Kingsley (Sexy Beast) is not the obvious choice to lead a monster movie, but he does so with grace and elevates the role of Fitch beyond that of government thug. Natasha Henstridge (Ghosts of Mars) makes her acting debut as the alien known as SIL and does a fine job in the lead role. The former model is stunning to watch in every scene, whether she is innocently walking the streets of Los Angeles trying to fit in or seducing would-be suitors in hotels and hot tubs. It is a shame the filmmakers went the titillating route so quickly rather than exploring the alien’s sense of self, but if the cost is seeing Henstridge nude for most of the film, I am okay with that too. Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs) brings a hearty dose of testosterone to the role of Preston Lennox, the man who is only brought in to recover things people want dead. He shares a nice chemistry with Marg Helgenberger (C.S.I.), who plays potential love interest and scientist Dr. Laura Baker. The always-welcome Forest Whitaker (Panic Room) is endearing as the empath Dan Smithson, and Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2) provides a nice bit of comic relief as Dr. Stephen Arden. Though her screen time is limited, Michelle Williams (Halloween: H20) makes quite the impression at the beginning of the picture as the young SIL.
As impressive as the cast members are, the creature effects are every bit as satisfying. Working from designs by legendary artist H.R. Giger (Alien), Steve Johnson (Night of the Demons) and visual effects master Richard Edlund (Star Wars) create a gorgeous figure in SIL. Her beauty is mesmerizing as translucent skin reveals an unsettling skeletal frame. Giger also designed the “skull train” seen during one of the nightmare sequences and it too is quite disturbing. Johnson and his team really hit this one out of the park when it comes to intricate detail and fortunately Roger Donaldson gives the creature ample time on screen. Some of the CGI work in the final act is a bit dodgy, but given the limitations of the technology in 1995, it still looks pretty cool. If you haven’t seen it before or if it’s just been a really long time, give Species a look and I think you’ll understand my enthusiasm.
Video and Audio:
Scream Factory has given the film an all-new 4K remaster from the original camera negative and the results are stunning. Presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this transfer is a real step up from all previous releases. Colors are strong, black levels are solid and flesh tones appear natural throughout.
Audio options include a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track and a 2.0 stereo mix. The 5.1 option will give you a bit more rumble and is certainly the winner of the selections. There is a nice amount of bass in the numerous action sequences and fortunately it never intrudes on dialogue levels.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
While all of the video based supplements are relegated to Disc 2, a pair of audio commentaries joins the main feature on Disc 1. The first track features director Roger Donaldson with actors Natasha Henstridge and Michael Madsen. The discussion is light and fast moving with plenty of anecdotes along the way.
The second commentary also includes Donaldson, this time joined by visual effects artist Richard Edlund, producer Frank Mancuso and make-up artist Steve Johnson. The guys are clearly having fun reminiscing about the project. This conversation is more technical in nature and they frequently talk over each other, but it remains entertaining.
Supplements on the second disc begin with the new documentary Afterbirth: The Evolution of Species (37 minutes). On-camera interviews include Donaldson, Johnson, production designer John Muto, cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak and members of Johnson’s f/x team. The doc is informative and full of behind-the-scenes footage and images.
From SIL to Eve (17 minutes) is a nice interview with Natasha Henstridge in which the actress discusses how she got into acting and how she got the lead role in Species. She reflects on her career and points out some poor choices along the way.
Returning from earlier releases are a series of featurettes, starting with Engineering Life (17 minutes) that begins with a group of professors and scientists discussing the viability of the film’s central premise.
The self-explanatory H.R. Giger at Work (12 minutes) offers a look at the artist in his environment. Interviews with Donaldson, Henstridge and writer Dennis Feldman offer reflections on their visit to Giger’s house and workshop. Giger himself explains his creative process and displays many of the designs and physical props he has created. Fans of this man’s work will not want to miss this.
The Making of Species (49 minutes) is a three-part documentary that focuses on the original script, the overall concept and the look of the film itself. A collection of then new (2004) and vintage (1995) interviews with assorted members of the cast and crew guides viewers through a generous look behind the scenes at the creation of the film.
Special effects take center stage in Designing a Hybrid (16 minutes), a featurette that focuses on the combined efforts of Richard Edlund and Steve Johnson.
An alternate ending (2 minutes) is included for anyone seeking a more hopeful coda to the story. The scene really adds nothing outside of tone and was wisely cut from the finished film.
The original theatrical trailer is included.
A production design gallery (3 minutes) and a creature design gallery (8 minutes) offer a look at the efforts that went into creating each department. A collection of stills, drawings, concept art and behind the scenes images play as a slideshow set to the main theme of the film.
A still gallery (104 images) includes a look at promotional artwork, photos of the cast, on-set images, lobby cards and poster art (foreign and domestic) for Species.