Oh shit. What if instead of a female alien killing people in a SPECIES movie, it was a male alien? That would change everything. I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS.
No, actually I’m making it sound stupid, but I honestly think this is a good premise for part 2. I talked in my review of the first one about how much I liked the gender subtext there, even if they didn’t do as much with it as I’d like. This one continues the exploration by giving us a male-alien-sex-rampage to compare and contrast with the female one.
Men are from Mars, you know, so that’s where it starts. America’s first manned mission to Mars (co-financed by Pepsi, Sprint, Reebok and Bud Lite) ends up getting the crew infected by Species DNA, which speaks to either how bad their luck is or what a toxic shithole Mars is, because I swear they were there for like five minutes total. I kind of feel bad for Reebok on this, it doesn’t seem like they got their money’s worth. One of the astronauts goes down on the lander, plants the flag, makes a brief speech, digs up three soil samples and flies back to the shuttle. They don’t notice that the samples are steaming and dripping slime as they high five and get ready to be “Homeward bound, bay-bay!”
Back on the Earth planet we quickly find that the all-american hero and son of a senator Patrick Ross (Justin Lazard, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN) will fuck anything that moves, despite America’s mandatory 10 day sex quarantine for all Mars astronauts. We also learn that sex will involve tentacles and cause the women to immediately gestate Species babies that will burst out of their tummies, killing them. Patrick seems to have some of his humanity still in there somewhere, because he seems horrified when he wakes up next to his wife’s split-open corpse with a blood-spattered new toddler-age son cowering at the foot of the bed.
But he must have those Species instincts, so he goes out spreading his seed. Unlike Sil, who was trying to find the right mate, Patrick is sampling the whole salad bar. He goes after groupies, hookers, strippers, and a random pretty lady he sees at the grocery store and drags into his van. And he’s making kids all over the place. To his credit he does take responsibility for them. They follow him around in a big creepy crowd. He keeps them in a barn and teaches them how to extend tentacles out of their nose up to the ceiling and cocoon themselves. That’s the Species version of throwing a baseball back and forth in the backyard, I think.
Meanwhile we have some returning players from part I. Press (Michael Madsen), now a big shot private security contractor, is brought in by the military to kill another alien. Dr. Laura Baker (Marg Helgenberger) has become the head of the government project to study Species defense techniques using Eve (Natasha Henstridge), a more friendly clone of Sil. (No word on what happened to the surviving kids from part 1. Just one of those abandoned shock ending plot points that litter the history of horror sequels.)
By the way, I don’t want to go around pointing fingers and what not, but in my opinion this whole mess is partly the fault of this scientist guy here for letting a giant jug of Patrick Ross blood fall over and break:
Great job, butterfingers.
Eve has been raised in a plexiglass box and not exposed to men so that she doesn’t feel the need to mate a bunch of people to death. When she accidentally sees Press she checks him out just like Sil did. Something about Michael Madsen makes alien girls think he’s dreamy. She’s the subject of some terrible experiments, but Dr. Baker tries to be protective of her in most ways, always reminding people that she’s half human. It’s actually kind of touching later on when Eve is in her monster form and Dr. Baker still calls her by name and treats her as the same person.
Eve has a telepathic connection to Patrick which they use to track him, like Mina did Dracula. So Press, Baker and jive talking astronaut Gamble (Mykelti Williamson, MIRACLE MILE, Justified) go on the hunt. Gamble never acts like he knows anything about science, and says things like “I’m taking this [machete] ’cause I’m about to go back to Africa on somebody’s ass!” Also he keeps talking about how bad he wants to get laid. Ha ha. Another thing that’s a little bit of a racial eyebrow raiser is the way they kill the Species [spoiler]: by poisoning it with Gamble’s defective sickle cell blood.
The team tries to keep things secret again, but at least they put more elbow grease into it than the dudes with the similar job in THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN. Press does a little more this time around, like he kicks in a door and shoots a giant tentacle that’s coming out of a woman’s belly into a guy’s face and lifting him up against the wall. Too late to save anybody, but hey, he killed a tentacle. I realize now that his specialty is yelling at innocent bystanders while chasing aliens. When he breaks into a van that some young people are having sex in he lectures them instead of apologizing. And when he’s following intel that Patrick is in the cereal aisle of a grocery store he knocks an innocent stocker onto the ground and does this:
And that poor guy probly gets minimum wage. Not cool, Press.
It’s kind of frustrating that Eve is side-lined for so much of the movie, but Patrick can sense her pheromones or something, so he comes to visit. And how are you gonna keep Eve in the box once she’s seen astronaut Patrick Ross? For the climax she puts on a nice dress, escapes (in a cool slow motion sequence) and goes for a monster-fuck. We get some real good creature mayhem at the end when they both transform into their Giger-inspired partly transparent biomechanical true selves. Patrick tries to kill her by stuffing a tentacle in her mouth (#GamerGate). He’s an Alien Queen sized bastard with a head that splits open sideways and bites. Look how big he gets:
I think it’s like ALIENS, they built off of the Giger designs from the first one, but he didn’t actually work on it, probly because he was still upset that they didn’t use his Giger-train scene. But they learned a lesson from ALIENS and gave him an opening credit for “original Species design.” Anyway, really cool effects work here, credited to Steve Johnson (HOWLING II, PET SEMATARY II, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS 2, BLADE II). I’m not sure but it looked to me like some shots are animatronics, some rod puppets. It seemed to me like they cut down a little on the computer animation, which was novel but not very effective in part I. An exception is a dated but still really cool digital showstopper where Patrick decides to eat his shotgun but then the camera rotates around him as his head reconstitutes itself. Show-offy stuff like that makes the movie fun.
You know how Michael Myers gets out of the sanitarium and steals a station wagon, and someone points out that he shouldn’t be able to drive a car but “He was doing very well last night!” according to Loomis? Well, Eve steals a Humvee, and Dr. Baker matter-of-factly explains why she can do it:
And it checks out, we did see her watching Dukes of Hazzard earlier while painting her nails. And she does crash through a fence, that’s something the Duke boys would do. I’m sure if she had a chance she’d cause a cop car to drive off a jump into a lake. So the logic is air tight.
Henstridge really does a great job physically when they finally let her go for it. I’m pretty sure she does the stunt where she jumps through the plexiglass, her dress flying up and showing her panties and she doesn’t give a damn. And she looks badass running away from bullets in a bloody dress. And this freeze frame really freaked me out at first because I thought she had a Giger-esque skeleton arm on her right, but now I realize that’s her forearm we’re looking at, not her bicep. Phew.
James Cromwell from BABE plays Patrick’s senator father, so there’s your legitimate actor to justify a studio making a movie like this, like Ben Kingsley in the first one. More surprisingly Richard Belzer cameos as the president. I figure this is a result of director Peter Medak (THE RULING CLASS, THE CHANGELING) having done some episodes of Homicide: Life On the Street.
Writer Chris Brancato is mostly a TV guy, like he did an episode of The X-Files coincidentally called “Eve.” But he’s supposed to be doing the movie of THE FLASH right now.
Overall I think SPECIES II is a sequel that’s superior to the original, not that that’s a huge achievement in this case. But it’s more monstery business, more atmosphere, less talky stretches, more fun. I’m impressed.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.