Alien movies: “Species 1-4”

Alien life forms don’t always have to look ugly, as the ladies in Species, Species II, Species III, and Species IV aptly prove, although they’re still as deadly for human beings as ever.

Species
(USA 1995, director: Roger Donaldson)

Sil, a genetic mutation of alien and human female DNA, escapes a US government’s laboratory to find a mating partner and is hunted down by a group of scientists and mercenaries.

The idea of an organism disguising itself as a woman that wants to mate might sound gratuitous, and it certainly is when showing Natasha Henstridge nude. But it’s also original and suspenseful. Switching between the special forces team and her makes it a cat-and-mouse affair with the audience feeling for both parties. While Sil is more of a ruthless killer in some way, one can understand her motivation to keep her species alive. At the same time the team members are all likeable and fairly memorable, e.g. with one being almost psychic about people’s feelings, the other being interested in simply bringing her down without actually liking his job. One isn’t used in these types of movies to have good actors, but in this case, there are, like Ben Kinsley or Forest Whitaker.

The creature design is also worth mentioning, as it’s done by H.R. Giger who was also responsible for Alien. While outdated CGI effects can be a bit problematic towards the end, the alien forms look both disgusting and fascinating in their mechanic and organic mix. There’s also a high amount of gore, although like nudity it never feels out of place, but fits the story and action. Many people would argue that this is a cheap rip-off of the Alien legacy, and even if it never reaches the same tension or memorable action set-pieces, it’s a guilty pleasure movie that is just entertaining to watch.

Score: 8/10

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Species II
(USA 1998, director: Peter Medak)

An astronaut gets infected by an alien virus after returning from a mission to Mars and finds himself mating and creating offspring, with only a re-engineered Sil called Eve able to stop him together with parts of the old special forces team.

The first movie had quite a suspenseful story with a mix of sex and violence that wasn’t over-the-top. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the sequel. While the gory effects are even more disgusting and rather impressive in their originality, showing so much nudity is almost an insult to one’s intelligence. Unlike its predecessor, there are also some questionable rape scenes both in human and alien form that are too much. One can’t shake the impression that the director wanted to intentionally cross the border of good taste just for the sake of it. However, even as a guilty pleasure experience there’s something lacking, mainly in the character and plot department.

Michael Madsen as the hardened manhunter makes a welcome return, but like the involvement of Marg Helgenberger as the emphasizing doctor, they’re not really that memorable, although there are a few fun one-liners. Natasha Henstridge gets more talk time in a different alien role, but her acting isn’t the best. However, the worst decision is to have such an unlikable male protagonist who was already a selfish man before he turned into an alien. Even if one can live with one-dimensional characters, the story is simply not as suspenseful and clever than in the original, which is a shame, because there are enough cool scenes and an explosive finale to make the audience hold on.

Score: 7/10

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Species III
(USA 2014, director: Brad Turner)

Alien Eve’s offspring is abducted by a doctor who does his private research at home, with her soon starting the deadly mating process around campus ground.

The sequel wasn’t particularly good, but in comparison to this direct-to-dvd production, it was pure Oscar material. Horrible acting, especially of the main actress who behaves like a robot, which doesn’t make any sense, boring camera work, and terribly cheap monster rubber costumes make this installment one to avoid. Even if one can try to watch it as trash, the story and characters are so annoyingly dumb that one would rather put on a Halloween alien mask, take a shaky cam and make one’s own movie on the street.

The only redeeming feature would be the gore effects which are quite good for such a low budget production. It’s such a missed opportunity that the movie takes itself so seriously with all the failed alien DNA experiments resulting in an extraterrestrial disease inflicted on the male aliens. Too much talk, not enough action, gratuitous nudity that is just as uninspired, and forgettable characters can’t save this unnecessary direct-to-the-trash-can failure in any redeeming way.

Score: 2/10

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Species: The Awakening
(USA 2007, director: Nick Lyon)

A young woman created with alien DNA fights against losing her humanity with her supposed father and scientist who brings her to Mexico where a serum should reverse this effect, but she soon starts her deadly mating ritual.

After such a bad direct-to-dvd third installment, expectations for this one are obviously not very high. However, the cinematography is much better and the acting isn’t all that bad. There is some actual suspense, at least until the boredom and silliness set in. Granted, the rubber monster suits are better hidden behind improved camera and lighting work, but why every man or woman in a Mexican town suddenly looks like a vampire from From Dusk Till Dawn or a demon from the Buffy – The Vampire Slayer series, is beyond comprehension.

Despite trying hard to be both similar to and different from the original concept of an alien life form trying to adapt to modern human society, the movie again takes itself too seriously. A scientist torn between the moral dilemma of taking another human being’s life and saving his substitute daughter shows that the story goes into some questionable territory, with the nudity and sex scenes simply being there just for the sake of them. Gore is kept to a minimum and special effects could be better, too. As a low budget production, this isn’t so bad as expected, but like the third part, it’s simply a forgettable and unnecessary sequel and movie on its own.

Score: 4/10

Buy the BD on
Amazon Germany (import, together with Species III)
Amazon UK (import, together with Species III)
Amazon USA (together with Species III)

Buy the DVD on
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Amazon UK
Amazon USA

Buy the DVD quadrilogy on
Amazon Germany (import)
Amazon UK
Amazon USA

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About nufafitc

Being an avid gamer, cinemaniac, and bookworm in addition to other things the internet and new media present, I'm also very much into DIY music, rock and pop in particular. Writing short or longer pieces about anything that interests me has always made me happy. As both an editor for German website "Adventure-Treff" and UK website "Future Sack", I like to write reviews and news about recent developments in the movies, games and book industry.
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One Response to Alien movies: “Species 1-4”

  1. Pingback: Overview of (blog) life in November 2017 | Emotional Multimedia Ride

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