Species II

Peter Medak, USA, 1998)


The first Species (1995) had certain pretensions to quality. After all, there was Ben Kingsley strutting around as a Dr Frankenstein type, and a small band of anthropological, psychological and scientific experts ever ready to expound on current theories of Otherness in relation to alien life forms.


At the same time, Species had a high schlock quotient: in particular, endless shots of Sil (Natasha Henstridge), a gorgeous, naked killer and a lethal fusion of human and alien DNA cruising the glitzy bars of L.A. in order to satisfy her insatiable need to mate.


Species II drops the social satire, the quasi-philosophical disquisitions and the Blade Runner (1982) veneer of noir visuals. This time around, that alien DNA is back on earth and multiplying fast, due to a group of astronauts unwittingly bringing back a spawn from Mars and the only pressing task is to exterminate it, not analyse it.


As in the sublime Alien Resurrection (1997), cloning comes in handy for bringing back previously dead and buried characters. So here's Sil again, prowling restlessly in a high security cage under the watchful eye of Dr Laura (Marg Helgenberger), and picking up helpful hints in earthly behaviour from The Dukes of Hazzard on TV.


The principal novelty of this highly enjoyable sequel is that the sex-crazy alien hybrid is no longer solely female. To match Henstridge's unearthly good looks there is Justin Lazard as Patrick, a square-jawed, all-American hero straight out of a comic book. His contaminated seed causes poor, unfortunate, earthling women to instantly procreate fully grown children an icky spectacle, to say the least.


As directed by Peter Medak (The Krays, 1990) and written by Chris Brancato (Hoodlum, 1997), Species II expertly splices together high points from many SF and horror classics of the last twenty years. There is the mystery of who exactly has been contaminated, as in The Thing (1982); humans covered by gooey tendrils in squishy life-pods, as in Body Snatchers (1994); and an enthusiastic display of mutated creatures somewhere between alien, human and insect, imaginatively designed – as in Alien (1979) – by H.R. Giger.


Local connoisseurs of the genre may especially wonder whether the filmmakers have also closely studied the Australian movie Body Melt (1994). Both films, at any rate, share beyond their gleefully gruesome special effects a similar sense of pop culture humour. In Species II, this is particularly embodied by Gamble (Mykelti Williamson) an edgy Afro-American who compensates for his own sense of male inadequacy by grabbing a machete before doing battle with aliens and proclaiming: "I'm going back to Africa on someone's ass!"

© Adrian Martin July 1998

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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