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Species II (1998)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/8/2016
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/8/2016
When it comes to genre films, especially science-fiction and horror, they can be divided into many sub-categories. One very specific one would be Hollywood films vs. independent movies. That may sound a bit vague, but I think that those in the know get it. Hollywood movies can offer recognizable facets of the science-fiction and horror genres, but they are often very stereotypical and these movies play things very safe in order to please as wide an audience as possible. Independent films or even low-profile movies distributed through a major studio have the ability to focus on more original ideas and push the envelope when it comes to outlandish material. When a movie wanders outside of these typical boundaries, it can be very surprising, such as Species II.
Species II opens some time after the debacle in which an alien transmission was decoded and used to create a human/alien hybrid named Sil (Natasha Henstridge), who ran amok seeking to mate with humans. Dr. Laura Baker (Marg Helgenberger) has created a second hybrid, this one named Eve (again played by Henstridge), but, having learned her lesson, Dr. Baker keeps Eve away from all males. Meanwhile, the first manned mission to Mars has successfully landed on the red planet. Astronaut Patrick Ross (Justin Lazard) completes his mission and brings samples back to the main ship, which is manned by Dennis Gamble (Mykelti Williamson) and Anne Sampas (Myriam Cyr). However, something goes wrong with the samples and once back on Earth, Ross begins to attack women, with catastrophic results. Eve begins to act odd and it becomes clear that that she has a psychic link with Ross. Dr. Baker teams with Gamble and mercenary Press Lennox (Michael Madsen) to hunt down Ross.
When Species premiered in 1995, it was a minor hit, mainly garnering attention due to the creature designs from Alien creator H.R. Giger. The movie was a fun diversion with an interesting cast, but little more. So, when Species II arrived on the scene three years later, it seemed like little more than a common cash-grab, especially when one looked at the team behind the scenes. Director Peter Medak made a low-key classic with 1980's The Changeling, but his resume consisted mostly of TV work. Writer Chris Brancato has written a good episode of The X-Files, but he'd also written an African-American gangster movie and some episodes of Beverly Hills 90210. So, you can see why Species II didn't seem very promising.
I don't think anyone expected the bizarre erotic alien fest that Species II is. From the first scene in which a nude Eve is seen harnessed in a chair for an experiment, a strange air of sex hovers over the film. Species had certainly contained a decidedly adult storyline, as Sil sought a mate, but things get downright shady in this sequel. From the moment Ross gets back on Earth, he starts seducing (or worse) women and the instantaneous results are mind-blowing (more on this in a moment). This creates a very strange political dynamic for the film, which exemplifies a true difference in gender roles. In Species, the female Sil seeks a lover, plowing through one man after another, and she's seen as a sexy woman. However, Ross clearly comes across as a sexual predator and when things get rapey, they get very uncomfortable.
And now on to the really wild stuff in the movie. (SPOILER ALERT) When Ross has sex with a woman, she immediately gives birth to a baby. And by immediately, I mean that they burst out of the women -- another homage to Alien? And this isn't hinted at -- we see the bursting firsthand. It's very shocking to see this sort of thing in a studio film. Perhaps this gave Zack Snyder the guts (no pun intended) to do something similar in Universal's Dawn of the Dead six years later. And while it doesn't border on porn, the first sex scene certainly gets freaky, and, again, doesn't feel like something which would be in a studio film. (END SPOILER ALERT).
It's these unique features which make Species II watchable. You've got to admire the fact that the movie goes for broke and it's rarely boring. This is good, for when you peel back the layers, you'll see that this isn't a very good movie. The script has the backbone of a story, but there isn't much detail here. The film simply zips from scene-to-scene not bothering to delve any deeper than necessary and plot-holes abound. Like what is Ross planning to do with all of those kids? Field a baseball team? And what was that monster in the wall? The acting is marginal and the movie makes us wait far too long for the special effects to finally show up. If you are looking for a solid science-fiction movie with horror overtones, look elsewhere. But, if you are interested in a movie with throws caution to the wind and wanders near Re-animator territory in its wackiness, then Species II is worth a look.
Species II never explains why someone would pay for the Eve experiments on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Shout! Factory. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only very mild grain at times and no overt defects from the source materials. The image is a bit dark in places, but the colors look good and natural. The level of detail is adequate -- actual the clarity of the HD image makes the whole Mars sequence look decidedly fake. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a loud track, as I had to reduce the volume to a lower level than I typically use. The stereo effects are well-done and show nice separation. The action sequences deliver a nice amount of surround sound effects, with audio filling the speakers, and the subwoofer effects are notable in these sequences as well.
The Species II Blu-ray Disc contains an assortment of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Peter Medak. "From Sil to Eve" (16 minutes) is an interview with Natasha Henstridge which allows the actress to talk about her experiences on the two Species films, as well as other facets of her career. "Creature Creations" (29 minutes) offers interviews with the special effects team, including Creature & Special Make-up FX Creator Steve Johnson, Transformation Supervisor Joel Harlow, Chrysalis Effects Supervisor William Bryan, and Supervising Cosmetic Designer Leonard McDonald, as well as concept art, test footage, and production stills. "Alien Evolutions" (19 minutes) offers an interview with Chris Brancato who reminisces about his contribution to the film. "Special Effects Outtakes & Behind the Scenes Footage" (13 minutes) brings us some unused stuff from Johnson's crew, including multiple takes of certain scenes. "Species II: Eve of Destruction" (12 minutes) is a EPK from 1998 which offers on-set footage and interviews with the cast & crew. "Uncut Footage Not Shown in Theaters" (8 minutes) is a reel of three extended scenes. The extras are rounded out by the THEATRICAL TRAILER, a STILL GALLERY, and a "Special Makeup Effects Gallery".
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long