(director: Roger Donaldson; screenwriter: Dennis Feldman; cinematographer: Andrzej Bartkowiak; editor: Conrad Buff; music: Christopher Young; cast: Ben Kingsley (Dr Xavier Fitch), Michael Madsen (Press Lennox), Alfred Molina (Stephen Arden), Forest Whitaker (Dan Smithson), Marg Helgenberger (Laura Baker), Natasha Henstridge (Sil), Michelle Williams (Young Sil); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Frank Mancuso Jr. /Dennis Feldman; MGM; 1995)

A cheesy rip off science fiction/horror hybrid.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A cheesy rip off science fiction/horror hybrid helmed by Aussie filmmaker Roger Donaldson (“No Way Out”/”The Bank Job”/”Dante’s Peak”) and written by Dennis Feldman. It’s a blend of Alien and Basic Instinct, but not as good as either. The exploitation flick hopes to overcome its limited script by its effective heavy duty special effects.

The story begins in a top-secret government lab in Utah, where scientists plan to use cyanide gas to murder the young Sil (Michelle Williams), someone they turned into a half-human, half-alien female product by naively following a formula given them by supposedly friendly aliens. Sil escapes and boards a train bound for LA., killing the conductor. The arrogant project head, Dr Xavier Fitch (Ben Kingsley), organizes a search party. The searchers include ex-Marine assassin Press Lennox (Michael Madsen), a Harvard-based anthropologist Stephen Arden (Alfred Molina), molecular biologist Laura Baker (Marg Helgenberger) and psychic Dan Smithson (Forest Whitaker). Sil, we’re informed, is a creature of a rapidly maturing hybrid of alien and human DNA. Before you can finish saying transformation, Sil turns into a lethal blonde knockout (Natasha Henstridge) driven to mate and perpetuate her species by boffing men she picks up in a single bar near her Hollywood motel. The result is the landscape is strewn with many corpses. In the climax, where the thriller finally meshes and delivers its required scares, the search team tracks Sil into a dank cavern beneath a sewer after she murders one of the searchers in a sex act with him. She has now turned into a creepy, skeletal creature and is extremely dangerous. If she gives birth to these monsters before killed by the search team, there would be a thousand of them in LA. The computer-generated Sil resembles more an exotic gilded puppet than a monster.

It’s a sleazy shock film, whose aim is to gratify the viewer with its derivative Alien tale and put a slight fright in us by highlighting the strangeness of its monster creation.

The alien designs for Species were provided by H.R. Giger, the art designer for the creatures and spaceships of Alien (1979).