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Retrospective Film Review: Roger Donaldson’s ‘Species’

Sunday 13 April 2014

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Some ropey dialogue, preposterous plotting, and obvious Alien pretensions aside (the creature design springs from the colourful mind of H.R. Giger himself), Species is an irresistible slice of 90s B-movie goodness.

When SETI receives an incoming transmission which includes an attachment of alien DNA sequencing, humanity duly complies and splices it with that of our own. The result is Sil, a basiliskian xenomorph that ostensibly looks human, but mutates when in heat. Driven by a biological desire to reproduce, Sil escapes into the LA night looking for action, swiftly followed by an esteemed ensemble cast gathered to track her down. These include Michael Madsen as a government troubleshooter, Alfred Molina as a Harvard anthropologist, a molecular biologist played by Marg Helgenberger, an empath played by Forest Whitaker, and the Frankenstein-like Fitch (Ben Kingsley).

The one-note chase movie is improbably held together by this cast of greats doing their best with grad-student writing, but the real delight is the film’s gloriously divisive psycho-sexual politics, that either play as an empowering feminist study of infallible maternal instinct and courageous predatory menace, or another deeply misogynistic view of the female form as innately heretical, corrupt and treacherously immoral.


Words: Ash Verjee