The episode of Revisited covering Species was Written by Ric Solomon, Narrated by Kier Gomes, Edited by Joseph Wilson, Produced by Lance Vlcek and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.
The 1990s were famous for Alien Invasion films. Independence Day, The X-Files Movie, Alien 3 and Mars Attacks all come to mind. Yes, those are all great but what about Roger Donaldson’s classic 1995 creature feature Species (watch it HERE)? Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is the beautiful Natasha Henstridge and this being her first acting role. She’s an absolute terror and force to be reckoned with here. Species is something of a cult classic and one we need to talk about. So, on this episode of Horror Revisited, let’s dive back into one of the better Sci-fi 90s films.
The initial concept for Species came from a script called The Message by Dennis Feldman back in 1987. The screenplay focused on a group of scientists who receive an extraterrestrial message that contains instructions for creating a hybrid alien-human child. In 1993, Feldman reworked his ideas into a spec script with hopes of it getting purchased by a studio. MGM got word of his script from producer Frank Mancuso Jr. He was attracted to the creative possibilities the film presented.
After purchasing Feldman’s script, MGM hired various filmmakers to bring the project to life. The first director attached to the film was Richard Donner, known for directing Superman and the Lethal Weapon series. However, Donner eventually left the project due to creative differences. Roger Donaldson, the director of films like No Way Out, Cocktail and Cadillac Man, was then brought on board to helm the movie. Donaldson worked closely with Feldman to further develop the script and refine the concept. The script went through eight different drafts. Larry Gross, another scriptwriter, was even brought on to try his hand at the script. Ultimately, all the scriptwriting work went to Feldman. During the scriptwriting process they reworked the story to focus more on the dangers of creating a genetically engineered hybrid and the resulting consequences.
After Donaldson was announced as director, Mancuso stated that most of the $35 million budget would be spent on effects because the film didn’t call for big stars…which we all know to be a lie. But because of the “lesser emphasis on actors” it called for newcomers to join the cast, hence former model Natasha Henstridge to be cast as Sil. The film’s producers were attracted to her unique blend of innocence and sexuality. The supporting cast would include well-known actors such as Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Forest Whitaker, Alfred Molina, and a young Michelle Williams who would portray young Sil.
To create the alien creature, the team brought on Swiss Artist H.R. Geiger. He was responsible for creating the aliens from nonother than Alien. What attracted Geiger to the project was the opportunity to design a monster like a warrior who was not only sensual, but deadly. The goal was to create a visually striking and terrifying alien-human hybrid, so the filmmakers wanted to create a creature that was both alluring and menacing.
Geiger would draft the design and build puppets in his studio. He later faxed sketches and airbrush paintings as production commenced. Sil would posess enhanced strength, agility, and regenerative abilities. For this to work, extensive makeup and prosthetic work were required. To transform actress Natasha Henstridge into Sil, the makeup team utilized prosthetics and intricate detailing. Sil’s face was given a pale complexion, and her eyes were enhanced with colored contact lenses to provide an otherworldly look. The team also created forehead ridges, bony protrusions, and facial markings, emphasizing her alien lineage.
Sil’s design included unique alien features. She had a distinct set of mandibles that extended from the sides of her mouth, resembling a hybrid between human lips and insect-like jaws. These mandibles would occasionally reveal themselves during moments of heightened aggression or transformation. The makeup team created transitional stages, with Sil’s skin undergoing a metamorphosis, revealing the alien aspects beneath.
To enhance Sil’s creature design, practical effects, and animatronics, the team included the use of prosthetic body parts, such as arms and claws, which were worn by performers or operated remotely. Animatronic components were employed to create facial movements, including snarls, hisses, and other expressions, adding realism and depth to the character. Visual effects were also employed to enhance Sil’s abilities and further emphasize her alien nature. CGI was used to create complex sequences, including her ability to transform, regenerate, and exhibit extraordinary physical prowess.
Filming took place mostly in Los Angeles, including location shooting at Sunset Strip, Silver Lake, Pacific Palisades, The Biltmore Hotel, and the Hollywood Hills. Other locations used in the film were the Santa Monica Pier, the Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico, and the Tooele Army Depot in Utah. The production design team worked on creating various sets for the film including the laboratory where Sil is created and kept, which was shot at Rockwell International Corporation Laboratory in California.
Andrzej Bartkowiak was hired as the Director of Photography. He had previously worked on Speed and would collaborate with Roger Donaldson again on Dante’s Peak and Thirteen Days. There were able to capture the visual style of Species which aimed to create a sense of tension and suspense, utilizing lighting techniques and camera angles to heighten the film’s horror elements. The film featured several action and stunt sequences, particularly during Sil’s pursuit and confrontations with the scientists and government agents. Stunt coordinators and performers worked closely with the team to choreograph and make sure these moments were captured effectively.
Once filming was completed, it then came time for the postproduction process. Sound design played a significant role in enhancing the atmosphere and suspense of Species. Sound designers worked on creating and manipulating various audio elements, including creature vocalizations, ambient sounds, and the film’s musical score. It helped to immerse the audience in the film’s world and intensify the horror and tension. Color grading was also a huge part of editing the film. It was aimed to create a dark and atmospheric look, enhancing the horror and sci-fi elements of the film.
The plot for Species revolves around a group of scientists who receive an extraterrestrial message containing instructions to create a hybrid alien-human child. The team successfully creates a beautiful and highly intelligent young woman named Sil, who grows at an alarming rate. As Sil matures, it becomes evident that she is a deadly predator with a strong drive to mate and propagate her alien species. Once she escapes from the laboratory, a team of experts, including a government agent and a molecular biologist are tasked with tracking her down. They must stop Sil before she can mate and unleash a new generation of hybrids that could threaten humanity. Along the way, Sil undergoes various transformations and displays a range of formidable abilities, making her a formidable and unpredictable adversary.
Species was released on July 7, 1995. It received mixed reviews from critics. The film holds a current rating of 42% on Rotten Tomatoes. Most critics stated that it’s an empty-headed sci-fi thriller that makes the most of its senselessly violent setup with visceral creature effects. At the time, Roger Ebert gave the film a positive review, praising the special effects and stating that Species was “well-made and has high energy.” Some critics commended the film for its visual effects, makeup, and the performance of Natasha Henstridge as Sil.
- Despite the mixed reviews, Species was a commercial success, grossing over $113 million worldwide. Over the years, it has gained a cult following due to its blend of science fiction, horror, and eroticism. It has also become a notable entry in the genre and is often mentioned in discussions of ’90s sci-fi films.
After its initial barebones DVD and VHS release in 1997, MGM would release an exceptional copy on Blu-ray in 2006. It included several featurettes as well as two audio commentary tracks. In July 2017 the gods at Scream Factory released an updated Collector’s Edition Blu-ray which even more bonus features including archival content.
- Because of its success, a sequel was warranted by the studio. So, not one, not two, but three sequels were created. Natasha, Michael Madsen, and Marg Helgenberger all returned for the first sequel Species II. While these sequels did not achieve the same level of acclaim as the original, they expanded upon the mythology of the franchise.
Species is a horror film I look back on fondly. As a kid who grew up in the 90s I was exposed to all kinds of great sci-fi flicks. Anyone who saw this film back in the day was in love with Natasha Henstridge and thought the special effects were great. Yes, almost 30 years later the CGI shows its age, looks outdated and everything feels cheesy…but so what? It’s good cheese and a great film worthy of a rewatch and gladly give this a solid 7 out 10.
Revisiting Species reminds us of its entertaining mix of science fiction, horror, and action. While it has its flaws, such as predictable storytelling and underdeveloped supporting characters, the film’s intriguing premise and Natasha Henstridge’s standout performance as Sil make it worth revisiting. It serves as a reminder of the 1990s fascination with genetic manipulation and the risks associated with it. Overall Species remains a cult classic that provides an entertaining and chilling cinematic experience.
Two previous episodes of Revisited can be seen below. To see more of our shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals channel – and subscribe while you’re at it!
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/species-revisited/