By Jon Roig
Arizona Summer Wildcat
Every good horror movie uses a hook to catch the public imagination Ä that's what makes a film compelling and scary. In "Species," the hook is DNA. You know what Deoxyribonucleic Acid is, now that we're all experts thanks to the O.J. Simpson trial and Jurassic Park. The idea that we could one day manipulate genetic data scares us, even if it exists only in the realm of fantasy. Combine that with a story about devious aliens subtly trying to take over the Earth and in theory you've got yourself one heck of a sci-fi horror movie. It's not high art, but you've gotta love it.
Don't think of it as pointless entertainment, though. Think of it as a moral tale about good family values where, once again, the evils of irresponsible and unfeeling Science are exposed. In "Species," the lesson to be learned is: We are human beings and perhaps that is all we should be. We have feelings, we get scared, and we should always rely on our gut instinct over pure logic and protocols of conduct.
Bob Dole would love it.
This isn't a friendly, happy alien movie like "E.T."Ä "Species" is about a genetically altered half-human/half-alien killing machine bent on destroying the human race. What kind of creature could do that better than one of H.R. Geiger's somewhat phallic creations? The problem is, the idea has already been taken and has become a signature of the "Alien" trilogy.
But this is no "Aliens" Ä it just looks a lot like it.While
"Aliens" films played off the suffocating claustrophobic tension of being trapped in a small, contained environment with a big, scary creature, the big scary creature in "Species"has the freedom to wander wherever it wants. It's intelligent and can even take on the form of a woman (to avoid being big and scary). As a result, there's none of the tension and not much action to keep you on the edge of your seat. It's moderately exciting to watch a bunch of people hunt down an alien that can go find a mate at nightclubs like everybody else in Los Angeles, but too much time is spent getting into its motivations and psychology while the colorful cast of heroes tries to guess its next move. It's not exactly scary Ä and at times, it gets pretty silly.
The overabundant shots of Michelle Williams gazing at mirrors as she struggles to come to terms with the duality of her personality and her half human/half evil alien heritage are not only unnecessary, they're silly. Equally silly is the way the movie hammers in the message that genetic experimentation is bad.
All that aside, it comes down to this: "Species" is the only major horror movie of the summer. It's not the worst horror movie in the world and has tons of good horror movie kitsch (really cheesy dialogue and totally unnescesary shots of breasts) ... so why not? It is entertaining, it's just not the best at what it tries to do.
My advice? If you're at all into this sort of thing, seeing it on video would probably be a waste of time. The big movie screen and really loud sound is the only way to fully appreciate the power of a good action thriller. I'm not entirely convinced it's worth seven dollars, but a catching a matinee show or waiting a week or two for it to come to the dollar theaters is definately worth your while.
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