That Rare Exception When The Sequel is Better Than The First
I remember being pretty excited about the first Species when it first came out. Probably because H.R. Giger was designing the alien, but also because I just love sci-fi/action/thrillers, and this one looked to get a gem. But for me, it wasn't. I found it pretty dull and lifeless for the most part. Sure it's always nice seeing Natasha Henstridge nude, but overall it was a pretty forgettable experience for me. I decided to revisit it a few months ago out of sheer curiosity because I have been known to change my mind about movies, but not this time. I felt the exact same way as I did all those years ago, only now with a much clearer reason why I don't like it. It has all the bells and whistles of a big budget sci-fi film, a potential kickstarter to a new franchise, but it's just all so very bland. Great cast, and some nifty effects, but I just found it hard to care about anything or get excited. Even on a visual level, when I'd always felt Roger Donaldson was more of a serviceable director, and never adding any level of visual fun to the mix, I still had hope. But alas, it was not to be and Species left me underwhelmed yet again.
Then somebody had randomly mentioned how nuts the sequel was, and as luck would have it, Hulu added the Species films to their lineup and it was just the sign I needed to dig into them, since I would probably never make any real effort to. So let's dig in.
I don't even know where to begin. It seems like the filmmakers, production and studio decided to go the complete opposite direction of the first one, going so far into low-budget grindhouse that it was just fucking awesome. It's bloody, gory, fun, full of nudity and really just a blast from start to finish. It's so absurd, quite ridiculously silly, and unintentionally bonkers that I honestly couldn't believe what I was seeing, but that's what I loved about it. It was a complete 180 from what I was expecting going in, and for lack of a better term, my mind was blown. This is the kind of experience I love, when I go in with one expectation, and being delivered something totally different.
Directed by Peter Medak (Romeo is Bleeding, The Krays), Species II piles on the blood, guts, gore and nudity in a way I was not expecting. Medak, who would seem like an unlikely choice for a project like this, handles it all with such care, giving the film a kind of slick "look" that you wouldn't normally see in a film like this, which only adds to it's continuous surprises.
On the flip-side though, I can completely understand why someone wouldn't like it. It's so bonkers, like writer Chris Brancato just though, "fuck it, I'm going to write a batshit crazy sequel and make it fun, something the first film wasn't". And he most certainly did. Some might consider this a mess. But it's a great looking mess, and a very fun one.
Species II exceeded my expectations in the most unconentional way. Where I was expecting a lower class sequel to a big budget hit, I got a blast of "go for broke" gory, bloody, nasty fun, made all the better with Steve Johnson's incredible practical effects work. I would strongly recommend this to anyone who loves films in the low-budget sci-fi/horror genre, because this one delivers the goods and is just so damn fun. Here's to hoping Part III is somewhere within the same scope. To be continued...