Species II (1998)

*. I didn’t much care for Species. It had a decent idea, and assembled some real talent, but the execution made it all seem very silly and it skimped on showing us very much of the alien Sil creature.
*. So I had low expectations for Species II, a movie that bombed at the box office and was savaged by critics. Even star Michael Madsen wrote it off as “a crock of shit.” But keeping an open mind, on balance I think I enjoyed this just as much if not more than the first film.
*. To be sure, it’s trash. But this time out it’s such loopy trash I got a kick out of it. My main regret was that they didn’t have more fun with the laughable premise: two lovesick aliens in heat trying to overcome all kinds of government obstacles to get it on. It’s almost Shakespearean comedy. When our two lovers strip down to action in the cabin where Patrick is stocking the Children of the Damned it’s a can’t-miss laugh line. Or at least it should be.
*. Peter Medak. A veteran name you might not have first associated with a project like this. According to his DVD commentary (which begins, inauspiciously, with his saying “I directed this thing called Species II“) he took the job so that he could learn more about the state of the art in effects, from CGI to animatronics to prosthetics. And apparently it was “a wonderful learning process.”
*. But though Medak had worked in horror before (he’d been an assistant director on some of the Hammer horrors and later did The Changeling) he seems not to have entered into the spirit of the thing, only considering it a “vacation”: a commercial project (his biggest budget yet) in-between more important dramatic work. He mentions laughing his way through the Hammer movies he did but I didn’t get the sense that he was playing as loose here. Which is a pity, because I think that’s what this material needed.
*. In addition to its silly storyline, which also borrows from The Manchurian Candidate, they ramp up the gore this time out. Now granted it’s that crappy ’90s CGI gore, but I still think this was the right direction to take things. We also get to see more of the alien critters at the end and they don’t look half bad.

*. I’m not sure what to think of the racial angle. The black astronaut is the only one not chosen by the alien to be infected because he’s a carrier of sickle cell anemia. OK, but Patrick also only selects white women to breed with (and he is shown as having a choice). There was also a scene that was cut when Patrick picks up a transvestite who he finds unsuitable. Which isn’t very PC either, but is also weird since we know the alien can sense conditions like diabetes (in the first movie) and sickle cell anemia, so you’d think it would be able to pick up something as basic as gender. “You had to know,” the transvestite tells him. Another scene that might have been good for a laugh, but which is played (sorry!) straight.
*. I think that’s an in-joke when the Colonel says “This isn’t the fucking X-files, god dammit!” Screenwriter Chris Brancato had written the X-Files episode “Eve.” But like a lot of the film’s jokes this is pretty obscure. How many people notice the Colonel filing his nails in the helicopter chasing after Eve? There are attempts at humour here, but they don’t come when you expect them, and I think they needed to be broader.
*. So, in sum, it should have been funnier, but isn’t. And it should have been sexier, and isn’t. But I don’t think it’s the total disaster everyone made it out to be, especially considering the fact the first film wasn’t much good to begin with. The ending is anticlimactic. Just a bit of bad blood kills the alien? That seems kind of easy. And of course there’s a twist ending (added at “the eleventh hour” according to Medak) that left the door open for a sequel. Which would not be long in coming.

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