Film / Species

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Remind us again why this is bad.

Species is a 1995 Sci-Fi Horror film directed by Roger Donaldson, and starring Natasha Henstridge, Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Forest Whitaker, Alfred Molina and Marg Helgenberger.

For thirty years, SETI has been scanning outer space, looking for signs of alien intelligence. In 1974, scientists sent out a message containing human DNA and the location of our planet. In return, they received two messages: one contains a catalyst for methane that allows the creation of cheap and efficient fuel, and the other contains a sample of alien DNA and instructions for how to combine it with human DNA. It is not long at all before scientists follow the instructions, creating the female human/alien hybrid Sil. She matures quickly, resembling an 11-year-old-girl after only a few weeks. She is intelligent, strong and agile - but the head of the research team thinks she might be dangerous to humanity and tries to terminate the experiment. Big mistake. Sil breaks out of her little habitat and escapes into Los Angeles, where she matures fully with two things in mind: survival at any cost, and reproduction with a human male.

This film has much to recommend it: A fine ensemble cast perfomance, a terrifying yet sadly sympathetic villain, thoughtful social commentary, very tight direction, designs by the legendary H. R. Giger, special effects that set a new standard for the depiction of alien creatures, and boobs. The last one is what most people remember.

It was followed by three sequels of declining quality.


This film series provides examples of following tropes:

    open/close all folders 

    Series Wide 

  • Alien Hair: In her full-alien form, Sil's hair resembles Predator dreadlocks.
  • Alien Invasion: Via reproduction with humans. The method of gestation in the second movie is particularly violent.
  • Art Major Biology: The hybrids are a major example, particularly in the sequels (also see the below entry). The first film could handwave it as ignorance of the aliens nature.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology:
    • When their true nature is not manifesting, the alien beings display such traits as the ability to regenerate body parts (including heads) within seconds. Losing and regrowing a head does not affect their memory.
    • Despite apparently conceiving their children in their pubic region (Sil gets Arden to feel their child growing, in her belly, just before she kills him), the aliens birth their children through a concealed orifice on their chest cavity. No doubt a callback to H. R. Giger's previous iconic creation.
    • Breasts seem to be solely for our enjoyment (thank you, oh mighty alien overlord Xenu!), or more specifically, to make the aliens more attractive to human mates, as their offspring move immediately on to a solid-food diet (not requiring breastmilk), and in alien-form the nipples are tentacle weapons, not glands. Though, given the length of the tentacles, the breasts could just be there to hold the spooled tentacles when they're not in use.
    • Once the professor "harvests" Sarah's egg cells, she is rendered infertile. Which means that just like human women, her stockpile of reproductive cells is created exclusively in gestation (as opposed to men, who generate new supplies of sperm every time they get lucky). This is unusual, considering the aliens can "grow back" most other body parts as needed (like fingers), which we can't.
  • Body Horror: Bodily transformation sequences are depicted very graphically, like when Young Sil starts to transform into an alien monster in the first film.
  • Chest Burster: Why some people ONLY watch Species 2 ONCE. It made what happened to John Hurt look pretty tame.
  • Combat Tentacles: Which seem to be prehensible, to boot. The female aliens have two of those in their nipples, and their tongues serve as another.
  • Conceive and Kill: Naturally, this is the standard MO of the aliens.
  • Creepy Child: Sil's son in the original movie and the infected astronaut's numerous offspring in Species II.
  • Determinator: Do not get between the hybrids and their desired booty. They will kill you.
  • Expanded Universe:
    • Dark Horse Comics had a four-issue comic miniseries entitled Species: Human Race while Avatar Press had the one-shot Species Special.
    • The novelizations also give a lot of backstory.
    • There's a Species sourcebook for West End Games' Masterbook system.
  • Express Delivery: It is natural for alien hybrids to mature inhumanly fast. In the second film, they do it so quickly, they quite literally go out with a bang.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: The infected astronaut in the second film plays it straight, but the original is actually an inverted example, as the alien wants a face full of human wing-wong. The second film double-subverts it, with an alien who wants it from the other alien.
  • Fan Disservice: Okay, imagine you're in bed with a hot specimen of your preferred gender. Now imagine that it senses danger and starts turning into a green, armored, clawed scaly thing...
  • Fanservice: The series is fueled on sex...
  • Gorn: ...and blood.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The various alien menaces.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The aliens have plenty of prehensile parts to impale their victims.
  • Male-to-Female Universal Adaptor: The alien beings are Half-Human Hybrid shapeshifters. We don't know what their "equipment" really looks like, although they do seem to have a prominent tentacle motif going...
  • No Ontological Inertia: The aliens tend to turn back to human from their true form when they die. Doesn't happen in the first film, but does in the sequels.
  • Overly Long Tongue: The hybrids have one of these, culminating in a gory example of In One Ear, Out the Other in The Awakening.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Part of why Natasha Henstridge was cast involved her 5' 9½" (1,77 m) frame making her more alien-esque. Sunny Mabrey and Helena Mattsson, both 5' 8" (1,73 m), also fit.
  • Tragic Monster: The leading alien hybrids in the films tend to have sympathetic traits.
    • Sil. For the most part she doesn't seem to be acting out of deliberate malice rather self-preservation and natural instinct. That said her natural instincts lead her to brutally murder a "rival" female.
    • Species II has the infected astronaut Patrick Ross. It's unclear where his human and alien self truly begin and end but he does show genuine distress over the things he's doing, eventually opting to kill himself. However despite blowing most of his head clean off, it regenerates and it's strongly implied from that point on the alien side is firmly in control. One could even argue that the alien side influenced Patrick to shoot himself in the head, killing his human side; from when the head grew back onwards the alien side would call the shots.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Possibly, it's hard to tell if switching from human-form to xeno-form is anything more than an instinctive reaction to threats.

    Species 
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer / Building of Adventure: Inexplicably linked are a ritzy hotel, an elaborate scaffolded sewer network, and some kind of... oil well catacomb.
  • Ankle Drag: Perhaps as an homage to Aliens, Sil grabs Laura's ankle at the end before being tossed back into the fire pit.
  • Anti-Villain: Sil is a surprisingly sympathetic antagonist. She clearly has human-like emotions, including to some extent a desire to be loved ("she liked him"), and if you look at things from her perspective she's basically a young child completely alone on a world full of hostile Starfish Aliens. She's a genetic freak tormented by dreams of a world and people she doesn't know, and over the course of the film seems to realise that she will never fit in anywhere. Yes she's a killer, but she seems to be acting more out of instinct than conscious malice, from her point of view she's just defending herself or preserving her Masquerade which she absolutely has to maintain among the hostile Starfish aliens that surround her. And her goal of having children and propagating her own species are hardly in and of themselves evil. Plus if she had anything like the feelings toward her offspring that a human mother would you can't help cringing a little imagining her witnessing the heroes incinerating her infant son with a flamethrower at the end. You can see how she's a threat to people that needs to be contained or neutralized, but at the same time you can sympathize with her.
  • Barrier-Busting Blow: Sil punches through a bathroom stall to rip out a woman's spine.
  • Blank Slate: Sil was raised in a lab, so she starts with little concept of money and no moral compunction against killing. However, she is intelligent and cunning, so she's able to adapt pretty quickly. The killing thing stays, though.
  • Camping a Crapper: Sil kills the woman in the club by busting through the back wall of the toilet stall and ripping out her spine.
  • Captain Obvious: Dan's psychic sensitivity rarely outstrips basic common sense and observation skills:
    • Dan to Fitch at the boardroom: "She didn't like it when you locked her up".
    • When they find the dead train conductor by the alien cocoon: "Something bad happened here". Preston actually lampshades the uselessness of this observation with a "No shit".
    • They find Sil's car in the middle of the road without gas: "She walked... she walked".
    • While both Laura and Press flirt at the bar: "They like each other".
  • Cardboard Prison: The containment facility which holds Sil has a security level which barely beats a pinfold, as it seems that everything she has to do in order to escape is running her way through a fragile glass pod, a guardless building, some unwary soldiers and a fence.
  • Cat Scare: A squirrel jumps on Laura's shoulder for a false scare. Also the two bums behind the dumpster who give Dan a good scare.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: The hair dye commercial that gives Sil the idea to change her hair colour after faking her death comes on TV again when Dan is watching and helps him realise she is still alive.
  • Children Are Innocent: Why the train conductor cuts Sil a break. She doesn't even ask her name or where she's going to. Doubles as The Guards Must Be Crazy.
  • Convection Schmonvection: In the finale when the tar-filled pit catches fire, the temperature in the cavern should have been unbearable. However, the characters don't respond to this fact.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Sil kills a train operator with a strangling arm out of her cocoon, a woman in a club by ripping her spine, and her first prospect by making her prehensile tongue go through his head (though the latter only happens when she changes her mind about him but he won't take no for an answer).
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: The female train conductors who approaches the odd looking alien life-forms with not a trace of fear on her face.
  • Damsel in Distress: During the final, Laura falls into the tar pitch and has to be rescued by the other characters.
  • Death by Sex: Stephen Arden gets killed after having sexual intercourse with Sil.
  • Dye or Die: Sil colors her hair black and cuts it short late in the movie after faking her death, see the next two entries to hide from the researchers hunting her. Only Dan had some idea to see through that, after he somehow watched the same hair dye commercial on the TV that Sil watched.
  • The Empath: Dan Smithson is an empath, although he's played up as more of a Captain Obvious.
  • Enhance Button: They get a blurry still from a video camera and manage to enhance the image, if only slightly.
  • Escaped from the Lab: Sil escapes from a government laboratory after the scientists who created her try to kill her.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Invoked by Sill when she fakes her own death.
  • Faking the Dead: Sil pulls off a complex one. With a car, lots of gasoline, and a live victim.
  • Fingore: The scene where Sil cuts her own thumb off (it regenerates) before moving onto to her female captive's hand.
  • Follow the Leader: While not a full-on Alien rip-off, H. R. Giger complained that there were too many similarities, starting with his involvement in designing the creature (he even suggested changing the ending, which he felt as similar to both Alien³ and Terminator 2: Judgment Day).
  • Foreshadowing: The motel manager mentions to Sil that she doesn't want her credit card to fall into wrong hands. Next scene has Fitch telling on the phone that they found her via tracing her credit card.
  • Glassy Prison: The young Sil is held inside a confinement area with glass walls. When the project director decides to kill her with poison gas, she breaks through the glass and escapes the laboratory.
  • Healing Factor: At the hospital Sil's back injuries from the car accident heal in seconds, leaving the onlooking doctor speechless.
  • Hot Scientist: Marg Helgenberger, from this film and the second.
  • Inescapable Horror: At the very end, after Sil is destroyed we see a rat chewing on a piece of her body. The rat mutates, indicating that it will become another Sil. Interestingly, also a case of a Sequel Hook that went entirely unused (this particular rat is never mentioned in any of the following films).
  • Informed Ability:
    • Everyone on the team is supposedly intelligent, yet most of their lines are shouting out the obvious. Dan's line "something bad happened here" and Preston's line "she must have come through here" were both said after finding a dead body.
    • Stephen Arden is supposedly an uber-smart person, yet after a horny, attractive female alien in human form 'dies' in questionable circumstances, he doesn't think twice about sleeping with a horny attractive woman that suddenly appears before him. To be fair he probably didn't know she had the ability to regrow her thumb, and perhaps some blood left his head and went elsewhere.
    • Preston Lennox is supposedly a talented and sought-after mercenary, yet for most of the film he just stands around looking tough or wielding a gun.
    • Dan's empathic powers are limited by the needs of the script. At one point his sensing of Sil is foiled by a wooden fence behind which Sil hides. Also he fails to sense those two bums behind the dumpster who give him a Cat Scare.
    • Xavier Fitch is the top dog, yet his only skill seems to be being a Jerkass.
  • Jerkass: Fitch. Particularly halfway through the lab scene citing quarantine protocol (like Ripley, but unsuccessful) and the sewer confrontation towards Dan.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In the sewer chase, although he was being a complete Jerkass about it, Fitch was correct that Dan was just guessing due to pressure and therefore leading everyone in the wrong direction.
  • Karmic Death: Fitch in the first film, given how he had instigated the events to start with.
  • Kill It with Fire: How Sil's son dies. Sil almost goes the same.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Preston is introduced thanking a next-door neighbour for minding his cat while he's out of town.
  • Kiss of Death: Sil kills someone while kissing him by sticking her tongue out through the back of his head.
  • Lecture as Exposition: Fitch gives a lengthily exposition of the SETI project and the failed DNA experiment to the summoned group in his boardroom.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang: Fitch orders the group to split up when they are down at the Absurdly Spacious Sewer.
  • Mistaken from Behind: Preston believes he spotted Sil at a bar, but when he approaches the blonde girl and she turns around, it is somebody else completely. Watch the scene here.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Stephen Arden's look on his face and what he's thinking when he realized he have just been used as an Unwitting Pawn for Sil to get her impregnated.
  • Neglectful Precursors: It's not clear what the aliens wanted humans to do with their DNA, but either way giving it (and instructions on how to combine it with ours) was at best poorly thought out, if not downright malicious. The film seems to indicate that it was actually a malicious plan (one of the characters speculates that Sil is an ideal biological weapon if some alien race decided that humanity was a weed in need of plucking), while the role-playing game supplement suggests the aliens thought it was really interesting (and more than a little amusing) watching humans blunder around with biotech beyond their understanding and seeing how we responded to it.
  • Oh Crap!: Stephen Arden says something along the lines of this when he found out he was having sex with Sil. Right before she claws him to death.
  • One Size Fits All: Sil steals clothes from a female train conductor to blend in, yet somehow the overweight, middle-aged woman's clothes fit perfectly on Natasha Henstridge's model body.
  • Plot-Driven Breakdown: When they try to breed the second embryo, the camera at the lab breaks down. The repair leads to an action scene.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Preston at the end: "Let go, you motherfucker." Cue an M203-launched grenade into Sil's face.
  • Race Against the Clock: Fitch sets a 2 min countdown for the decontamination of the lab when the experiment on the second embryo gets out of hand with Preston and Laura Trapped in Containment.
  • Reading Lips: In the scene where Fitch says "Tomorrow Night We'll go back to the Club", Sil is in a car down the street lip reading him. She'd learned to do that in her Glassy Prison at his lab.
  • Screaming Birth: At the end Sil screams giving birth to her son. Apparently, even alien anatomy is not suited for painless child birth.
  • Sequel Hook: The first movie ends with a rat eating Sil's remains, and using a tongue similar to hers. The following one somehow ignored it.
  • Shape Shifter: Sil can choose between Natasha Henstridge's blond gorgeousness and her alien heritage's tentacled, scaled succubus.
  • Shout-Out: Sil evading capture at L.A. train station by disguising as a train conductor is lifted from a scene in North By Northwest. See comparison here.
  • Single Tear: Fitch sheds a single tear in the beginning while overlooking the gassing of Sil.
  • Soft Glass: Young Sil breaks the thick glass wall of her Glassy Prison at the lab with her bare fist.
  • Stern Chase: After having escaped from the lab, Sil remains in constant pursuit by Fitch and his group.
  • Super-Strong Child: Young Sil displays her super-human strength when breaking the glass of her lab prison and later when she breaks the drawer at the train's dining car with ease.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: There's practically no resistance to Sil's escape. She runs straight out an exit door and right off the premises. The only things between her and freedom were the glass of her containment cell and a chain-link fence.
  • Three-Month-Old Newborn: Justified. Due to his sped-up growth rate, Sil's son is already past baby age shortly after emerging from her womb.
  • Train Escape: Young Sil escape her pursuers by jumping on a passing train.
  • Trapped in Containment: They're tooling around with the alien DNA when a camera breaks down in the sealed experiment chamber. Dr. Laura Baker and Preston volunteer to go in and try to replace the camera. Of course an accident happens and they are on their own to fight off the fast growing alien while the other team members are forced to watch from behind safety glass.
  • Two-Person Pool Party: Sil ends up in a hot tub with the guy who she was falling for. Unfortunately, the strike force arrives before anything can happen and Sil is reluctantly forced to kill the guy.
  • Villain Protagonist: Everything that occurs is because of Fitch's messing around with alien DNA, to say nothing of his incredibly jerkass attitude, which almost gets Preston and Laura killed.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: A more literal example than usual, the infected rat from The Stinger is an unused Sequel Hook.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Sil is able to avoid capture and ultimately fake her own death by approaching a woman fully nude and pretending to be a rape victim.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: After Arden has sex with Sil to accomplish her goal of getting impregnated, Sil offs him when he started to realize who she really is and what he has done.

    Species II 
  • Ate His Gun: After killing his fiancee, Patrick realizes he is a monster and blows his own head off to put an end to his actions. However his head grows back and it's clear from that point on his human half is dead.
  • Attempted Rape: When Patrick becomes controlled by the alien, he goes around impregnating various women with his alien sperm. Most of these encounters are either consensual or sex-for-pay, but he also drags one of his victims out of a convenience store in the middle of the day to rape her in his parked van. He only stops and lets her go when he realizes that there's a female hybrid out there as well after she links to his mind.
  • Came Back Wrong: Patrick Ross is distressed by the weird urges he's been having and the horrific things he's done, the final straw being the murder of his fiancee. So he decides to commits suicide by eating a a blast from a shotgun and blowing off most of his head. Which then grows back. Afterwards, he's noticeable less distressed about the things he's done and more actively seeking out women. The implication being he only succeeded in killing off his humanity.
  • Cardboard Prison: Eve's prison is ridiculously escapable. The glass isn't strong enough to stop her, just like the last film. The doors can't stop her, just like the last film. The walls can't stop her, just like the last film. The guards can't stop her, just like the last film. Objectively, they've learned nothing. This is especially bad because they've been extensively testing her and should know how to stop her. The only improvement, a poison capsule in her neck, can only be activated from a single console right outside her prison which she disables on the way out.
  • Cloning Blues: Eve, a clone of Sil, is raised in a lab with no male contact at all and she's used as a guinea pig as to avoid a repeat of the first movie's incident.
  • Deadly Hug: Patrick kills his Senator father by hugging him, during which his body inadvertently sprouts alien tentacles that pierce the other person's flesh.
  • Death by Childbirth: A rather literal and gruesome example, as the alien hybrid's offspring gestate in a matter of minutes before tearing their way free of the human mother's abdomen.
  • Disability Immunity: Dennis's genes carry the potential for sickle-cell anemia to manifest in his children, which is the reason the alien organism did not infect him but just knocked him out. Later in the movie after he is wounded he covers a blade in his own blood, which seems to act like a poison on the alien hybrid.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: The mating of the two hybrids at the end appears to be equal parts French Kiss and forced mouth rape by his mouth tentacle.
  • Gangsta Style: For some reason Preston holds his gun sideways when he arrests Patrick, despite being both a supposed counter-terrorism expert with firearms training and aware that his target is a highly dangerous alien masquarading as a human.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: A disgraced former scientist speculates that the aliens operate like this, having wiped out all native life and destroyed the ecosystem on Mars billions of years ago and are now trying to do the same to Earth.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: An alien hybrid clone being experimented on escapes from a government research laboratory, stealing a military humvee in the process. When asked how she learned how to drive, one of the scientists working on her explains that they allowed her access to television, and her favorite show is The Dukes of Hazzard.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: After Eve and Patrick transform into their full alien forms to mate, Dr. Laura Baker appeals to Eve's human side. It seems to work, as Eve turns against him but is killed in the process.
  • Ironic Echo: Not seen in the cinema release. The little sister of the bad guy's first babymomma says an unbelievably ironic, unbelievably cheesy line as she climbs into bed with him.
    Debutante's Sister: Forget safe sex. You're dangerous!
  • Jive Turkey: Dennis has shades of this.
  • Lady Land: In the second movie, Eve is raised in a female-only environment, so that mating urges won't make her uncontrollable. It doesn't work. Nor should they have expected it to, considering they let her watch television and The Dukes of Hazzard is one of her favorite shows.
  • Motherly Scientist: Dr. Laura Baker collects DNA samples after Sil's death in the first movie and clones another human-alien hybrid from her that she names Eve. She starts to care for Eve as a mother, always quick to remind everyone that Eve is part human when the military guys suggest using her as a weapon.
  • Oh Crap!: The second lady to get pumped with alien juice in the threesome scene, as she realizes the guy boinking her has a bunch of weird tentacles growing out of his back.
  • Refusal of the Call: Preston Lennox, having retired from freelance hunting to making a counter-terrorism security firm. He basically doesn't want to do anything if the government became idiots by making another Sil (though the writers didn't think he'd be affected by Fitch and Arden dying by Sil's hands and being nearly killed himself with Dan and Laura), and only gets talked into dealing with the new threat by being offered a million dollars.
  • Sequel Hook / What Happened to the Mouse?: At the end of Species II one of the infected astronaut's sons is shown to have survived and Eve is pregnant with the infected astronaut's baby, with the implication that the baby will be female and they will mate. Eve's baby plays a prominent role in Species III, but the implied scenario doesn't happen because she deems the astronaut's offspring unfit for reproduction.
  • Sex by Proxy: The two alien-human hybrids are mind-linked, and also want to do each other to create purer offspring than they could with human mates. There are several times when Patrick is having sex somewhere else, and Eve goes into heat and apparently orgasms at the same time.
  • A Shared Suffering: In Species II, the male and female hybrids (one each) sense each other and try to hook up. Eve (a clone of Sil) even goes into psychic heat when she senses him, despite the fact that she was raised in a female-only environment.
  • This Is Reality: When Colonel Carter dismisses Preston's suggestion on how to track the alien.
    "This isn't The X-Files, goddammit! We're not gonna follow the word of a lunatic."
  • Too Dumb to Live: Eve is kept in a Cardboard Prison because the plot calls for her to escape and the writers apparently either couldn't think of any better way to do it or didn't want to bother. The villain uses a house that his family owns as a hide-out, reasoning that the fact that it's owned in his mother's maiden name will surely stump the FBI, CIA, and whatever other agencies might have an interest in capturing a superstrong near-immortal evil alien that's going around impregnating women with lethal chestbuster rip-offs. He drags a random woman out of a supermarket to rape her in his van right in the parking lot in broad daylight (Though that leads to his capture. Doesn't explain why he ignored several other women he walked past in the shop). When the heroes find him instead of sending a team of trained professionals armed with weapons that worked fine in the first movie they send a scientist and an astronaut (granted, along with one trained professional) and take no weaponry that would be effective against the creatures besides something that requires you to all but shove it into the target's face.
  • Window Love: A rather literal example when human-alien hybrids Eve and Patrick meet face to face for the first time in the lab, putting their hands against the glass wall of her containment unit while visualizing themselves having intercourse in their alien forms.

    Species III 
  • Continuity Snarl: The doctor from the university said that the infected astronaut's half-human children had defective immune systems due to being hybrids. They were also implied to be sterile (the female one certainly seemed to be). This means the premise of the original movie was never possible in the first place. Although then again the way the scientists in the lab produced their embryos and the natural conception by Ross may be the devil in the details here.

    Species: The Awakening 
  • Came Back Wrong: With Melinda dying, her creator Tom tries to save her and seemingly succeeds in rejuvenating her, though at the cost of another human life. It soon becomes apparent that the once sweet Melinda is now almost completely gone, her once dormant and contained alien side having taken over.
  • Eye Scream: A doctor gets Miranda's tongue through the back of her head and out the eye.
  • South of the Border: For most of the film.

Alternative Title(s): Species II, Species III, Species The Awakening

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/Species