Identity

Watch 'Species,' the 90s Scifi About a Sexy, Killer Alien Trying to Get Laid

More than twenty years after its release, the oft-roasted movie shines as an accidental satire that scares and arouses audiences of all ages.

by Sara David
Nov 29 2017, 10:01pm

Photo via Getty Images, treatment by Leila Ettachfini

"Cold Takes" is a new column in which we express our passionate beliefs about insignificant events and Internet discourses at least several months too late.

Some scarousing pop culture moments consumed during adolescence will stay with you for a lifetime, like when Juliette Lewis sucks Robert De Niro’s thumb in Cape Fear or every minute of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. For me, that moment appears in Species, when the fate of the human race depends on whether an extremely sexy alien woman gets laid. In a Los Angeles hot tub, she is blonde, naked, and perfect—and if the man she’s kissing puts his dick inside her, we’re all going to die.

The 1995 film follows SIL (or test subject S1L), a half-human, half-alien girl created in a lab (and, in an extremely Stranger Things fashion, experimented on by an ambiguously evil father figure/scientist) who escapes the facility after her captors attempt to murder her. Species’s protagonists are a motley crew recruited by the US government to hunt down its secret alien experiment gone wrong. After maturing into a beautiful, murderous supermodel, SIL has a simple goal: have sex, have a baby, and wipe out the human race to become earth’s dominant species.

Species was generally roasted by reviewers (Roger Ebert called it a "depressing vision") but proved to be a box office hit, earning more than $110 million worldwide and attracting legions of horny preteens into scifi, including myself. Revisiting the movie after maturing into a horny adult into scifi, Species shines as an accidental satire of the sexy vixen trope and the "beauty is power" ethos.

Said hot tub scene. Screenshot via MGM

A sexy alien-woman on a fucking and killing rampage sounds objectively cool, but SIL herself is not very scary to me. Engineered by H.R. Giger, the Swiss artist behind Alien’s alien, SIL is at one moment a girl with superhuman strength, then an exploding cocoon-blob, then a nebulous mass of tentacles, and finally a humanoid alien which—despite having a wildly different skeletal system—boasts perfect, human-looking DD cups right out of Playboy. Her disparate forms drive home the point that our fear isn’t of SIL herself, but of our inability to resist her.

While she manages to stay half a step ahead of her hunters (which include Michael Madsen as a bounty hunter, Forest Whitaker as an empath, Marg Helgenberger as a molecular biologist, and Alfred Molina as a Harvard anthropologist) for most of the movie, SIL isn’t actually a very smart predator; she’s simply a sexy and powerful one. (Same.)

Although her species supposedly sent humans a "recipe" for clean, sustainable energy as proof that they were brilliant and benevolent, SIL does not even know how to eat a banana. While it’s tempting to excuse her small failures of understanding (like not knowing when her car is out of gas), it doesn’t make sense in the context of the film, where SIL is supposed to be an observational genius who can learn to drive by simply watching a man start a car.

On her journey to procreate, SIL missteps a few times but because the success of her mission (to fuck) is predicated on being a hot woman—and we’re frequently reminded that she’s a hot, often topless woman—humanity is on the brink of extinction at all times. In the club where she learns and uses the pick-up line "I’ve got a party and no one to take me," SIL responds to follow-up questions with, "I don’t know." It’s an honest, empty answer that would give most women the creeps but is instead enthusiastically interpreted as foreplay by a Hollywood chump who turns out to be a rapist.

As clumsy as we find SIL’s logic, she’s still infinitely smarter than any man who gazes upon her boobs. And this, we learn, is the true danger.

After SIL fakes her death in an exploding car crash—which none of the hunters believe killed her—Harvard professor and anthropologist Alfred Molina stumbles upon SIL in his locked hotel room. Even though he’s seen three of SIL’s mutilated victims, the violent and rapidly-growing tentacle monster that shares SIL’s DNA, and SIL herself previously escape the hunters in a daring chase, he lets his guard down for this sexy stranger who he doesn’t recognize because she dyed her hair from blonde to brown.

"This sort of thing doesn’t usually happen to me," he says as a murderous alien presses her (once again) bare breasts against him. After she throws him onto the bed with supernatural force, you’d think he’d hesitate. Instead, he rips off his clothes one last time.

Harvard professor attempting to mansplain conception moments before his gruesome death. Screenshot via MGM

While critics have called the movie "soft core porn" and dismissed SIL as a one-dimensional, sexist caricature, Species: The Novel writer Yvone Navarro told me, "There was nothing intentionally sexist about her. For [ Species screenwriter] Dennis, it was [about] the female imperative to reproduce."

Despite this idea’s reductive sexism, the movie makes sense as a story about the dangers of horniness. Where we’re usually yelling at characters for being too dumb and blind to see the murderer right in front of them, Species gives us reason to disregard our lives and safety, in the form of the only feeling we can all relate to being irrationally consumed by: arousal.

In this story, heterosexual sex is literally deadly, but in contrast to similar concepts such as Teeth , penetration of the alien goddess would truly ignite the Apocalypse. In fact, despite SIL’s bullet-ridden demise at the hands of the most machismo-saturated alien hunter in the movie, we catch a glimpse that her power lives on.

Tagged:
Film
Feminisme
scifi
species