“It’s awful; it’s just awful,” gasps Marg Helgenberger in one scene of this absolutely abysmal follow-up to the entertaining 1995 hit, and viewers are likely to find their heads nodding in agreement, because truer words were never spoken. It is as if the filmmakers suddenly realized the quality of their own work. This self-awareness is admirable, but it would have been truly honorable if they had included this line in the trailer, as a warning to audiences.
SPECIES had a certain integrity to its plot: having conceived an alien on the loose, scripter Dennis Feldman treated the scenario like a piece of science-fiction, at least to the extent of maintaining some logic about how Sil behaved and how her human pursuers could capture her. SPECIES II, on the other hand, is an out-and-out dumb gore horror movie, in which the behavior of the alien genetic material varies from scene to scene, depending on what is good for the best shock effect. Filled with repeated scenes of sexual couplings leading to grisly death, the result is about as loathsome as producer Frank Mancuso’s late and unlamented FRIDAY THE 13TH sequels.
Apparently sensing this, the cast walk through their roles, without the conviction and camaraderie that marked the first film. At least Peter Boyle does a decent job in an unbilled supporting role, and Richard Belzer is good for a chuckle in a brief cameo as the President (you have only a few seconds to figure out whether he is impersonating Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan).
Director Peter Medak, who has handled genre material with competence in the past (THE CHANGELING), serves everything up with a straight face and a pedestrian style, when an outrageous, over-the-top approach might have at least enlivened the mechanical plot. Only the finale sparks a tiny flicker of interest: all those slimy tentacles have less to do with designer H.R. Giger (who wisely disowned the film) than with a failed attempt to visualize the excesses of Japanese adult anime in live-action. When the male alien forces a phallic tendril into the female alien’s mouth, viewers can marvel at seeing a depiction (admittedly twisted) of oral sex in a mainstream, R-rated movie. The unanswered question, of course, is: Why would filmmakers who would cringe at the thought of pornography (that is, realistic depictions of healthy sexual activity) feel comfortable about purveying trash like this instead?
SPECIES II (1998, 93 mins., rated R) Director: Peter Medak. Writer: Chris Brancato, based on characters created by Dennis Feldman. With: Michael Madsen, Natasha Henstridge, Marg Helgenberger, Mykelti Williamson, George Dzundza, James Cromwell, Justin Lazard