1995’s sexy intergalactic femme fatale alien invasion flick Species stalks 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray collectors’ shelf space. Roger Donaldson’s creepy effects extravaganza sports an amazing cast and some impressive gore and practical creature effects and is still incredibly goofy but it remains a wildly entertaining flick nearly 30 years after hitting theaters. Scream Factory updates their already impressive Collector’s Edition Blu-ray with a brand new 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray Collector’s Edition sporting an excellent new Dolby Vision transfer, the same solid audio, and all previous bonus features return. Recommended.
"She can have a dozen babies! She can lay a thousand eggs!"
I last reviewed Species when I was still relatively new to this gig in the way back of 2017. Truthfully, I don’t think I’ve watched this movie again in the last five years. With that much time away, I found myself enjoying this outing immensely. Species still isn’t a great movie, it doesn’t quite succeed in achieving what it aimed for, but between the excellent Giger-designed creature effects, ample gore, thick sexual tension, and some genuinely great performances from its cast, I was happy to see the film still holds up. I still think it’s a movie made for 13-year-old boys, but then I am technically a 13-year-old boy three times over so I guess it fits in my demographic.
I do have to say that after watching this film again so many years after its original release I think it’s time to bring Sil back for a franchise reboot. Back in the 90s, the film played well to the sexual-infused tension of the AIDS epidemic that was still unfolding despite increased precautions, testing, and common use of contraceptives. Sex as a threat - and that threat being a woman - was very chic for its time period. Today, we’ve got a host of hot-button social-political issues that could serve as perfect thematic backdrops for a new take on this deadly alien invasion flick. I mean watching Species again for this review, this time around it wasn’t lost on me that this movie is essentially a bunch of people trying to prevent a woman from getting pregnant, and then when she does, they're trying to prevent the birth or outright killing the child. Granted it’s a deadly alien/human hybrid that risks the lives of every creature on our planet and probably should die a fiery death - but still, I thought it was an interestingly humorous observation nonetheless. 2022 just feels like the right year to bring back deadly nipple tentacles!
For my older thoughts on Species, here’s a snippet of my original review from 2017:
“When Species was released in 1995, I was 13 years old. After watching this movie earnestly all these years later, it's certainly a movie made for 13-year-old boys. It's got blood, guts, guns, and nudity in mass quantities. If that sort of thing is your bread and butter, Species is a feast. If you're after some science fiction with a measure of sophistication to its horror and sexuality, I'd suggest you go find yourself a copy of Under the Skin. Species is built as a crowd pleaser - and it doesn't entirely succeed at that. It's fun in a group of people with some drinks and bad food. A true pizza and beer movie.
As I alluded to in the opening of this review, Species hasn't aged all too well. It's a very 90s movie. A cinematic time capsule of fashions, CGI effects limitations, and of course the sexy femme fatale Natasha Henstridge who was cast more for how she looks on camera rather than her abilities as a burgeoning actress. The rest of the cast - Alfred Molina, Michael Madsen, Marg Helgenberger, Forest Whitaker, and Ben Kingsley - doesn't help matters much. Most are giving it only the barest effort (pun unintended) and look to be there just for the paycheck. You can see Madsen enjoying playing the heavy and Forest Whitaker can't turn down the chance to chew some scenery, but everyone else seems to be merely going through the motions. Still, one has to tip their hat to an actress like Helgenberger for throwing out the quoted line above with a straight face!
Where Species earns some points is with the Giger-inspired practical effects. Not fully engulfed by the CGI revolution, practical makeup and creature effects still get to shine. The work done when the young Michelle Williams Sil is about to transform into the fully grown Natasha Henstridge Sil is damn impressive stuff. Where the effects work can falter is when things go digital. During the same transformation scene, CGI tentacles burst out of her skin and start to form a chrysalis. The CGI work was so early in the technology's lifecycle that the effects don't blend and can look weightless. It's worse when Sil's full alien appearance pops onscreen near the end. The audience had already seen a practical Sil creature, so the decision to use CGI on top of the puppet and creature suit for the big climactic battle kinda kills the tension. The different techniques just don't blend and can be a bit comical in places. Just the same, it's nice looking back at a movie that knows how to rip a spine out of someone in a fountain of fake blood and latex."
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K UltraHD Blu-ray
Species invades 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in a new three-disc 4K UHD with two Blu-ray Collector’s Edition set from Scream Factory. The film is pressed on a BD-100 disc with two BD-50 discs for the film in 1080p and the bonus features. The discs are housed in a three-disc case sitting on individual trays without being stacked on top of each other. The slipcover is identical to the main insert art, but there is alternative insert art depicting what I believe was the original teaser poster art. Each disc loads to an animated main menu - that are actually identical to the 2017 Blu-ray sets so if you’re flipping discs between sets at home, try not to get confused.
*Embedded video clip and images are sourced from the 4K disc. For images, we're trying new software to adjust brightness to compensate for the lack of HDR and give a better approximation of what to expect.
For this run of Species, we’re getting a new 2160p Dolby Vision (with HDR10) transfer that was reportedly sourced from a new 4K scan of the original camera negative. The 2017 Collector’s edition was sourced from a 4K scan of the interpositive. Dollars to donuts, this new transfer offers up a noticeable uptick in overall clarity, improved details, and a much cleaner experience. I had warm feelings for the 2017 disc and that one still holds up well, but this new 4K disc and the new 1080p disc sourced from the new scan are the clean clear winners.
The first thing that hit me was how much more detailed the image was for facial features, the 90s clothing aesthetics, the production design of various sets, and the incredible creature effects work. We may not get many non-CGI glory shots of the full alien Sil, but when we do it’s pretty glorious - as is her gory aftermath of each kill. Close-ups of faces yield better more apparent pigmentation and textures. Film grain is better resolved here with a lighter texture that doesn’t draw too much attention to itself. There are some traditional optical effects shots that still stand out, those dream sequences and sexy alien mating flashes are good examples, but they’re in much better shape overall and actually blend together better in 4K. This presentation is also cleaner without the speckling and the slight frame judder on the 2017 disc isn’t an issue.
Dolby Vision HDR does what it should do best here. There isn’t a dramatic color shift for this release, it’s still very much in keeping with what we saw in 2017, just with some welcome enhancements in color saturation, flesh tones, black levels, and contrast. Specular highlights pick up some improvements, but I was most impressed with how much better darker scenes looked this time around. Where heavy shadows and thick blacks could dominate a scene, you can see more light gradience now with cleaner details. The pulsating lighting when Michelle Willaims Sil starts to transform and later in her fleshy chrysalis are examples, but then the climax in the sewer/tunnels gains some welcome improvements as well. Whites are bold and crisp without blooming. Colors pick up some extra shading refinements with nice primary saturation without skewing the overall appearance of the film like we’ve seen with something like Cat’s Eye in 4K. No dreaded teal/orange push either. The only notable color difference I saw here was now at the opening credits the green space cloud is more of a darker emerald green instead of a bright neon - but the green halos around the lettering are still on point. The rest of the movie doesn’t really have any other noticeable shifts.
Going into this one I was worried about the dated CGI effects and how “weightless” they could look. And while that’s still a little bit of an issue, I felt like I could appreciate how this film smartly used lighting to hide or blend the effects. Going back to when Michelle Williams Sil transforms, the CGI still isn’t quite there by today's standards, but the lighting helps it work. That said, the full glory CGI Sil in the climax still looks weightless, but thankfully doesn’t quite “hover” over the screen as we’ve seen in other films with a lot of dodgy CGI effects work in HDR - but these shots do have an overall softer quality than the practical effects scenes so the differences are quite obvious.
All in all, I’m very happy with this new transfer and the improvements it has to offer.
Back again are what sounds like the same two DTS-HD MA 5.1 and DTS-HD MA 2.0 tracks. Flipping discs and playing back samples of each didn’t show anything discernibly different to my ears. Which is fine. I really liked the 5.1 track that Scream originally used and it holds up nicely. In the time since my last review, I've updated my AV gear and I felt like using my receivers’ DTS Neural:X function gave the track some extra kick and oomph where it counted most. Dialog is still clean and clear, bass response is appreciable but most notable during the big club sequence. I hadn't noticed how much full alien Sil sounded like a Gremlin before, but I really picked up on it this time. Scoring by Christopher Young is nice and creepy enhancing the mood wonderfully. Levels are still spot on without any need for keeping a thumb on the volume. An Atmos update would have been welcome, but this still works nicely.
For the bonus features portion of this release, we’re getting everything that was released for the 2017 Collector’s Edition without anything new tossed in. The audio commentaries are still the best of the bunch and I appreciate that Scream authored them with the film on the 4K disc. There aren’t any new interviews or making-of materials, but then if you’ve never seen any of this material it’s technically all new to you.
Blu-ray Disc One:
Blu-ray Disc Two:
Species isn’t the greatest thing ever made on this planet, but it’s reliably entertaining. It’d been since I last reviewed it that I actually sat down and watched it through and it still holds up. Its thematic elements might have aged a bit but at the same time, it got me wondering what could be done with the concept if it was brought back for another run. Roger Donaldson delivers a nice and creepy sexy alien invasion thriller and thanks to the great cast and some fun gore and creature effects, it’s a fun flick.
Scream Factory gives Species a new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray upgrade offering a new 2160p Dolby Vision transfer sourced from a new 4K scan and the results are very good. The 2017 release was already excellent and this new transfer offers up enough enhancements to make it a worthy upgrade. The same audio tracks return and it’s a bit of a bummer that there wasn’t an Atmos offering this round, but the 5.1 track still works well. No new bonus features but what you’re getting here is a great package if you haven’t dug into it already. If you’re a fan looking to add this one to the collection, Recommended.