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Species – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Last year, Scream Factory completed the Species series’ Blu-ray representation by releasing all the sequels (Species II by itself and a double feature of the TV-movie ones). Now, they are just gonna cap off the hole in the series in their line by putting out a new edition of the original film.  Since its MGM we should have expected this was coming along, but it was still a nice little surprise. As for those who are word about the shoddy video transfer that haunted the previous Blu-ray releases, Scream Factory is replacing it with a brand new one. And, its got everything ever, plus a couple new bonus features, so its taking up 2-discs. You can pre-order it from the link below (Or order it on the Shout! Factory site to get a free poster of the new key artwork featured on the slip cover) to have it in time for release on July 11th. 

Film 

When a beautiful human-alien hybrid escapes from observation, scientist Xavier Fitch dispatches a crew of experts to find her before she is able to fulfill her horrific purpose: to mate with unsuspecting men and produce offspring that could destroy mankind. As her deadly biological clock ticks rapidly, Fitch and his team are hurled into a desperate battle in which the fate of humanity itself hangs in the balance!

Ahhh, Species. I remember back in 1995 that I was there on opening weekend. At that time I was unable to drive and unable to purchase a rated R movie ticket on my own. So, I had to do the great task of convincing my parents that I wanted to see this movie because it looked like it was going to be the next Alien and not because I wanted to see the insanely gorgeous blonde lady get naked and hump dudes. The truth was…I was in for both. Since I was a huge horror fanatic, I think they bought it. The next year, I’d do this sort of thing all over again with the Pamela Anderson action movie, Barb Wire.

What I didn’t expect was how solid Species actually was going to turn out to be. While it does have a creature akin to the Xenomorph in Alien with similar kind of kills, its rather its own beast in terms of the story. I think many people were surprised at how it was just a heap of shit. Now, with the passage of time, the film has actually adjusted into being a little bit campier, still being fun.

One of the things that keeps this movie working to this day is it’s cast. Species has quite the all star roster of character actors of the time that were known but nowhere near as well known as they are today. The cool thing, too, is that they all are grouped up together the whole movie with no real splitting up going on. So, you get to have them sparring off with one another a lot of the time. Notable as well, this is one of the few times where Michael Madsen plays a pretty clean (for the most part), good guy.

Practical effect work in Species does hold up well. Its just the damn CGI is really, really obvious and bad. This was very early into the implementation of computer effects in movies and not everyone was Jurassic Park. It was a learning experience to get the creature or tentacles or whatever to match with the filmed live action sequences. That’s an art that people would still be having challenges with up to this day. Computer effects only really become incredibly bothersome during the finale, but at this point, I’ve just enjoyed a lot of the non effects-work, action, gore and jumps to this point that its almost completely earned.

Sil may be a third tier horror/science fiction villain, but she got off to a rather good start here. I’ll defend this movie that its still a pretty good popcorn watch.  Hell, last year I even said that the second one was a candidate for a good bad movie.  All in all, it has a fun cast, a knock out villain to watch and some really cool HR Giger stuff to appreciate in the film.  Species is a solid, fun thriller.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-50 (Each Disc)

Clarity/Detail: This release of Species features a brand new 4K transfer of the inter-positive for the film.  Its a pretty noticeable improvement over the older release. The image is much more sharp and crisp.  Details come across a lot better too, especially on surfaces like concrete where you can see the brush texture and such. One scene in a woods looks completely like a sound stage now. Unfortunately for the film, that means those dated, early CG effects that don’t hold up are even more separated from the meshing with the live action.

Depth:  Species redux transfer has a much more confident looking image. The characters look rather 3 dimensional in the picture with the background loose and pushed back looking. Any sort of blurring or jittering with faster movements is extremely minimal or not even noticeable at all.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and pretty impressive. They look really dark and have a natural shade and shadow to them, while also not hiding or masking any detail. Hair and dark clothing still keep their textures and details visible.

Color Reproduction: Colors in this are more natural, but greens obviously do pop as well as the reds looking pretty rich. Blues are well saturated and feature a good stand-out palette.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from the start to the finish of the film. Facial details are strong and feature little scars, make-up, wrinkles, stubble and lip texture.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Species comes with a rather loud and booming 5.1 mix that sends a good rush at your right from the start of it.  I’m not sure whether this is an older or newer track, but going off of poor reviews of the previous release, this may be new or it may be a fixed up version of before. I rather thought it was thunderous and engaging. With sort of layering crispness and balance its okay and detailed enough.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Good thumps from the subwoofer when it comes to the jump scare pounces in the score to go along with loud engines, crashes and helicopters flying by.

Surround Sound Presentation: Speaking of those helicopters, this is a good multidirectional track that really follows action through the five channels impressively.  Now, most of this is going on in the front, but the back speakers give some terrific ambiance and really fill out the room with a nice natural touch.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are crisp and clean, with some decent work on keeping all the diction or sounds intact.

Extras 

Species – Collectors Edition is a 2-Blu-ray Disc set that features reversible cover art displaying the original theatrical poster.

Disc 1

Audio Commentary

  • With Natasha Henstridge, Michael Madsen and director Roger Donaldson
  • With director Roger Donaldson, Make-up Effects Creator Steve Johnson, Visual Effects Supervisor Richard Edlund and Producer Frank Mancuso Jr.

Disc 2

After Birth: The Evolution Of Species (HD, 36:43) – Featuring interviews with director Roger Donaldson, cinematographer Andzej Bartkowiak, production designer John Muto, composer Christopher Young, creature designer Steve Johnson, chrysalis supervisor Billy Bryan and “Sil” creature supervisor Norman Cabrera, this tells the tale of the movie from a very make-up and effects heavy angle but also touches upon some casting notes and scoring as well.  Steve Johnson, as always, is a great listen.

From Sil To Eve (HD, 16:35) – This is the exact same interview featured on the Species II Blu-ray from Scream Factory. There is a disclaimer confirming it at the beginning of the featurette.

Engineering Life (SD, 16:50) – From the previous home video releases, this is a very science based look at the kind of things going on in Species.

HR Giger at Work (SD, 12:07) – A little featurette on the master, honing more in on the stuff he did for Species, but not limited to it.

The Making Of Species (SD, 49:05) – Ported over. 3 parts; The Origin, The Craft, The Discovery.

Designing A Hybrid (SD, 15:48) – A vintage effects piece taken from one of the earlier home video releases, that talks about mixing the digital effects with the practical ones.

Alternate Ending (SD, 2:11) 

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 1:52)

Production Design Gallery (HD, 3:22)

Creature Design Gallery (HD, 8:11)

Still Gallery (HD, 8:37)

Summary 

And there you have it.  Scream Factory has completed the entire run of the Species series by going back to the very beginning.  If you’re a fan of the film, this is a DEFINITE upgrade in terms of the video and audio quality. The video is especially notable as the previous MGM release was lacking. There’s only really one new bonus feature to speak of (Unless you didn’t get the Species II Blu-ray, then the Natasha Henstridge video is new to you). Regardess of this and that, it IS the most complete and definitive release of the little 90s sci-fi/horror thriller out there.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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