Saturday, October 8, 2011

October Horror Movie Challenge 10/7


Species (1995)
(2nd viewing) d. Donaldson, Roger (USA) 108min
The recollections from my initial theatrical encounter held true: Natasha Henstridge looks great in the buff and Steve Johnson’s makeup f/x are enjoyable indeed, but they hardly compensate for the sheer boneheadedness of writer Dennis Feldman’s facepalm plotting and lack of characterization. (H.R. Giger’s creature design, on the other hand, ends up looking disappointingly like an early draft of his Alien work.) Despite a capable cast (Michael Madsen, Ben Kingsley, Marg Helgenbarger, Alfred Molina, Forrest Whitaker) assembled to track down Henstridge’s randy alien/human hybrid “Sil” loose in L.A., each is given a limited number of notes to play – they are “types” rather than people. Whitaker’s unbearably melodramatic “empath” comes off worst, a combo psychic/expository device there to tell the group, “She went that way,” or “She’s angry,” or “She’s looking to breed.” (It works great as a drinking game, less so as a narrative device.) The early scenes, featuring Michelle Williams as the young Sil, succeed best, before the unrepentantly stupid dialogue and poorly thought out plotlines require so much suspension of disbelief you could sprain something.

Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation (2004) (1st viewing) d. Tippett, Phil (USA) 92min
Maybe chalk it up to low expectations, but I genuinely enjoyed this belated sequel to Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 satiric big bug thrill ride for its B-movie simplicity and cast. F/x legend Tippett, after serving as visual effects supervisor on the original, lands his directorial debut, making good use of his alien planet bunker scenario with a group of roughnecks waiting for extraction while pinned down by arachnid enemy forces. Shot for about 5% the cost of its predecessor, the action centers around certain squad members inhabiting a new species of bug, riffing off the ol’ Body Snatchers motif as they amorously spread the creepy crawly enemy amidst their comrades (showing a fair amount of skin in the process – thank you, Kelly Carlson), with no one sure who is really who. Worth your time.

Day of the Triffids, The (BBC) (1981) (1st viewing) d. Hannam, Ken (UK) 156min
A terrific adaptation of John Wyndham’s classic sci-fi novel, with the world thrown into chaos after a mysterious meteor showers blinds 99% of the human population; at the same time, genetically engineered (and ambulatory) vegetation start to get hungry for a little snack. The low-budget plant effects, huge lily-like beasts resembling chlorophyll-based ostriches, are stupefyingly unrealistic, but if one can get over that (no mean feat), there are some genuine thrills to be found. John Duttine leads a small group of people – both blind and sighted – to safety, dodging the bloodthirsty plants along the way. There are some amazing scenes of panicked city dwellers helpless in their blindness, and some of the confrontations with the triffids (with their deep clicking “voices”) are surprisingly taut. As is often the case, the most chilling moments feature not monsters but humans behaving badly: the sequences of marauding thugs preying upon the weak or of self-appointed authority figures deciding the new world order are the ones that resonate deepest.

I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958) (2nd viewing) d. Fowler, Eugene (USA) 78min
Despite its groaner of a title, this terrific little sci-fi mystery is well worth a look. Blushing bride Gloria Talbott muses that that her new mate just “isn’t the man I fell in love with,” a truer statement than she realizes since the groom has actually been replaced by a creature from space. All of the husbands in town are soon swapped out with alien counterparts (spongy, frog-faced monsters in their natural state), leaving the sanctity of marriage in the hands of a few resourceful females (and one lone bachelor, lucky devil). A well-told tale of conspiracy and paranoia from producer/director Gene Fowler, Jr., with minimal special effects well employed.

First Time Views: 17
Repeats: 15
Total Films: 32


  1. I thought Starship Troopers 2 was quite good as it goes

  2. I'd heard so much trash talk about it that I was genuinely surprised, especially considering what a fan I am of the original. But it's a solid creature feature, and that hits the spot with this monster kid.

  3. Even at that age, Michelle Williams was three times the actress that Natasha Henstridge was. And I LIKE Natasha Henstridge.

    For some reason, I kinda like Species 2 better than the original item.

  4. never seen any of the SPECIES follow-ups...probably because I had issues (as you can see) with the first. Ditto MIMIC, which I'm planning to revisit soon.

    Totally forgot Ms. Williams was in this, but if we look over to HALLOWEEN: H20 (where she first came on my radar), I don't think I would have predicted she would have turned out to be the worthy artist that she is today. Thought she was kinda terrible in that.