R.I.P. H.R. Giger and Malik Bendjelloul

 

H.R. Giger

H.R. Giger has passed away at the age of 74 in Switzerland. While not part of the Hollywood machine, Giger, designed the iconic look of the Ridley Scott’s Alien. This endeared him to me as the Alien series is probably my favorite. Alien and Aliens are both in my top three films. I thoroughly enjoy the remaining four films and Prometheus, in spite of the quite variable quality of those endeavors.

Future-Kill

Giger also had a hand in the design for Species, a guilty pleasure of mine. He designed the poster for Future-Kill (above). He was a conceptual artist for Poltergeist II and his works were the basis of the videogame Dark Seed and its sequel. Unfortunately, Netflix streaming does not have any of his films. Amazon Prime has Species III but it is pretty meh.

Malik Bendjelloul

 

Malik Bendjelloul died on May 13th, 2014 as a result of suicide. He was the director/writer/editor/producer/title designer/illustrator of Searching for Sugar Man which won the Oscar for Best Documentary last year. Searching for Sugar Man is not available on Amazon Prime or Netflix streaming.

Aliens Attack! Species Edition

Those aliens just can’t beat us down. Species is currently available on instant Netflix.

One-line Review: Gorgeous alien models (Giger and Henstridge) enlivens otherwise routine move.

Species (1995) – Rated R

“When government scientists (led by Ben Kingsley) receive a transmission from space containing alien DNA, they create the ultimate femme fatale: a hybrid woman named Sil (Natasha Henstridge) with supermodel looks, deadly shape-shifting abilities … and raging hormones. When Sil escapes, a team of specialists scrambles to find her before she can reproduce, culminating in a fright-filled climax in the Los Angeles sewer system.”

“Nobody ever asked me to find anything they didn’t want dead.”

Species is definitely a guilty pleasure. It is neither written nor directed well and the acting is all over the place, in spite of the cast. Roger Donaldson (Cocktail, Dante’s Peak) is an adequate director but is often too by-the-numbers to produce something memorable. Dennis Feldman has seven writing credits – three of them are Species films.

Donaldson assembled a nice cast of solid ‘B’ performers. Ben Kingsley is our resident Frankenstein, Xavier Fitch, tampering with the forces of nature. Kingsley proved he was a great actor with Gandhi but since then has appeared in anything anyone asks him to. As usual Michael Madsen plays the killer, though no one seems to get the performance out of him that Tarantino does.

Marg Helgenberger is actually good as Dr. Laura Baker. The same cannot be said of the normally reliable Forest Whitaker as the world’s most clueless empath, Dan Smithson. Alfred Molina rounds out the cast of hunters as the hapless Dr. Stephen Arden.

The real find here, of course, is Natasha Henstridge in her debut performance. She is really good here channeling a Daryl Hannah Splash-type of alien and the camera loves her. From her emergence from the womb, naked and completely covered in KY (I swear I’m not making that up), well let us just say that she had me at hello. I liked her so much that I watched several more of her movies before I realized that I really just liked her as Sil.

The other real star here is H.R. Giger’s creature design. He does a wonderful job of creating monsters that convey an uncomfortable level of sensuality. His Alien design was so classic that it helped spawn a whopping five sequels and now a prequel (of sorts) in Prometheus. His Sil design is reminiscent of the classic Alien crossed with a human which, not coincidentally, is pretty much what Sil is.

Not only is Giger a great artist but he had such a commitment to the project that when MGM canceled the ‘nightmare train’ shoot because it was too expensive, Giger put up a hundred grand to film it. I like that they kept it because it looks neat but it is not actually integral to the plot.

The film is somewhat by-the-numbers. Sil, an unstoppable alien hybrid, escapes from a scientific facility and ;earns human behavior while trying to find a mate. The government assembles a team of experts to hunt her down but can they find her in time? This formula and the other factors would have produced a classic film had portions of this movie not been so terribly stupid.

Notes to filmmakers: Cyanide gas is invisible. Arcade games should be plugged in. Empaths should be empathic. Lab grown aliens do not have pierced ears. You don’t need an empath to state the obvious. You don’t need a psychologist to state the obvious. You don’t need a biologist to state the obvious. Oh fine – let’s just say you don’t need to state the obvious. For goodness sake, learn to hide the boom (Film 101).

Species is a guilty pleasure that I enjoy in moderation but the script is deeply stupid. Every one of the hunters states the obvious repeatedly and almost none of what they say or do requires the expert knowledge they supposedly possess.

People Watch: Look for Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Shutter Island) as the young Sil (prior to her transformation into Natasha Henstridge). Patricia Belcher, Caroline on Bones, appears briefly as a hospital admittance clerk.