Species: The Awakening was the fourth film in the Species franchise. By that time, there isn’t much reason to expect much from a film of this nature: the series rules are set in stone, the budget is probably at its lowest and the filmmakers are expected to jump through the expected hoops as quickly and cheaply as possible. That said, Species: The Awakening bucks the creative element of those trends, with the filmmakers producing a fun b-movie quickie that is better than anyone could have expected this late in the game.
Species: The Awakening focuses on the plight of Miranda (Helena Mattson), a bright professor who lives with her doting uncle, Tom (Ben Cross). When she suddenly becomes ill and experiences blackouts, Tom takes her down to Mexico and tells her of her true nature: she is an alien/human DNA hybrid and is likely to die unless they seek out the help of his scurrilous ex-partner in renegade science, Forbes (Dominic Keating). However, it will be a dangerous journey to find Forbes – and there is no guarantee his solution will save Miranda from her true nature.
Like Species III, Species: The Awakening was written by future Source Code scripter Ben Ripley. Unlike Species III, Ripley’s script for this one is tighter, has more interesting characterizations and goes for some appealingly baroque weirdness. For instance, the character of Forbes is a fun, sleazy exploitation riff on the traditional mad scientist, being more like a dissolute playboy, and there are amusingly odd setpieces like Tom being chased by an alien clone in a nun’s habit.
Better yet, Species: The Awakening is smartly directed by Nick Lyon, who gives the film an interesting look full of queasy-hued colored lighting and noirish shadows. He gives the film a snappy pace that keeps the playfully eccentric plot afloat and he also gets strong performances from Cross and Mattson, who play their roles straight and create an unexpectedly likeable father/daughter rapport that anchors all the splattery/sleazy flourishes around them. There’s also an alien-on-alien battle finale that delivers the goods in its own cost-conscious way.
In short, Species: The Awakening is exactly the cash-in you would expect it to be – but its also slicker, more focused and way more entertaining that its fourth-film status would indicate.
Blu-Ray Notes: Scream Factory has issued this film in a two blu-ray pack with its predecessor, Species III. Like the third Species film, this one was shot digitally and this transfer does well by its early-digital look. The 5.1 stereo mix is presented in lossless form and offers a clear sound with plentiful rear speaker activity.
Scream Factory has added a couple of new interviews for this set. This first is a chat with Lyon (15:36) that covers how he got the gig, the quirks and dangers of shooting in Mexico and his thoughts on working within a franchise. The other is with Mattson (9:50), who talks about how she got into acting, discusses the content and effects-related challenges of the role and offers fond memories of her castmates.