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Species III (November 29/04)

Given that the previous installment in the Species series - the appropriately named Species II - was one of the worst films of 1998 (if not the worst), the filmmakers behind Species III would've had to be really incompetent to top that movie in terms of sheer awfulness. Fortunately, the film isn't nearly as bad as the second one; instead, it's merely mediocre (which was also true of the original, so it's undoubtedly in good company).

The film picks up immediately after the events of Species II, with Eve's (Natasha Henstridge) supposed dead body being transported to an undisclosed location. Something goes awry en route, though, and Eve winds up giving birth to a little girl (she dies - for real - during delivery). Crackpot scientist Dr. Abbot (Robert Knepper) absconds with the mutant baby, in the hopes that he might be able to replicate her DNA (presumably; his motives are never made entirely clear). Of course, this being a Species flick, it's not long before the child transforms into an oft topless woman (played by Sunny Mabrey) with designs on world domination. Also thrown into the mix is brilliant grad student Dean (Robin Dunne), who just happens to be working on an enormous device that essentially acts as a furnace (hmm, might that come in handy during the film's third act?)

That Species III is a direct-to-video effort doesn't come as much of a shock, considering the lack of familiar faces (Henstridge's "role" amounts to roughly two minutes of screentime, sans dialogue) and visibly low budget. In terms of the latter, the use of digital photography couldn't possibly be more obvious; the film has that muddy, unfocused look that tends to accompany anything shot in that format (this is true even of movies that have a lot more cash to throw around, ie Collateral). The special effects are surprisingly decent, though it's never been more obvious that the alien is just a stuntperson in a rubber suit.

Ben Ripley's screenplay, presumably in an effort to save money, places the emphasis on meaningless technobabble, something that's exacerbated by a seriously overlong running time (at almost two hours, the movie is at least 45-minutes too long). As a result, Species III is often incredibly dull - no small feat given the amount of nudity and violence in the flick. As for the performances, they're fairly decent. Mabrey isn't required to do much other than scowl and look confused, while Dunne (who is evidently trying to set some kind of record for appearing in the most straight-to-video sequels, having starred in Cruel Intentions 2, The Skulls 2, and American Psycho 2) plays a variation on his usual conflicted-hero-with-a-heart-of-gold persona.

Species III apparently made its debut on the American Sci-Fi Network, which is just amazing. Stripped of all it's R-rated qualities, there's nothing here except a lot of really boring talk (something that's not exactly what the Species series has become known for).

out of

About the DVD: MGM Home Entertainment presents Species III in both rated and unrated versions (this review applies to the latter). Along with a letterboxed transfer, the disc includes a commentary track (featuring director Brad Turner, Ripley, and Dunne), four featurettes on the making of the movie (which run 5-13 minutes each), a photo gallery, and a promo (in addition to several MGM trailers).
© David Nusair