An astronaut gets infected with alien DNA during the first mission on Mars and runs amok on earth. Preston and Laura team up with a peaceful, genetically re-engineered Sil (Natasha Henstridge) to track the monster down.
The first film became a cult favorite mostly because of the excessive nudity, near as I can tell. The plot was pretty straightforward and it does not stand out as one of those films that needed multiple sequels and its own franchise. And yet, here we are.
Writer Chris Brancato was working with MGM and knew the studio was interested in making a follow-up to Species. He pitched an idea to executive Greg Foster where this time two hybrid alien women would strike. Foster liked it, but once Brancato went to "Species" producer Frank Mancuso Jr., he asked to "approach this from a different angle, so that we don't have a tired retread of the original, as sequels often are." So Brancato took inspiration from "The Manchurian Candidate", where "somebody on a mission comes back, apparently a hero, but actually with some terrible demon inside."
We get much of the original cast back, and some really fine additional casting, including James Cromwell and a memorable role by Peter Boyle. We also get director Peter Medak on board, one of the great Masters of Horror (given his background in Hammer and "The Changeling")... and even aliens designed by no less an artistic authority than H. R. Giger. In many ways, this film exceeds the original.
Having Medak on board brought a few key changes. When Medak was approached by producer Frank Mancuso, a condition of Medak's agreement was to hire on composer Edward Shearmur ("Die Hard"). Also, Peter Boyle is a friend of Medak's and they have worked together many times since the 1970s, so we have Medak to thank for this key bit of casting. Even production designer Miljen Kreka Kljakovic came through Medak. (Kljakovic is not a household name, but look him up -- from "Delicatessen" on, he has made a long list of great films.)
And yet, the critics hated it and even the cast was disappointed. Michael Madsen expressed his opinion saying, "Species II was a crock of (doody). There are a number I'm not very proud of. The movie studios can't mind that much, as they haven't contacted me to tell me off about it. I'm honest - if I've made a bad movie, I want my fans to know what they're letting themselves in for." (Regardless of what Madsen thinks of the film, Medak loved working with him.)
I have to disagree with Madsen. The film is actually intelligent and clever in a way. The special effects were ahead of their time, even if they may appear dated today. The head regeneration scene is a bit cheesy, but even that allegedly cost $75,000. So it was not a cheap effect. I suspect when people look back now (2016), they will see this is a better film than given credit for.
The Scream Factory disc has an old audio commentary ported over (and it is as good as ever). We also have a new interview with Natasha Henstridge, which gives us a bit of a rundown on her career and how she transitioned from modeling to "Species". Oh, and don't forget new interviews with the effects crew. Whether you think this is a good movie or not, these interviews are valuable and really put 1990s horror and science fiction in context.