Science fiction and fantasy                                            



Deadly Species

directed by Daniel Springen

cover 
The Florida Everglades don't have much of a reputation as a primal wilderness full of undiscovered tribes and lost treasures. But their relatively tame image compared with places like the rainforests of Borneo or the Amazon isn't the only thing chipping away at this movie's credibility. The first thing we're confronted with is a screaming woman in the woods with unconvincing bloodstains and even worse acting. The credits roll over someone brushing soil off a find, and even that looks wrong. It's not a good start.

Back in civilisation, Dr Brison Thomas (Pete Penuel) is a frustrated academic who wants funding for an expedition into the Everglades. He wants to study the Calusa tribe, a people who have been lost for 150 years.

Handily for Dr Thomas a smarmy rich businessman calls him up and agrees to finance his trip. Wilson Friels (Brian Minyard) is keen to join Thomas and his team of academics and students, even though the last group to explore the same area have disappeared without trace. At first the trip looks like a bit of a picnic, with a bit of leisurely artefact-dusting to spice it up and a few alligators to watch out for. They land on an isolated island with no access to communications and no way off until a boat comes to pick them up in a few days. Then they start to hear noises in the night, and they sit around retelling creepy legends about monsters and tribal warriors. Before you can say "don't go off on your own" the party find themselves being hunted down and picked off by some kind of creature.

As well as trying for scares, Deadly Species is full of nudity. Some of this concerns a sub-plot about the jealousies of a few of the students, but it seems extremely gratuitous. Basically there are women getting undressed all over the place. Perhaps it's meant to be steamy, but it's just too much in your face. It's about as subtle and effective as getting slapped repeatedly in the face with a wet fish.

Wilson Friels is also ruined by his obviousness. One look at his goatee and his butch bodyguard and we can tell he's up to no good, but Brian Minyard never misses an opportunity to lay his character's bad attitude on thick. He's hiding something from the rest of the team and his motives are suspect. Unfortunately the sly businessman isn't sly enough to conceal his badness from the audience enough to establish any kind of suspense.

This is clearly a low budget movie, so the monster effects aren't up to much. But even badly designed creatures are allowed to have motives that make them more creepy. Perhaps this film would have worked better as horror if less of it was shot in daylight, and the creatures were even less visible. The cheap effects aren't compensated for.

The trouble is, Deadly Species is below average in almost every respect. Whilst the pace is passable the dialogue is flat and uninspiring, and the ending is utterly predictable. The acting is unconvincing. The atmosphere is wrong because things like the soundtrack and lighting don't work together to enhance the suspense. The effects verge on laughable. However it isn't simply a question of a low budget that has limited this film's potential: it's as though everyone involved in its production is still learning the ropes of film-making. The results aren't watchable.

15th March 2011

Film Details

Year: 2002

Categories: Films

  Horror

Classification: 15

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1 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson