By EW Staff
April 21, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

This is not how 20-year-old newcomer Natasha Henstridge imagined she would make her big-screen debut-emerging from the stifling, wormlike mass of a slimy cocoon to play a mutant extraterrestrial. But the road to high grosses is paved with gross-outs, and the new high-tech thriller Species, due out July 7, is trying to scare off the competition with its horrifying special effects. The most ironic thing about Henstridge’s dramatic entrance is that it required no F/X wizardry-just a bit of low-tech discomfort. The 5’9” model had to huddle inside the tight, rubbery sheath for eight hours-shivering and naked except for the goo. ”I had people sliming me down with stuff in Crock-Pots,” she says. ”But it was my savior because it was warm.” Her actual birth was even lower-tech: She just pushed off with her free leg and propelled herself out. Says Henstridge: ”I had flashbacks of being in my mother’s womb.” What is born in Species is something only a mother could love: When Henstridge, who plays the human-looking Sil throughout the film, is threatened, she turns into a murderer that you can literally see right through-no skin, just bones and internal organs, like an anatomy-class model. After she flees a government facility, a team of scientists (led by Ben Kingsley) scramble to capture her. Sil is the brainchild of Oscar-winning Swiss designer H.R. Giger, 55, whose chomping slimeball in 1979’s Alien revolutionized images of extraterrestrials and frightened audiences through two sequels. Giger saw Species as a way to realize a dream that had haunted him for over a decade: creating a translucent monster. He didn’t think it was possible until he saw the liquid creature in 1989’s The Abyss. ”I wanted Sil to look elegant,” he says. ”She should horrify through her actions and powers.” That’s where four-time Oscar-winning visual-effects specialist Richard Edlund (Alien3) comes in. He supervised the building of an animatronic model with motion sensors that detected Sil’s every movement, and his team is working on the computer effects that will give Sil facial expressions and a fluid exterior. Their work takes Species beyond The Abyss and even beyond Terminator 2, whose effects, Giger says, were ”interesting, but not special.” His Sil, he says, doesn’t simply melt from one form to another-”she has a personality.” A personality disorder is more like it. *