Xtro (1982)

Xtro 1982Tagline: When Tony grows up, he’s going to be just like daddy!

Director: Harry Bromley Davenport

Writers: Harry Bromley Davenport (story) Ian Cassie (writer) Michel Parry (story) Robert Smith (writer)

Starring: Philip Sayer, Bernice Stegers, Danny Brainin, Maryam D’Abo, Simon Nash, Peter Mandell, David Cardy, Anna Wing, Robert Fyfe, Katherine Best, Robert Pereno, Sean Crawford

18 | 1hr 21min | Horror, Sci-fi

Budget: unknown


Review

Xtro is a grim little sci-fi horror which proves infinitely more interesting than it ever had the right to be.

Produced by New Line Cinema and a pre-Nightmare on Elm Street Robert Shaye, it is a low-budget affair with some relatively inspired special effects of the variety that will leave you feeling rather queasy. The movie is a British production which has the grainy filter and gauche editing of a terrestrial episodic horror show, and it is devastatingly bleak, without a hint of the self-awareness or reflexive humour usually found in exploitation films of its kind. It is this stark minimalism, combined with a morbidly colourful eye for the creative, that makes the film work – although I’m pretty sure that some people will hate it.

Xtro 1982

Any movie which features the resplendent Maryam D’Abo can’t be all doom and gloom.

The story is a rather familiar one, a sort of nihilistic Close Encounters of the Third Kind with a little Alien thrown in for good measure. It is the tale of a young boy named Tony, who continues to have nightmares about his missing father after he vanished in a flash of extraterrestrial light, but who is presumed missing for more salacious reasons. Tony’s dreams grow rather extreme when a spacecraft crash-lands in a nearby wood and a couple out driving experience the fatal sting of a backwards-crawling creature who seems to materialise as if from the primordial ooze. Tony is convinced that his father is trying to reach him in ways that can’t be explained, a fact that his elders put down to his overactive imagination, and when he awakes in a mysterious pool of blood it somehow fails to impress his jaw-droppingly dismissive GP, who disregards the young boy’s sheath of crimson as standard growing pains, and presumably heads back to the surgery to snort some more ether.

Xtro 1982

Tony’s mum had neglected to tell him about the inevitable menstrual cycle.

Wasting no time in fulfilling its convoluted mission, the alien creature soon impregnates a neighbour lady with a life-sized clone of the kid’s father, Sam (Sayer), leading to the quickest, most uncomfortable pregnancy you are ever likely to witness – providing you can bear to look. Unfortunately for the newborn Sam, his wife, Rachel (Stegers) has shacked up with city photographer Joe, but that doesn’t stop the suspected runaway from moving in on his former family, nor does it deter him from honing in on their improbably beautiful tenant Analise (D’Abo), who you will no doubt recognise as future Bond girl Kara Milovy from 1987’s The Living Daylights. A long way from the glamour of Hollywood, Analise soon becomes an integral part of the returning Sam’s monstrous plan, one of intergalactic crossbreeding, hibernation, parasitic transmutation, malevolent circus midgets and murderous toy soldiers. I suppose we all have to start somewhere.  

Xtro 1982

The Vietnam War did some crazy things to people.

Sam claims he can’t remember a thing about where he’s been or where he came from, but after Tony catches him gorging on his precious snake eggs, the kid grows understandably suspicious that all is not as it should be, and Sam is forced to reveal his secret and a whole lot more. Before long, father and son grow very much alike, and a rather bizarre recruitment plan gets underway in a manner that would no doubt please a young David Cronenberg, while acts of telekinesis and macabre magic pay due homage to the writing style of the great science fiction writer, Alfred Bester, whose novel of the same name the movie is loosely based upon.



Best Kill

After mashing Tony’s pet snake into pulp with a wooden mallet, an elderly neighbour has her apartment broken into by a life-sized toy solider, which after achieving some kind of plastic reality blows her door off with his rifle and hacks her to death with a bayonet.

Most Absurd Moment

Chosen as an alien breeding machine, the divine Analise is wrapped in a web of hibernation, her mutated body laying several alien eggs, which are then placed in a fridge full of gook by a midget circus master formerly of Tony’s toy collection.

Events grow considerably stranger from there.

Most Gruesome Special Effect

Impregnated by means of some kind of gross, sucking appendage, a neighbour lady falls unconscious. A little while later she collapses in the kitchen, and after a disgusting pile of pulping viscera spills from between her legs, so does the presumed-missing Sam, his fully grown form tearing its way out in a manner both incredulous and disturbingly convincing.


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I get the feeling that Xtro is one of those movies you will either love or hate. Sure, it is badly acted with low-grade production values and shoddy editing, but that’s not the reason why I believe it will divide opinion. For those of you who actively watch this kind of fare, its deficiencies probably won’t offend you, nor will its relentlessly bleak aura. In fact, those people will probably find it relatively creative, and even quite charming in its surreal absurdities. Others might view the movie as a joyless experience absolutely bereft of pleasure, and in many ways they would be right to.

Cedric Smarts




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3 responses to “Xtro (1982)

  1. I saw Xtro back in the day. That birth scene was pretty graphic and disturbing. However, not easily deterred, I remember watching it with fascination. This wasn’t an entirely bad horror film so I think your assessment is spot on, CJ!

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    • Hi, Susan.

      I hadn’t seen Xtro before, although I’d been meaning to for some time, particularly since it is based – rather loosely – on a novel by the same name.

      I have to say, it certainly is a grim little number. It’s not the most explicit movie I’ve seen, or even very scary, but there is something undeniably heartless about it, a fact that is only heightened by its grainy filter and minuscule budget.

      But like you, I was rather fascinated by it. I’m not sure I’ll be in a hurry to watch it again, but it was certainly worth the effort. This was another New Line Cinema effort, predating Elm Street by a few years. They really have come a long way.

      Liked by 1 person

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