Thursday, September 16, 2010

VHS Review: Xtro (1983)

XTRO (1983)
"Not all extra terrestrials are friendly"

RUN TIME: 84 Min.
DIRECTOR: Harry Bromley Davenport
CAST: Philip Sayer (Sam Phillips), Bernice Stegers (Rachel Phillips), Danny Brainin (Joe Daniels), Maryam d'Abo (Analise Mercier), Simon Nash (Tony Phillips)

SUMMARY: Three years after the disappearance of Sam Phillips (Philip Sayer), his young son Tony (Simon Nash) pines for daddy's return when mom Rachel (Bernice Stegers) takes up with another man. The fractured household, which also includes a sexy babysitter (Maryam d'Abo), is further upset when Sam mysteriously returns and has a nasty habit of attacking local residents and seeping mysterious fluids from his body. A grisly, fast-paced blend of sci-fi thrills and gut-churning horror, Xtro became an instant audience favorite and remains one of the most popular British cult films today.

THE FILM: XTRO begins as father and son are playing fetch-the-stick with the family dog. As dad throws the stick over the cottage it strikes something unseen midair. There's flash of electricity and day turns to night as father is abducted in a beam of bright light in the sky, a real CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND on a really low budget kind of moment. Tony has always insisted that his father was taken by a light in the sky, however, mom believes that Sam's run off with another woman.

Later that night a UFO is flying over a nearby woods and deposits something into the ground, setting a small wooded area on fire in the process. Something is stirring, a pool of ooze is morphing into a gross-looking grasshopper-esque creature. This is our first taste of some awesomely cheesey 80's practical special effects via a man in a fairly terrible rubber suit. A passing vehicle strikes the creature and when the driver of the car goes to investigate what he has struck he is killed by the injured creature. The female passenger of the car is also killed. It then makes it's way to a  small cottage where it attacks and  alien-rapes the occupant, a young woman. A proboscis of some sort emerges from the creature and cups itself over the victim's mouth transferring it's alien-semen into her body.  She awakens hours later to the body of the rotting, dead creature and something growing in her womb. In a nice touch as her dog is eating the creature's corpse. Whatever it is inside her it's rapidly growing. As she lies on the floor her stomach distendeds several times that the size of a pregnant woman, a disgusting birth ensues as a full grown man emerges from between her legs, chewing through his own umbilical cord. The man is Sam, Tony's father, whom disappeared three years earlier.

At the same time Tony awakens from a dream covered in a bucket load of blood seemingly from nowhere. She calls the doc who comes to the house right away, gotta love the British health care system. He's suffered no injuries, no explanation whatsoever is offered, just one of many bizarre and unexplained goings on in this film.

The Sam clone/creature tries to call his wife from a payphone but it seems his vocal chords have not fully matured and she can't understand him. When he hangs up the phone it melts away, another bizarre goings on never explained. Rachel's assistant is Analise, the super-hot Maryam d'Abo (THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS). She gorgeous, frisky, and kind enough to have several gartuitous nude scenes throughout the film. 

Rachel heads to school to pick-up Tony and shockingly finds out he's been picked-up by Sam. She tracks them down and Sam reveals himself to her, he says he's no memory of where he's been since the abduction 3 years prior. She takes him home where he meets her new man Joe, it's an uneasy meeting  and Joe is suspect of Sam's intentions. With nowhere else to go Rachel invites Sam to stay in their home.

Tony walks-in on his dad eating his pet snake Harry's rather runny eggs and runs off in fright. Dad gives chase through the apartment buildings basement level, catching up to him he explains that since the abductions he's visited far away worlds and has changed and come back for him. Once he's gained the child's confidence he puts his mouth on the boys neck and transfers more mysterious fluids into him. Afterwards Tony discovers he's gained new powers, the ability to control objects. Powers he uses soon after to dispatch the elderly neighbor who kills his pet snake after it escapes into her apartment. In yet more bizarre goings on Tony's method of revenge is somehow transforming his 12" army action figure into a 6' assassin. It's a fun scene, and the way the old had bayonetted through the bed and blood squirts out from underneath is a gloriously cheap thrill. The same can be said for this entire film, I guess.  

Wow, I'm writing way too much about this film. It's an effects n' gore extravaganza, and the plot is a bit meandering, serving only to link the numerousand bloody effects scenes together. Don't come to this film expecting a coherent plot, it's not there. In fact, the entire film is a bit nonsensical, but the cheap special effects are a blast, full of strange fluids, blood and a killer clown that Tony conjures during a trippy, hallucinagenic scene.

DVD: I didn't have the pleasure of watching this film in the digital glory of DVD, instead I picked it up on 1.33:1 full screen VHS at the local Goodwill for incredible price of  .99, you now you're jealous, admit it. I haven't watched a VHS in years, what a nostalgic blast. The DVD is readily available and I'm sure I'll be picking it up in the near future. All three Xtro films are available on a triple pack DVD, FYI. The film as presented on DVD is 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen with a Dolby 2.0 audio track. The DVD special features include 2 alternate endings, a deleted scene and an interview with the director, which I hear is hilarious.

VERDICT:  Of all the exploitation flicks that came after E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind this is definitely one of the strangest cult & sci-fi exploitation flicks out there. The atmosphere of the film is quite deranged, you never know what might happen next. If you crave alien rape, full frontal nudity, awesomely terrible special effects, this a true treat. A must see even if only one time. Be forewarned, there are a lot of bizarre goings on here that are never explained. Just kick back with a few beers and enjoy. Now I'm in the mood to see GALAXY OF TERROR or INSEMINOID. *** (3 out of 5 stars)


  1. 3 out of 5 really?!?!?!?! i would show this to my kids before E.T. anyday.

  2. Vaughn, thanks for checking out the review! I'm not sure what you mean. You think it should be higher or lower? I'm good with 3 outta 5. It's not great piece of cinema but it's just so fucking bizarre that it's a must-see in my book. I watched it twice in 2 days. A shit-ton of fun.

  3. I saw this a couple months ago. Ironically I started watching with me mum and soon realized this was NOT the movie to watch with one's mother.

    I liked this movie a lot. The surreal aspects to the film are part of its charm. Half the film is almost like a dream.

    Mariam Dyabo from the Bond movie, The Living Daylights is a nice addition to the cast here and proves that she actually can act and be charming.

    All in all, your review is very fair. I wouldn't give it any higher than 3 stars and I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but for the right gore hound or grind house aficionado, this is a diamond in the rough.