Thursday, 1 March 2012



Armed with the poster line Not All Extra-Terrestrials Are Friendly (with the initial E and T coloured bright red), this cheap British weirdie showed up in the wake of Spielberg's ET as well as Ridley Scott's original Alien and frankly doesn't come close to either. But it's got a bizarre, almost endearing charm about it, despite not making a huge amount of sense and boasting some spectacularly awful acting and writing. It's as if it's been made by people who've never seen a horror movie, or indeed any kind of movie, before.

Three years ago, husband and father Sam (Philip Sayer) disappeared abruptly when a giant spaceship scooped him up in broad daylight. Now, the Xtro has returned - as a pile of sludge which transforms into a backwards-limbed space monster. First it kills two people on a country road, then it impregnates a woman in a cottage, who immediately gives messy birth to a full-grown Sam (who chews through his own umbilical cord). Sam heads to London to find his young son, who has never stopped believing in the alien abductors, and give him psychokinetic powers with which he can bring his toys to life. And to spearhead some kind of extra-terrestrial invasion by turning naughty au pair Maryam D'Abo into an alien egg machine in the bathroom.

Memorably odd moments include a giant Action Man toy bayoneting an old biddy under a sofa (Anna Wing, later to graduate to the relative sanity of EastEnders), future Bond girl D'Abo in two nude scenes, the sudden and unexplained appearance of a panther in the top-floor apartment and the weird climax in which baffled mum Rachel (Bernice Stegers) returns home and finds a fridge full of green gloop and translucent alien eggs. (The alternative ending, in which Stegers is confronted by a brood of alien children murmuring "Mummy" at her, wasn't on the DVD release I watched, but is on YouTube and is arguably more sinister.) Sadly the back-limbed monster is only seen briefly, which is a shame as it's a simple but unsettling effect - a bloke bent over backwards in a rubber costume with the face on the back of the head.

It's directed by Harry Bromley Davenport, who also wrote and performed an electronic score for the film that in truth I rather like (plenty of early 80s synth buzzes and bleeps) and it's a pity there's been no CD release. Davenport made a couple of name-only sequels which have nothing to do with the events of Xtro: Xtro 2 has scientists accidentally unleashing monsters in an underground bunker, Xtro 3 has soldiers on an island fighting an alien creature; as well as a terrible horror video called Haunted Echoes. Xtro is pretty terrible, but it's got a strange wonky charm about it that makes it just about interesting enough to get by. Be warned that it contains a small evil clown.



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