Xtro is the film that narrowly escaped becoming the second Brit-made
video nasty. Why it didnt becomes immediately apparent on viewing
theres nothing there that puts it in the same league as something
like the reviled I Spit On Your Grave, or even (gulp) the only
actual banned Brit, Expose.
Xtros only crime (other than being a bit crap) is that it
features an extra-terrestrial rape followed by a deeply nasty birth. What
it was about life in the late 70s and early 80s that created this as a
mini genre, I have no idea (think of Alien,
Inseminoid and a host of Italian gore movies
Xtro manages to take the idea of a randy alien "at it",
remove any remaining logic from such an absurd premise and then film it
in loving close-up. Accompanied by the worst music outside of the BBC
Radiophonic Workshop. And it is revolting. But more of that later.
The film itself has come in for its fair share of brickbats over the years,
which is a shame. Okay, so it is unremittingly cheesey, occasionally truly
awful and sometimes just boring, but there are a number of excellent ideas
there, if youre prepared to give it a chance.
The opening scenes are actually something of a tour-de-force as
a man and a boy play with their dog in the garden of a country cottage,
the stick the man has thrown suddenly freezes in mid air. Day suddenly
switches to night, and the scene is illuminated by some Close Encounters
(or if you prefer school disco) lighting effects.
Things shunt forward to three years later, and were
re-introduced to the boy from scene one, whose name is Tony and who appears
to have spent the intervening time having bad dreams and inheriting a
As the lights re-appear in the sky over the English countryside (courtesy
of your typical not-very special effects), a couple in a Volvo crash into
something that scuttles across the road in front of them (quite
spooky, this bit). He (of course) goes to have a look at whatever it was
that they hit, and gets something sprayed in his face, causing blood to
pour from his eyes and killing him dead. The woman is the next to die,
and whatever it is then proceeds to the home of a freshly-showered blonde
and does the dirty with her on the kitchen floor.
At this point Tony wakes up in bed and finds himself covered from head-to-toe
in bright red blood, in what has to be the worst example of a horror wet
dream ever. Daddy sent it
he explains. I just
Weve all been there, right, lads?
Then its time for that birth scene, which sees the abused
woman wake up on the kitchen floor and finds the alien thingy dead. Before
you can say Great (Ridley) Scott! shes writhing on the
floor, and a fully-grown man (Tonys dad) explodes from between her
legs in a shower of gore, Geri Halliwell-style.
And this is where the film falls down. What was the alien thingy? Why
did it kill those people? Why did it have to rape the woman? If that is
Tonys dad, why did he have to be re-born? None of this is explained,
which kind of makes you think that the only reason the rape/birth scene
was included was because someone thought it up and shoehorned it in. Still,
I suppose thats exploitation movies for you
Thats the end of the nasty violence, and the film gets on with telling
the everyday story of the mother, son, step-dad and alien abductee original
dad. For the next hour or so, the film lurches from kitchen sink melodrama
(complete with hip references to the early 80s unemployment situation
apparently, if you "look Yiddish, think Briddish" youll
find gainful employment!?!), to extremely saucy sex scenes (Bond girl
Mariam DAbo in a clinch that leaves nothing to the imagination
hooray!), and complete daft as a brush-ness (man being chased
by a toy tank that somehow manages to fire real rockets).
Tony turns out to be every inch his fathers son, and develops the
ability to control inanimate objects (he also inherits a spooky murderous
clown). The high spot of his new-found telekinetic talents is not
the tank scene (which is quite frankly shit), but the sudden appearance
of a perfectly-realised full-sized 80s Action Man (complete, one assumes,
with gripping hands and eagle eyes) which proceeds to viciously bayonet
Lou Beale out of Eastenders. If only Xtro II had come up with an
army of such unstoppable killing machines (one with black hair, one with
perhaps one wearing a floral shirt with enormous buttons
that your mum made for when hes not at work), which
perhaps could have laid waste to the entire cast of Hollyoakes
When Tony's mum takes his errant alien dad off to the cottage to "try
and remember", the boy gets left with D'abo, who, in the best tradition
of all good au paires, is more concerned with shagging her boyfriend than
doing her job. Such shenanigans are soon put to an end, though, by a combination
of rubber mallet-head bopping, murderous toy tanks and a full-sized black
panther (I kid you not).
As D'abo gets turned into a one woman alien breeding machine and dad starts
to messily show his true colours to mum, things are set for an ending
which sticks two fingers up to E.T. in fine style. In fact, the
whole film was marketed as the "anti-E.T.", with the tagline
"Not all aliens are friendly". Many phones get destroyed during
the short runtime (no-one "phones home" in this film - they're
usually just messily bludgeoned, stabbed or sucked to death). But the
"shock" extra ending is pure Alien.
Xtro is nowhere near as bad as you might think - especially if
you're a connoisseur of the cheesey. Although messily gory, it never really
repels because of its lack of chills. It'll never be a classic, but deserves
a small ante chamber off the Brit horror hall of fame, none the less.