Thursday, January 10, 2019

Xtro (1982)

Little Tony’s (Simon Nash) father Sam (Philip Sayer) has disappeared three years ago while they were out playing in the country. Tony has been telling a story about his Dad disappearing in a blinding light that’s obviously connected to a UFO, but his mother Rachel (Bernice Stegers) and the rest of the world clearly assume Sam has simply run off and left his family behind.

Now, one night, another UFO appears, dropping off something unpleasant. Said unpleasant thing roams the countryside for a bit, killing and, well, sucking dry a couple and then impregnating a woman in a highly improper manner, which somehow leads to a very short pregnancy that ends with a full-grown Sam bursting out of his poor new “mother’s” belly.

Sam (or whatever he/it is) soon turns up at his wife’s place, and tries to continue their family life where he left off, claiming amnesia. Never mind Rachel is now living with another man (Danny Brainin), and their au pair Analise (Maryam d’Abo, clearly only in here to provide the film with more opportunity for nudity). Well, Sam has rather different plans than Rachel could have expected, and soon, he has pumped little Tony full of alien juice that gives the kid reality bending powers.

Harry Bromley Davenport’s Xtro is not exactly what anyone who went into the cinema to see it at the time must have expected. Sure, there are obvious attempts at ripping off Alien and the works of David Cronenberg, but there’s also quite a bit of The Twilight Zone’s “It’s a Good Life” in here, as well as all kinds of exploitative tactics to shock the squares. The intriguing thing about Xtro is that it goes about its business of ripping stuff off and stitching it together again in as weird a manner as possible. It’s not just Davenport’s strange idea of how to pace a film where all scenes are either too short or too long, but every single variation the film makes on its predecessors turns stuff peculiar. The result is often unpleasant and usually feels wrong, overloaded with the sort of stuff that’ll give a Freudian a field day. Leaving out the outrageous (and awesome) birthing scene, just take a look at the way Sam puts the alien into his own son, basically by giving him a super hickey that seems to make the little boy rather too ecstatic for most viewers’ comfort; or even just the glance these two share when they decide to turn Analise into their alien egg-laying machine.

All these elements – while certainly not partaking of that “good taste” you might have heard about – do at least somewhat fit together on a thematic level, but what are we then to make of the inclusion of Tony’s new reality-bending powers, that will result in an nasty old neighbour lady getting killed by a life-sized toy soldier? Or of the shenanigans Tony gets up to with the evil little person clown (!) he manifests? I have no idea, and I very much suspect neither had anyone involved in this production. And let’s not even try to make sense of the endings. And yes, of course this thing has more than one.

Obviously, if you’re like me and can go into a film enjoying it as a series of scenes of increasingly bizarre fucked up shit (that’s the professional term), Xtro is certainly the film for you. If not, running away screaming seems the proper reaction.

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