Cast: Philip Sayer, Bernice Stegers, and Danny Brainin
Director: Harry Bromley-Davenport
87 minutes (15) 1982
Blu-ray region B
Blu-ray region B
Review by Steven Hampton
British cult sci-fi shocker Xtro is one of the weirdest genre flicks made in its decade. Young Tony (Simon Nash) survives a UFO encounter but his dad Sam (Philip Sayer) is abducted. Three years later, there’s a victim of inter-species rape, like the poor heroine of Inseminoid (aka: Horror Planet, 1981), which results in a rebirth for amnesiac Sam, returning home and doing abnormal stuff, like melting phones and eating snake-eggs, and then eventually decaying in the manner of those doomed astronauts in The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), and The Incredible Melting Man (1977). This extra-wide raft of genre references distinguishes Xtro from other movies of its type and era - Italian grue-fest Contamination (1980), to name just one - and Xtro’s cult-worthy status is wholly assured because it becomes rather more than just the sum of its varied visual riffs and astute thematic borrowings.
The development of a hybrid life-cycle here is much more like Alien (1979), meets an X-rated updating of b&w classics, such as It Came From Outer Space (1953), and I Married A Monster From Outer Space (1958), than anything that resembles the tame fairy-tale quality of Spielberg’s ET. Quiet domestic routine clashes wildly with exploitation scenes that soon turn incredibly, yet memorably, strange. The telekinetic Tony starts a spinning-top without touching it and so begins this decidedly odd movie’s surrealist farce, with over-sized toys coming to life for menacing and homicidal effects.
Despite its copious use of black-comedy relief, there’s a somewhat naturalistic and serious drama, and extreme SF-horror (almost but not quite on a par with John Carpenter’s The Thing), here that is struggling to escape from the schlocky conventions of typically bloody alien-sleaze pictures, and the movie’s jumble of conceptual effects, and off-kilter ideas (including a life-sized ‘Action Man’, and a gnomish clown), grants its numerous artistic ambitions an unforgettable melting-pot of humorous scenes implanted in a strong and spooky, albeit disconnected, narrative.
Xtro is also notable for introducing future Bond girl Maryam d’Abo, here playing French nanny Analise (“You’re always lying down,” quips Tony). Harry Bromley-Davenport went on to make sequels Xtro II: The Second Encounter (1990), and Xtro 3: Watch the Skies (1995), both of which were watchable enough, although they lack the bizarre grotesquery of this first outing. Still, I do hope that Second Sight will release HD editions of those movies, too.
Fully restored for this limited edition, the movie's use of colour and sound is exemplary, and the disc release also features a new director’s version, alongside the original, plus a wealth of extra featurettes, including Xploring Xtro (57 minutes), an excellent retrospective and highly detailed documentary short.