Latest posts by Sam Panico (see all)
- Drugs, Cults and Burned up Svengalis in Bad Dreams (1988) - 30th May 2017
- XeroXenomorphs – Galaxy of Terror (1981) - 20th May 2017
- XeroXenomorphs: The influence of Alien on Video Games - 18th May 2017
Alien is a haunted house movie in space that has begat a slew of imitators, copycats and outright rip-offs. 1982s Xtro, on the other hand, is truly a movie that has something for everyone: if everyone includes folks who want to see movie about a father reconnecting with his son, as well as a film where Maryam d’Abo is repeatedly naked, a kid discovers his psychic powers with a weird clown, an Alien-style birth scene of a fully-grown man being born out of a pregnant woman (“What is it with all the alien rape and birth scenes in these movies? What is wrong with people?” asked my wife), toys coming to life, a child hunting down people like The Omen…truly Xtro is about ten movies worth of ideas in one scuzzy, scummy exploitation fever dream.
I’ll do my best to summarize the plot, but at any point, you may declare, “You’re just making this shit up now.” I assure you that what follows is as close to the filmed truth as possible. It truly is that weird film that even surprised a jaded viewer such as myself.
Tony and his dad Sam (Phillip Sayer, The Hunger) are playing fetch with their dog. On the last stick through, much like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Sam tossed the stick high into the air and the screen goes white as he gets abducted.
Three years later, the light appears in the sky again and an alien creature scurries across a British countryside road. It gets hit by a car, yet survives to kill the driver and his passenger, then find his way to a cottage where it impregnates the lady who resides there. Moments later, Sam is reborn, clawing his way out of the woman, even biting into a bloody umbilical cord before he leaves. This is ten minutes into the movie. And if you think this is the end of the craziness, read on….
Sam wants to find his son, who lives with his mother Rachel (Bernice Stegers, Macabre), her new boyfriend Joe (Sinon Nash, Brazil) and a French babysitter named Analise (the aforementioned d’Abo, The Living Daylights) whose sole job seems to be getting naked every time she is on screen. Sam has nightmares about his dad every single night, waking up soaked in blood. Oddly, it turns out that the blood isn’t his.
Sam finds Tony’s school and follows him home, where he ends up moving in. He can’t remember anything of the last three years. Joe hates this, as he’s due to marry Rachel and doesn’t want her ex around. It’d all be weird enough if Sam wasn’t eating Tony’s snake’s eggs and drinking his son’s blood — an act that teaches him how to use his alien powers, which include the ability to grow his toys and send them to kill people, like a human-sized Action Man soldier and a teddy bear clown that becomes a horrifying little person clown.
Joe and Rachel continue to grow apart as she takes old husband Sam to see their old house. Meanwhile, Analise should be watching Tony, but she’s naked. Again. And having sex. Again. Tony retaliates by getting the clown to knock her out and impregnates her with eggs, sealing her in a nest of spiderwebs. As her boyfriend comes in searching for her, he’s chased by a toy tank and then killed by a leaping black panther! No — really, this actually happens in the film, like they just had a black panther lying about and figured, well, why not? Tony then kills the building supervisor with a spinning toy, which elicits a shower of blood.
So where’s mom and now alien dad? Reconnecting, horizontally, at the bar. They make the alien/human love until Sam’s skin starts to come off, but he literally stays on top of her as his face decomposes. Good news — this is when her new boyfriend shows up! Sam reacts by screaming until the boyfriend’s ears explode and taking Tony to, well, somewhere, as they disappear in a flash of light.
Whew — got all that? Well, it gets crazier. The entire apartment is cast in white light as Rachel finds the eggs in a cooler. The black panther shows up again and if I’d have seen this in a theater, this would be the exact moment when I would stand up and cheer. Rachel lovingly holds the eggs and plays with it until the alien from the beginning kills her.
But that’s not the original ending! Director Harry Bromley Davenport wanted the film to end with Rachel coming back to a home filled with clones of Tony, but the effects didn’t look all that great. Too bad — that’s a much better ending than what we got!
Xtro is truly something else, filled with a lunatic synth score by Tok and Tok, made up of nightmare images and is a film that doesn’t seem to make any narrative sense, much like Phantasm. It also inverts Alien’s radical attack on men, having them be the ones impregnated, and having women be the target. Where Sam has gone to is up for interpretation — is it a Lovecraftian another dimension above interests such as human morality or simply a trip to an alien world? Life in Xtro is cheap — merely a tool for Sam to be reborn and spread his seed. Future sequels did nothing to explain, as they have nothing to do with this film.
Roger Ebert referred to the film as “a completely depressing, nihilistic film, an exercise in sadness” and “it’s movies like this that give movies a bad name.” I didn’t see that at all — I see a film pushing itself to new limits of weirdness. There’s certainly no other film like Xtro and it slimily climbs, gnaws and bites its way out of the ripoff framework that inspired it, becoming a whole new form of film life.