It's also one of the few Video Nasties that spawned a series of its own (The Evil Dead being one of the other more noteworthy examples). Though mostly unrelated to the original, Xtro II: The Second Encounter followed in 1990 and Xtro 3: Watch the Skies hit Video Stores in 1995. Xtro is also yet another of the "Alien Clones" that peppered the early 1980s, this one with maybe just a little of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial thrown in for bad measure. If anything, this psychotic story comes off as "The Anti E.T."! Although critically reviled by many (even Xtro director Harry Bromley Davenport has called it "rubbish" amongst other things), Xtro tends to be at least somewhat more respected than, say Alien 2 or Contamination and has a somewhat loyal fan base. In many ways Xtro is a complete rip off that shows the obvious intent of the film makers to pack in as much shocking and gross material as they possibly can to lure in Exploitation fans. In other ways, Xtro is interesting and fun, especially in that it has one amazing feature that none of the rip offs, or even Alien itself had: Maryam d'Abo naked!
The film kicks off with a young boy named Tony Philips (Simon Nash) and his dad Sam (Philip Sayer) playing fetch with the family dog when suddenly Sam is abducted by Aliens. Yeah, just like that! Where are Scully and Mulder when you need them? Three years go by and Tony is still dreaming about his father regularly, although his attractive and classy mother Rachel (Bernice Stegers) seems to have moved on pretty well, having assumed Sam simply abandoned the family. That is if you consider "moving on" to include her relationship with Joe Daniels (Danny Brainin), a yank who looks like Horshack from Welcome Back Kotter and acts like Ross from Friends on a jealous streak. And the jealous streak is about to kick into high gear when ol' Sammy boy returns from this other stupid planet, first wearing a rather lame rubber monster suit, then looking mostly like himself. That's actually an improvement, I promise.
Tony simply can't wait to team up with daddy, who feigns amnesia to butt his way back into the family. This naturally makes Horshack nervous, but only confuses Rachel who wonders if she should be with Horshak Joe, the goofy Yank with the white boy afro or Sam, the suave Brit whom she's married to who just might be morphing into his truer, alien form! I've seen this movie till the end and I still can't tell her whom she should be with. Well, actually, I'm thinking she would be happier with Tony's nanny, Analise Mercier, seeing as how she's played by the erstwhile nude Maryam d'Abo! That would be a different movie though. A different great movie, I imagine.
Things tend to get both interesting and scary as we find out what Sam's influence on Danny truly is and what he has planned to do with him. This is one area where the script for Xtro (by Bromley Davenport with Iain Cassie, Michael Parry and Robert Smith [note: not the cool one]) sets itself apart from many of its cult siblings. When Sam shares some of his alien super powers with Tony, we see something that is, ironically, rather realistic. We see exactly what a ten year old might do with super powers. And it's not pretty. The selfishness, snaps to anger, the impulsiveness, the desire to play rough, it's all still there in Danny, but now he can do something about it and sending him to his room just isn't much of an option as our poor lady au pair Analise learns. Little kid things made real can be very creepy, actually, especially when Danny brings his G.I. Joe figure to life (as played by the musician Tok [his partner Tik plays the Monster]) and enlists his toy Clown (Peter Mandell) as his assistant and sidekick.
While Xtro is most certainly a rip off of Alien, the makers of this New Line Cinema release (which included Executive Producer Bob Shaye) clearly ripped off some of the right things. Their use of a contorted human in the alien suit to make the alien seem more, well, alien was a good choice. Further, while the effects and make up are never brilliant or 100% convincing, they are better than what a budget of this kind was likely to buy. Another point here is that, while there are certainly acting flubs here and there, our principal characters are played by steady actors who keep the movie above board, in spite of the genre this was in.
Make no mistake about it, though, cult status or not, fans or not, Maryam d'Abo naked or not, this is still a b-movie version of Alien, like a whole lot of others out there. This one even has face huggers popping out of eggs and aliens with a natural body content of acid. This is all part of Director Harry's exploitation agenda. In the documentary "Xtro Exposed" (available on some DVD releases), the director seems to revile this film as much as the critics and admits to packing Xtro with as many extreme and nasty elements as he could to make sure it was controversial and (as he put it) "a mess". He even revels in its listing (albeit temporarily) as a Video Nasty as that controversy (and others) help to boost sales of the film.
Its inclusion on the Video Nasty List may have been brief, but it wasn't a mistake. Animal cruelty as well as some shocking scenes of rape-like impregnation of women (with fully grown humans, no less) are only a few of the areas where Xtro steps over the invisible line extrapolated from the Obscene Publications Act 1959 (which the British Board of Film Classification drew its rules from).
Any way you slice it, though, Xtro is all in good fun. It's never a great movie, and it's not often very good either (if you doubt it, check out the silly synth score both written and performed by Harry Bromley Davenport), but it's not one of those movies that makes you feel like you're in the back seat of a Yugo traveling across the Texas Desert, nauseated, achy and having to pee for about 18 hours. Other Video Nasties have a tendency to make one feel that way. It's got enough quality to it to earn Two and One Half Stars out of Five. Thank you, Harry, you've given me several more reasons that justify the fact that I never eat eggs. Thank you Maryam, you've given me even more reasons that justify the fact that I bought this movie on DVD! And White Nights. And The Living Daylights. And... Hully Gee you're hot! It must run in the family. You want to introduce me to your cousin Olivia?
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But please don't neglect your family when you do so...
Sometimes these reunions can be positively caustic!
You'd think if you got your hands on Miriam D'Abo other things might cross your mind!!!
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