Xtro (1982) is… well, just watch it

When the credits start and you see the same name, in this case, Harry Bromley-Davenport, for the producer, director, writer, and composer roles it is traditional in psychotronic circles to brace yourself for impact. In the case of this sci-fi horror fever dream, it won’t do you any good, as its wanton disregard for explaining itself to the likes of its audience means you are just not going to be ready for this face-thumper.

“what if “Alien” but somehow far, far worse?”

The basic story is relatively sane: Sam (Philip Sayer) and his son Tony (Simon Nash) are playing with their dog outside a country house when Sam gets sucked into a crack in the universe. This makes Tony a little bit “off” and makes things with his Mum, Rachel (Bernice Stegers) tricky as she thinks Sam did a legger so is now dating Joe (Danny Brainin). Something then gets spat out of another crack in reality, attacks two people in a car, and impregnates a third person who gives birth to Sam. He then turns up, igniting superpowers in Tony, and a hilarious love-triangle comedy-of-misunderstanding ensues.

In hindsight, this sequence is still confusing.

That misunderstanding, as you would expect, involves a series of outlandish deaths, inexplicable mindpowers, and freakish nightmare sequences. Think Oscar Wilde doing The Twilight Zone, with a heavy helping of Lovecraftian dread and an incredibly 80s budget-movie setting. Just with far more body horror and domestic drama than you would expect to hang around in the same room together.

Also, this bed is a health & safety nightmare

There might also be an alien invasion happening, or possibly some kind of extra-dimensional being having a lark, but by the point that turns up your guess as to what is happening is as good as mine. This isn’t to the film’s detriment, as you get an absolute sense of narrative progression and of it all making sense to someone. We aren’t let in on the actual story being told, so all we see are the results of what is possibly Sam’s journey.

“Let me taste your eyeballs!”

Also inexplicable, but in a bad way, are the accents on display. None of them are convincing in any way, including the British actors’ British accents. If this was a decision by the director then it’s kind of genius, if not then it’s the most utterly bizarre of coincidences.

“I’m not overacting, mummy. I’m not!”

Visually, it looks incredibly good for its obviously meager budget. There is some strong gore that stays onscreen just long enough to make you go “urgh! That’s horrible!”, although it’s too damn evocative to be off-putting to make it a gratuitous movie on that front. The rest of the time it either hides ropey effects with suitably low lighting and fast cuts or just gives a “weird this, innit” shrug as it leans into shots that could never look realistic anyway.

…just trust me, okay

The acting is passable, which is probably due to the director and half the cast being very new to their jobs. The tone is surprisingly nihilistic, mostly because things are kept flat and natural and there isn’t much upbeat about aliens/demons/whatever doing random kidnappings and atrocities on defenseless humans. On top of that, the music is just utterly pants.

“Did I leave the gas on?”

But for all its loose threads, dodgy edits, and overall cheapness, it’s a damn fun watch. To be more specific, it’s an amazing “what did I just watch?” as the viewer must decode each scene and throw around their own ideas. This nebulous storytelling, combined with the personal but low-key threat to a single family, and the solid effects kicks it from curiosity across the solid Treasure line.

The Raggedyman

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