Xtro (1983)

FEBRUARY 21, 2008


I really have to start watching more British monster movies. Raw Meat was a total delight (mainly thanks to Donald Pleasence) and now Xtro follows suit. No one is as good as Pleasence, but the over smugness of the two male leads, coupled with the general batshittedness of the whole thing, makes for one of the most fun times I’ve had watching a movie by myself in ages.

Again, it’s almost always better to go into a horror movie knowing pretty much nothing other than the fact that it’s a horror movie. Such was the case with this; I thought it was about a monster loose in Los Angeles for some reason. Without any expectations or the slightest idea of what I was in for, I was able to judge the film without any bias or prejudice. Plus it was really short, so I had time to play some Rock Band after it was done, which added to my Xtro appreciation.

Let’s get the minor quibbles out of the way first. The direction (or editing) is really odd at times during the non-horror scenes, resulting in more than a couple occasions of people talking before they were introduced or placed in the scene. “Who’s talking?” will be a common utterance for viewers who like to talk to their TV. Also, the transfer for the DVD was pretty bad; in addition to lots of dirt and “flecks” throughout the film, there were also some unforgivable compression artifacts during fades and the like. Any movie that features a man who is really an alien sucking on his son’s shoulder in order to “impregnate” the lad with his own alien deserves a lot better!

Otherwise the movie is perfect (as perfect as British low-budgeters about aliens that can create circus folk out of nothing and use them to kill nosy neighbors can be anyway). There’s a birthing scene that is probably one of the all time best in these type of movies, and some other pretty nasty effects as well. Plus, as mentioned, the aliens have some sort of advanced mental abilities that allow them to just think of something and make it appear. Naturally, this means that the alien kid makes a circus midget, a panther, and a giant toy soldier appear and take out some kindly supporting characters, including his super hot babysitter.

The female lead is that unconventionally hot broad from Macabre. She kind of looks like a hot (and female, obviously) Tim Curry. Her character is the closest thing to ‘normal’ that appears in the movie, as she’s not an alien, a wholly unnecessary babysitter, or a doctor who doesn’t seem very concerned that a child would be covered in blood when he appeared to have no wound. This bit is one of several in the film that don’t quite make sense (or ever get resolved), but it’s also part of its kitchen sink charm.

Nothing can explain why the kid and his alien dad are so bad at Connect Four though:

Now, as you can see, I have highlighted three examples of the game already having been won. And when the kid finishes putting in the piece seen in the picture, the alien dad instantly knows he has lost, so it’s obvious that his alien world taught him how to play the game, or at least left that part of his human brain intact. This was wholly unacceptable! If you’re going to distract me with a famous board game, goddammit make sure that the prop guy has set the thing up in a reasonable manner!!! And I don’t buy that “his dad was letting him win” bullshit – not only did the kid himself already have a four-line, but he’s a goddamn alien! They know no mercy!

The DVD extras are pretty thin, but the interview with director Harry Bromley Davenport more than makes up for it. He’s British, and thus quite unrestrained. He goes off on the ending, the lack of resources, and particularly the Canadians and star of the 2nd film (there are 3 total, and he directed them all). He also seems merely annoyed that the star of the film is no longer with us, muttering “He’s DEAD now, amazingly...” and pretty much sighing in annoyance. Oddly, this makes the 2nd example of this type of non-sentiment this week, as the uncle in The Innocents touched upon the memory of the former governess by complaining that “the confounded woman DIED” at a really bad time for him. Ah, death, such an inconvenience to everyone else. The other extras are just alternate endings (one of which is the same as the theatrical ending, best I can tell?), and a deleted scene without audio – wholly useless since the scene is the mother and kid talking over breakfast.

Not sure why this one doesn’t have a bigger following, it’s the type of bad movie that almost anyone can love, and the effects are superb to boot. Highly recommended!

What say you?


  1. I haven't seen this one...yet...but I would be interested to see how it compares if at all to a recent British sci-fi discovery of mine, Inseminoid. (Which I reviewed a few weeks ago on my own blog.) If you haven't seen that one, I'd recommend it.

  2. Dammit, see you've almost convinced me I should try watching this thing again.. but.. ahhhhh I feel so confused inside :(

  3. I saw this first about two years ago, almost at the same time I saw Inseminoid, and I can confirm that there are similarities. I enjoyed both films, but there is something uniquely strange and nasty about Xtro. The editing and style are easily seen as amateurish, and a strange mish-mash of styles, but on a second viewing I reflected that if this film was by someone like Dario Argento, I'd assume that the irrationalism in this film was entirely intentional. I think we may have to give this film credit for its complete outlandishness. Second time around I'm happy to do that; the TV-movie "family melodrama" scenes I'm not sure I can excuse, unless I fit it in to a view that the director even planned that part of it to freak us out.

  4. I remember two things about this movie. 1. The creepy ass creature on the side of the road shot and 2. Maryam d'Abo naked. Hmm.

    Both good reasons to rent this sucker. Thanks for the review.

  5. For some strange reason, I consider the female lead to be a somewhat sexy female version of Oliver Reed. It's kind of scary.

  6. yo, i 1st saw this shite movie when it came out (pirate) in the 80's. i was only 13. Best bit i remember was when the old dear from 'enders got speared thru the sofa, and some guy having his belly 'tickled' by the aliens' sausage fingers, only for the next shot showing a handful of guts all over the floor! Yes, truely

  7. This is a GREAT flick! They showed this on Monsters HD last year and I refused to delete it from my DVR.

    I wasn't sure if that female lead was the chick from Macabre...but it totally is. It's so weird how both of those movies are about a woman who pretty much longs for another man, and it's the same actress! She totally reminded me of the mother from Hellraiser for that same reason, only that chick is busted as hell.

  8. One of the most creative horror movies I've ever seen.


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