Review : Xtro (1982)

Second Sight Films sent me a copy of their brand new release of Xtro, arriving for the first time on blu-ray on June 18th, 2018. This limited edition boxset comes with a lot of special features including both the original and alternate endings, a documentary and several featurettes.

Xtro is an exploitation horror film directed by Harry B. Davenport and released in 1982. Surprisingly, in the midst of the Video Nasties era, Xtro managed to avoid being on the list despite being quite gory and sometimes even disturbing.

Young Tony is playing with his father in the garden of their cottage when suddenly, a bright light appears in the sky and seemingly makes Tony’s dad disappear. Three years later, Tony and his mother now live in the city with Jo, the mom’s boyfriend and Anne-Lise, a french au pair. Since her husband’s disappearance, Tony’s mother believes her husband simply abandoned his family. When the strange light returns and dumps an alien creature, slaughters and weird events start occurring, including the return of Sam, Tony’s father.

The first thing that surprised me with Xtro is…its release date. This 1982 film screams of the seventies : from the camerawork to the furniture and clothing, I couldn’t believe this wasn’t set in the 1970´s. I suppose England took a couple of years to fully dive into the kind of 1980’s we know.

Xtro is a surprising little gem regarding different aspects. First, I was expecting a rather mediocre exploitation B-movie but what I got instead is a well-made creature feature with a big emphasis on its characters. Xtro spends more time with the characters than with its creature. The result is well-crafted characters, with enough qualities and flaws to find them interesting. Though the story is not well written, I still wanted to find out what would happen to Tony and his relatives.

The creature, though not on screen enough in my opinion, is really well-made, proving once more that practical effects will always be better than any kind of CGI. This human-alien hybrid is terrifying and the few moments it appears on screen will make you shiver. For the rest of the film, Tony hangs out with different things including a murderous midget clown. Being terrified of clowns, you can imagine I spent most of those scenes hiding under a blanket. Overall, the scares in Xtro work really well.

Now, Xtro is known for one specific scene : a disgusting, disturbing, gory birth scene. For reasons I don’t quite understand, the alien creature impregnates a woman (in a fashion similar to Alien but way more disturbing as the creature seems to be enjoying the process) who then gives birth…to Sam, the father who was abducted three years earlier. It doesn’t make much sense but you probably won’t care because you’ll spend that scene trying not to vomit. It does indeed deserves its reputation of being extremely disturbing. That scene alone should have made Xtro a high contestant for the Video Nasties list.

Xtro is often incoherent and mostly all over the place. It is poorly written and yet, you can’t take your eyes off te screen. The less sense it makes, the more intriguing it becomes.

Why is Tony surrounded by clowns, panthers and toys which help him terrorize the neighbors ? How is Sam altered from being aducted ? What is all that sucking about (yes, you read that right) ? Those are questions we won’t get anwers to. And yet, you will for sure watch Xtro until the end, if only to try and make sense of it all.

Xtro has good characters and great effects but it is strangely a memorable film for its lack of coherence and some disturbing moments. I wish I could unsee that horrible birth scene but I am really glad I finally got to see this weird Alien rip-off which I’ve heard about for years but hadn’t seen until today. Xtro is definitely one of those weird movies you have to watch, even more so with Second Sight Films’ new release which has a great transfer (the image is clear but the grain is still present…I personally like my older films grainy).

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