After being abducted by aliens three years earlier Sam (Phillip Sayer) returns to earth and reunites himself with his wife Rachel (Bernice Stegers) and son Tony (Simon Nash). While Sam was away Rachel moved on with her life and started seeing Joe (Danny Brainin) and after the arrival of Sam at the couples flat Joe begins to suspect that Sam is not all that he appears to be.
One of the stranger additions to the infamous British “Video Nasty” list, ‘Xtro’ is an odd, almost bi-polar little film, guilty of numerous flaws yet simultaneously displaying a certain flair and degree of accomplishment. Despite the dark tone, overall viciousness and status as a formerly banned movie in the United Kingdom, ‘Xtro’ bears little resemblance to other contemporaries on the list, such as ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ (1978) and ‘The Last House on the Left’ (1972), lacking the gritty realistic nature and instead opting for the grotesquely elaborate. In one infamous scene, following a brutal rape a woman’s body explodes as she gives birth to a fully grown man the next day.
The narrative is somewhat incoherent and this is not a film that could ever be praised for its strong storytelling. Many questions are left unanswered, frustratingly so at times yet in an absurd way this all seems to click due to the sequence of utterly ridiculous events that are depicted in ‘Xtro’. A man is mauled by a panther, an Action Man figure comes to life after growing to lifesize proportions and a woman ends up trapped in a bizarre cocoon – and this is just the edited highlights. There are a copious number of wacky and bewildering events to occur in this low-budget piece of insanity.
‘Xtro’ suffers the most in the acting department with the majority of the cast seemingly allergic to displaying any form of competence in front of the camera, although this is hardly different to any number of low-budget, popular genre-offerings during this era and those who can forgive the often wooden or hammed performances of similar movies would likely be happy to overlook these issues in ‘Xtro’.
Possibly the reason why the acting is so poor is that any money available for casting was instead spent on a myriad of wonderfully repugnant special effects, from the aforementioned explosion during birth to the sly little nod to ‘Alien’ occurring near the end, ‘Xtro’ truly shines through in the visual effects department. One could even go so far as to say that many modern pictures with budgets writer/director Harry Bromley Davenport (who also composed the delightfully erratic and haunting music score) could only dream about are made to look amateurish when compared to the stomach-churning visuals of ‘Xtro’.
It isn’t difficult to understand why ‘Xtro’ to this day remains a critical failure. The reasons listed above coupled with uncomfortably misogynist themes mean that this is always going to result in turning away the vast majority who will be all too willing to dismiss this as poorly produced pap. Yet the truth is that if you give this a chance, it might just surprise you. It is doubtful this has ever or would ever top anyone’s favourite movie list but with the right mindset it can be a fun little jaunt into the minds of filmmakers who may well have indulged in a mixture of marijuana, magic mushrooms and Benylin the night before.
Trailer on YouTube.