Release Date: August 6th, 1982 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Harry Bromley Davenport Actors: Philip Sayer, Bernice Stegers, Danny Brainin, Maryam d’Abo, Simon Nash, Katherine Best, Susie Silvey
s father and son play with their dog in the middle of the afternoon, the skies suddenly turn black – and a beam of bluish light and aggressive winds ensnare Sam Phillips (Philip Sayer), dragging him up into the air. Three years later, little Tony (Simon Nash) is still plagued by nightmares of the incident, but nevertheless certain that one day his dad will return. Mrs. Rachel Phillips (Bernice Stegers) firmly believes that her husband selfishly ran out on them, and she’s since tried to rebuild her life by seeing Joe Daniels (Danny Brainin), a fashion photographer, who Tony hasn’t completely accepted into his home.
That night, in the nearby woods, Ben (Robert Pereno) and his wife Jane (Katherine Best) run over something crossing the road and, upon investigating, are attacked by a pulsing, slimy, slobbering humanoid creature. It saunters on toward a cottage, where it gruesomely latches onto the mouth of a blonde woman (Susie Silvey) and inexplicably impregnates her. Moments later, her abdomen swells to an enormous size and a fully grown man bloodily bursts from her womb. Its physical characteristics look exactly like the abducted Sam Phillips. Meanwhile, Tony awakes in the small hours covered in a large amount of blood (claiming it was sent by his father), which a doctor determines did not come from the boy. Rachel and Joe are worried but unsure of how to handle their troubled son. Their French au pair, Analise Mercier (Maryam d’Abo in her film debut), who is continually preoccupied with her boyfriend, is similarly concerned but doesn’t believe that a psychiatrist is the answer. When she drops Tony off at school, the Sam doppelganger picks him up and attempts to awkwardly reenter Rachel’s life – possessing no memory of the missing three years.
The music is composed and performed by Harry Bromley Davenport who, like John Carpenter, also writes and directs. Here, resonating synthesizer melodies are predominant but not subtle enough to fit the darker science-fiction horror elements. It’s frequently overbearing and seems to be orchestrated out of a need to save money rather than for skill or passion. Instead of utilizing ongoing theme music that weaves in and out of the plot, Davenport has devised several different tunes for each location, mood, and character, which makes the score sound as confused as the storyline. Obnoxious sound effects round out the already distracting soundtrack.
On a more impressive note, the creature effects by Francis Coates, some of which are contortionists in heavy makeup, are nicely grotesque. Gore, decaying flesh, and strange obsessions with mucilaginous liquids (even spilled blood is entirely too thick, like ketchup) make “Xtro” a foray into the body horror subgenre. But even in this aspect, it’s not focused enough to have a definitive purpose. Dreamlike sequences with a dwarfish clown, Tony’s ability to animate, enlarge, and control various toys, the random appearance of a black panther, the secret behind orally transmitted, mutational cocooning (done with greater visual nastiness in “Species”), and reproductive cycles of the alien are so abstract, it’s difficult to determine why any of the happenings are taking place.
Rachel is not nearly suspicious enough or frightened to a believable degree – especially when Sam’s behavior becomes unpredictable, he’s unable to recount events from his lengthy absence, and his skin starts to decompose and fall away. And none of the monster’s abilities are ever defined; its habits and intentions are apparently concocted on the fly. Mixing together far too many ideas, none of which are properly developed, “Xtro” haphazardly borrows from “Alien,” “Phantasm,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and more, leading to a finale that makes no sense, a title that is never referenced, and a visual mess of sci-fi/horror clichés.
– Mike Massie