Suburban Grindhouse Memories: XTRO (1983)
Suburban Grindhouse Memories No. 63:
Not all E.T.’s are Friendly…
By Nick Cato
Released less than a year after the success of Steven Spielberg’s E.T., low budget British sleaze-fest XTRO (1983) exists basically to support its infamous tag line, “Some extra-terrestrials aren’t friendly.” And in the case of XTRO, not all E.T.’s make much sense, either.
A father (Sam) and son (Tony) are playing around on their isolated farm when the son witnesses his father being abducted by a UFO. Three years go by and the poor kid is still having nightmares, and worse, no one believes his story, figuring his old man took off on them. His mother, convinced her hubby has met another woman, grows tired of waiting for him to return and gets involved with another man, leaving young Tony not too happy.
From here on out, XTRO is a bit difficult to follow because it truly doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense.
A space craft crashes in a wooded area, setting most of the place on fire. We see a humanoid/spider-like alien emerge from the wreckage and examine its new surroundings and it’s eventually hit by a car (apparently these XTRO’s aren’t only unfriendly, but are rather stupid considering they’ve traveled from space to get here). The alien doesn’t die, and manages to make it to a small house where it rapes a woman, which leads to one of the most absurd sequences I’ve ever seen on the big screen: the woman gives birth to a full-grown Sam, apparently now returned to earth in a most strange manner (don’t bother to ask why…it’s just not worth it). The scene is truly gross and still sticks with me thirty years later.
Sam is now on a mission to find his son, who is living in an apartment with his mother Rachel and new boyfriend Joe. He starts to pick Tony up from school, pissing off Joe and causing Rachel concern. Sam claims he can’t remember a thing that’s happened in the past three years (where he has been, his former job, etc), so against the Joe’s wishes, Rachel allows him to move in with them for the time being.
One night, Tony catches his father eating his pet snake’s eggs, and high-tails it out until his old man catches him and bites into his shoulder (we later learn he’s planting alien seed in his son).
And the film gets even more asinine: Tony discovers he has gained a bunch of new powers, including the ability to make his toys come alive. He puts this skill to use when one of his neighbors kills his pet snake. He makes one of his toys turn into a midget (dressed as a clown) and it attacks people with a lethal yo-yo-type of weapon. He also sends a toy soldier after his neighbor for some snake-revenge.
If the theater I saw XTRO in (the now defunct Fox Twin Cinema) had a bar, I would have definitely pounded down a few shots at this point.
For some reason Sam and his wife (ex-wife?) decide to visit the farm they used to live on and leave Tony home with a gorgeous nanny (played by Maryam D’Abo of the 1987 007 film THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS), who of course has her boyfriend come over for a shag session (and Bond fans might want to note Miss D’Abo does a generous nude scene here). Tony keeps bugging them to play hide and seek, and they eventually do, but during the game the nanny is knocked out by the aforementioned midget clown and impregnated with alien eggs (remember, I told you this thing makes little sense) while Tony sends one of his toy army tanks to deep-six her boyfriend.
Meanwhile, back at Sam’s old farmhouse, he manages to have sex with his wife (ex-wife?) but during the act his body starts to bleed profusely and transform. Joe shows up with Tony looking for Rachel, and this is when total chaos ensues: Sam and Tony follow the light from a UFO, and Sam turns into an alien, who manages to kill Joe with his ear-shattering screams. The alien Sam then takes Tony and heads toward the space craft as a confused Rachel goes back to her apartment … and is raped by the same alien who raped the poor woman earlier in the film.
The more you consider XTRO, the more you’ll be convinced the makers of it were determined to create the exact opposite of E.T.: where Spielberg’s film was family friendly and featured a positive, wholesome ending, XTRO is a mess of gore, splatter, alien slime, and one of the most nihilistic, depressing endings to ever grace a sci-fi/horror film. All the strangeness with the toys still baffles me, but it did provide some laughs for the grossed-out audience.
I recently watched this film for the first time since seeing it theatrically upon its release, and found it even more confusing than I had remembered. I’m surprised this one has such a healthy cult following, especially since stretches are a bit slow and the acting stiff, with the exception of Rachel (played by Bernice Stagers, of Fellini’s 1980 CITY OF WOMEN), who most of the film revolves around, despite an ad campaign that would let you believe Tony was the focus.
XTRO is a real mess. It’s gross, nasty, and ends on such a low note some might consider the director to have been a manic depressive. Yet at the same time, lovers of B-movie schlock should enjoy it well enough. This here’s one father/son relationship tale I doubt any parent would approve of. I still haven’t seen the sequel.
Live long and SUFFER!
© Copyright 2013 by Nick Cato