Xtro 1982 is an exploitation gem well worth seeking out, says RICHARD MARKWORTH
YEAR RELEASED: 1982
DIRECTOR: Harry Bromley Davenport
CAST: Bernice Stegers, Philip Sayer, Simon Nash, Maryam d’Abo, Danny Brainin
In the pre-internet dark ages of the 1980s, VHS was king, with all manner of schlocky delights available for genre lovers to enjoy on their VCRs. Certain movies, having failed to trouble cinema box-offices, obtained cult status via home rental, their reputations forged by word-of-mouth in pubs and playgrounds across the land.
Xtro 1982, a low-budget, British sci-fi horror directed by Harry Bromley Davenport, who also co-wrote the script and composed the music, is a classic example.
The opening sees young Tony (Simon Nash) playing outside the family cottage with his father, Sam (Philip Sayer). Their enjoyment is rudely interrupted when a dazzling UFO snatches the hapless parent.
Three years later, Tony is plagued by dreams of his father’s abduction. His mother, Rachel (Bernice Stegers), now living in London with new partner Joe (Danny Brainin) and au pair Analise (future Bond girl Maryam D’Arbo), insists Sam simply left them. Tony remains unconvinced and appears to have a psychic connection to Sam. Waking from one nightmare mysteriously drenched in blood he disturbingly claims, “Daddy sent it”.
Meanwhile, outside the city, a familiar extra-terrestrial light re-appears. It plants a seed which swiftly develops into a savage-looking humanoid creature. After being struck by a passing car, the monster murders the driver and his girlfriend when they investigate the accident. Next, the creature invades a cottage and attacks the female occupant, clamping a rubbery organic appendage over her mouth in a manner reminiscent of the face-hugger from Ridley Scott’s Alien 1979.
The woman, bloodied, bruised and now grotesquely pregnant, wakes beside the creature’s partially disintegrated remains. She gives agonising, and fatal, birth to a full-size, adult Sam.
Following a wash and brush-up, the newly hatched Sam dons the car-driver’s clothing, commandeers the vehicle and heads to London to seek out his family.
Arriving to collect Tony from school, Rachel is understandably concerned when informed “his father” has picked him up. She searches for her son, eventually locating him with her previously missing husband. Sam claims to have no memory of the previous three years and Rachel brings him home, leading to a distinctly tense domestic dynamic once a disgruntled Joe arrives on the scene.
Tony, initially overjoyed at his father’s return, spots him snacking on his pet snake’s eggs which, unsurprisingly, perturbs him somewhat. Sam explains he has been “changed” to live on another world which his son accepts remarkably easily. Sam bites Tony infecting him with alien DNA.
Tony subsequently discovers he can activate his toy spinning top telekinetically. Sam explains he has gained new abilities, to be used only when needed. These capabilities are soon called into service when a neighbour (Anna Wing) kills the snake and Tony utilises his powers to exact revenge.
At this point, the plot, already eccentric, becomes totally unhinged. Tony’s preternatural talents enable him to bring various toys to life. These include a clown transformed into a sinister dwarf and a human-sized Action Man, akin to the Autons from 1970s Doctor Who, which despatches the neighbour.
Deadly toys menace Analise and boyfriend Michael (David Cardy) with the former captured and mutated into a cocoon/womb for alien egg production and the latter mauled by a panther (keep up).
Back at the cottage, Rachel and a decaying Sam grow closer while a cuckolded Joe makes the connection between Sam and the murdered girl from the car. Can he save Rachel and Tony from the alien/human hybrid?
Xtro bears little critical scrutiny. The plot is largely non-sensical with Tony’s reality-bending powers and Sam’s cyclical alien/human transformations never explained.
It is, however, tremendous fun. Most plot points appear to have been created primarily to showcase the impressive special effects by Tony Harris and, with today’s cinema saturated by excessive CGI, it’s a joy to re-visit an era of imaginative models and make-up. The cast remain admirably straight-faced throughout.
This tale of inter-species insemination is glaringly influenced by Alien. However, with its theme of alien/child interaction, can also be viewed as a dark flipside to E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial released the same year.
Xtro is an exploitation gem well worth seeking out for fans of practical effects and those nostalgic for the days when outraged tabloids whipped up a furore over “video nasties”.
Watch Xtro 1982