"All I can tell you is it's some sort of life form, with a t
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 01/17/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Xtro (1983) When Tony grows up, he's going to be just like Daddy!
Co-written and directed by Harry Bromley Davenport (Xtro II: The Second Encounter, Xtro 3: Watch the Skies), the film features Philip Sayer (Slayground), Bernice Stegers (Sky Bandits), Danny Brainin ("John and Yoko: A Love Story"), Simon Nash (Brazil), and former Bond girl Maryam d'Abo (The Living Daylights, Timelock), in her cinematic debut (hers and her `twins').
As this English production begins we see a cottage in the countryside, and a man playing with his son in the yard. Shortly after the mother leaves, the skies turn dark, the wind picks up, strange lights appear overhead, and poof! the man is gone...fast forward three years...the boy, named Tony (Nash), who lives in the city with his mother Rachel (Stegers) and her boyfriend Joe (Brainin), still has nightmares about the event, one which no one believes happens, as the thought is his father, Sam (Sayer), just picked up and left, never to return. Until now. Once again some strange lights cruise the night, depositing something in the area where Sam disappears so long ago...something nasty. The creature finds an unwilling participate in a bizarre mating ritual (an extraterrestrial shagfest), which results in one of the more repulsive scenes in the movie as Sam makes his grand entrance (if you've seen the movie, you know what I mean). Sam then `arranges' a ride to the city for an awkward reunion of sorts with his family, bearing a gift for his son. Tensions rise as Rachael doesn't know what to make of her supposedly amnesiac husband, and Joe distrusts him completely, thinking his intentions are to try and pick up where he left off. Also, it seems Sam's picked up some strange habits since his return, like eating reptile eggs and purposely breathing gaseous vapors, along with giving his son a hickey you wouldn't believe...and then the killings start...a throat slash here, a bayoneting there...and what's the deal with the clown dwarf with the rubber hammer, seriously? And let's not forget about Analise (d'Abo), the live-in housekeeper...I don't think her job description included being the `eggbearer'. If I seem obtuse in my descriptions, it's intentional as to say much more would be to give away all the depraved, nasty little treats in store for those who choose to watch...
First of all, for much of the film I though Maryam d'Abo's character was named `Analease', like the lubricant, as that's exactly how it sounded whenever someone said it (her character's actual name is `Analise'). While watching Xtro, the often bloody, surreal, and often absurd and warped imagery reminded me of something you might see in a David Cronenburg (Shivers, Rabid, Videodrome) film, the difference being where Cronenburg's movies tend to present underlying, thematic assessments of modern beliefs, Harry Bromley Davenport offers up none of that, but rather a superficial mixing of curious sci-fi and grotesque horror with no ulterior motive other than to entertain. There is a structure within the story, but it's fairly fractured, even more so as the film progresses. Despite this, things did work themselves out (for the most part), and after the film ended a good deal of it made sense, so I would suggest, if you are going to watch this feature, to just sit back for the ride and not focus too much on that which will never be understandable (who says everything has to make sense in a film anyway?). The creepiest part of the movie for me was what happened to Maryam d'Abo's character, and her eventual role within the context of the story...a truly revolting fate, if you really think about it. One of the things that really impressed me was the special effects, and their level of sophistication...no computer generated images here. The humanoid grasshopper, the birthing scene, the implantation mechanism, the pulsating larva sacs, the creature near the end, all done very well and quite effective, in grotesque fashion. I thought all the actors did pretty well, but I can't help wondering now what their thoughts were at the time they were making this movie, given its overall mondo weirdo nature. Maryam d'Abo didn't have much of a part, but she's probably the most memorable particularly due to her willingness to appear nekkid...homina homina...all in all a creepy, low budget, decent production values film that wallows around in its own vulgarity, worth seeing if only to serve as a reminder that not all aliens eat Reese's Pieces and heal ouchies with glowing appendages. If you have delicate sensibilities and a weak stomach, best stay away from this one.
Xtro II: The Second Encounter (1990) He's hungry and he's back for seconds....
The original film, Xtro, released in 1983, did well enough on home video to warrant someone to make a follow up, titled Xtro II: The Second Encounter (1990), which, far as I could tell, was a sequel in name only, having very little, if any thing, to do with the original movie. Directed by Harry Bromley Davenport (Xtro, Xtro 3: Watch the Skies), the film stars Jan-Michael Vincent (Damnation Alley, "Airwolf"), straight from the `what the hell happened to his career?' file. Also appearing is cinematic bad guy Paul Koslo (The Omega Man, Joe Kidd), Tara Buckman (The Cannonball Run, Silent Night, Deadly Night), Jano Frandsen (Golf Punks), and Nicholas Lea, probably best known as the character Alex Krycek aka Ratboy from the television series "The X-Files".
As the movie begins we're in a chopper, flying through some snow covered mountain tops to a presumably top secret gooberment facility, one that houses a project called the `Nexus Program', co-headed by Dr. Alex Summerfield (Koslo) and Dr. Julie Casserly (Buckman). Details are sketchy, but the projects relates to `interdimensional bi-location' experiments, which I learned means accessing universes in other dimensions...the phrase `Dual Tangents' is thrown around an awful lot, but it's one of those things that sounds cool, but means nothing, at least to the casual viewer. Anyway, after sending a trio (two men and a woman) of adventurous souls to another dimension in a device looking like Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine, they get lost, thus jeopardizing the project, and Julie sends for Ron Shepherd (Vincent), the only man who'd traveled through to the other side and made it back. Summerfield is against Shepard's involvement, as it turns out Shepard headed up the same project years ago somewhere in Texas, right before he blew the place up, most likely due to what he saw during his trip (he's since been tight-lipped about his experiences in the unknown zone). Anyway, Summerfield wants to send a strike team to retrieve the unaccounted for explorers, but before that happens one of the missing returns, the female, and she ain't talking (comatose), probably because she's in a period of gestation, as we soon witness the violent birth, via an impromptu C-section, of something not of this Earth, which skitters off into the air ducts. The underground facility is evacuated (except for core personnel and the four man strike team, i.e. the soon to be dead), and the creature begins killing...and growing. The computer system, which controls the facility, has since initiated a lockdown, due to the contamination, along with a countdown to which it will release a burst of lethal radiation, destroying any and all life forms still present, so not only must our plucky heroes deal with that, but also a murderous alien creature who's got `a taste for human beings'. Oh yeah, one of their group has since been infected, unbeknownst to the rest...
Where the original was patently bizarre and very gruesome, this Canadian produced sequel was quite a letdown in comparison given its formulaic plot, coming off as a cross between Alien (1979) and Howard the Duck (1986), leaning more towards the latter at times. The most humorous aspects of the movie for me were those involving the four-man assault team, brought in by Summerfield, as they hardly inspired confidence towards dealing with this, or any other situation. We've got the cigar-chomping leader, sporting about the biggest, most ridiculous gun I've ever seen, one overloaded with a ton of seemingly useless attachments on there for effect, including a huge scope, which, due to its placement, would be impossible for someone to use as intended. As far as the rest of the team, it was obvious the writers were trying to make them distinctively different (a hippy type spouting Zen statements, a lothario, and an indistinctive Hispanic), but they just came off as idiotic, especially if they were meant to represent some militaristic gooberment agency. The performances in this feature fell into two categories...painfully awkward and way over done (Koslo, Buckman) and hardly even there (Vincent). Given a choice I'd prefer the former over the latter, as Vincent, here at least, was about as interesting as watching a can of soda go flat, appearing disinterested, at best, and was probably along only to pick up a check, cashing in on his past screen appeal. I know the guy's had a whole slew of personal problems as his career steadily deteriorated, but leave that stuff in the trailer when it's time to shoot. Buckman's character, who had way too much makeup on, is a tepid Ripley (from Alien) at best, but then again, the mediocre material she had to work with put her at a severe disadvantage from the beginning. As far as Koslo, he bounced around all over the place, hardly the unstable type I'd think would be placed in charge of a multi-billion dollar defense project. And how in the world can tripping across the dimension fantastic be considered a national defense project? The benefits or goals of the work was never really passed along, at least where it would have justified the immense expenditure (in the beginning, a typical politician appears, threatening to cut the purse strings shut the expensive project down). The direction is passable, and the story does move along (like a drunk staggering home after a heavy binge), but features few shocks and none of the outlandish sequences common in the original film. There is a chest bursting scene that's somewhat gory, but it's nothing viewers haven't seen done better in other films. The dialogue is lacking, filled with all kinds of meaningless tech talk obviously contrived by someone who really didn't have a flair for it...I will say the full grown creature effects looked pretty decent, especially compared to the current tendencies towards B movies using less than impressive computer generated imagery.
The picture presentation on this DVD, for both films, is in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), and looks decent enough, but it could have used a little cleaning up on the first film (the 2nd feature looked a bit better). The Dolby Digital mono audio track on the first film comes though nicely, as the 2nd film features two tracks, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital Surround. There are some good extras, or `Xtras' (Get it? Stop it, you're killing me...), including two alternate endings, an `Xtra' scene (sans audio), a featurette titled `Xtro Exposed' (17:21), which is a great interview with the director who's a really funny guy, theatrical trailers for both films, and an Xtro gallery. For those interested, there was yet a third film in the series titled Xtro 3: Watch the Skies (1995), of which I've heard has less to do with the first than the original sequel, if that's possible. All in all, I'd give this release four stars, three for the original film, plus an extra star just for the fact this DVD has two movies on it, making it a pretty good deal.