Cult Cinema: Like Father Like Son: Xtro (1982)

Xtro (1982) is an underappreciated gem, a batshit insane horror sci-fi film that has to be seen to be believed. It's one of those movies that makes you question the nature of reality because it's mind-blowing that actual people worked on it and brought it to fruition. This flick has everything: women giving birth to full grown men, face-huggers, eating snake eggs, midget clowns, panthers, giant toy soldiers and malevolent toy tanks. "How do they make all this fit together coherently?" you might ask. The answer is: they don't.

The story, and I use this term loosely, follows the Phillips family who have their lives upended when the father, Sam (Philip Sayer) is abducted by an alien one evening. He leaves behind his young son Tony (Simon Nash) and his wife Rachel (Bernice Stegers). Sam returns a few years later in an unorthodox manner with strange powers that also start to manifest themselves in his son. It sounds rather straight forward, but the narrative jumps around and goes into nonsensical tangents quite often which makes it hard to follow. In the long run it doesn't matter though, because every scene is just so ridiculous that it's entertaining anyway.

Where Xtro shines is in its gory and creative practical effects. This is definitely a body horror film with grotesque things happening to many of the characters. The effects for the alien monster in particular are fantastic and the way it moves and looks is incredibly unsettling. There is also a good amount of gross sticky alien eggs and squirmy larvae (which definitely took some design notes from the face-huggers in the Alien franchise). Xtro tries to show a parallel between the young boy Tony going through puberty and his metamorphosis into an alien, but about halfway through the film they abandon that theme and it takes a hard right into surreal land. There is a great scene where Tony's mother thinks he has had a "wet dream" but she discovers that he is ejaculating blood (like gallons of it) and is horrified by the grisly scene when she pulls back the sheets. This isn't the type of film where you expect to get any sort of deep themes, but had they explored it more, the film might have been elevated above being pure exploitation trash.

The director, Harry Bromley Davenport, also did the music for Xtro and it has this sparse electronic score that is reminiscent of John Carpenter's work. I personally love classic synth scores and this one definitely fits the otherworldly atmosphere of the film.

Xtro is a fun video nasty that is well worth tracking down to watch. It's a trashy and disgusting Alien rip-off that will take you on a trip you will not soon forget.

—Michelle Kisner