Yesterday, my co-goblin Alex reviewed the new Shakespeare adaptation Macbeth; today, I’m reviewing alien B movie Xtro. You can’t say we don’t mix it up.
This British sci-fi/horror film follows a little kid (Simon Nash), whose father (Adrien Brody lookalike Philip Sayer) disappears one day, only to return as a face-devouring alien.
Now a cult favourite, this is one of those films you used to find in VHS bargain bins at petrol stations. But despite some ropey acting, Xtro displays real ingenuity, with lighting, visuals and sound effects that belie its low budget.
The special effects are impressive and distressing in equal measure, leaving you wondering how they did it but kind of wishing they hadn’t.
There are pulsating alien eggs, a murderous midget clown and a rebirth scene to rival Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. But weirdest of all is the movie debut of Maryam d’Abo, who’d go on to play a Bond girl in The Living Daylights.
As well as providing the creepy sci-fi music, director Harry Bromley Davenport puts the strangest of ideas up on screen with convincing and disturbing execution. Or Xtrocution.
But this isn’t weirdness for its own sake; these are scrungy manifestations of the child’s loneliness, loss and resentment. It’s a film about imagination, which flows through the movie like blood.
This makes Xtro the anti-E.T., released around the same time as Steven Spielberg’s 1982 classic; “Some extra-terrestrials aren’t friendly,” reads the tagline. Think Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind.
It also owes a debt to David Cronenberg’s The Brood, but feels refreshingly unconstrained, breaking free of convention like an alien bursting out of an egg.
The result is a uniquely unnerving viewing experience, pulsating with surrealism, invention and dread. It’s rare to watch a film so genuinely unsettling that doesn’t star Adam Sandler.
Frequently seized by police during the Video Nasties raids, this is a divisive movie; Roger Ebert called it “an ugly, mean-spirited … exercise in sadness”, while RedLetterMedia consider it “a masterpiece.”
I probably wouldn’t go that far; while it exceeds its B movie credentials with jaw-dropping creativity and a surprisingly assured tone, it is certainly nihilistic and uneven. But is it memorable? Xtremely.