Saturday, June 12, 2010

Recently Watched: XTRO

XTRO is a weird little film that's just heinous enough to have managed to hang around since its release in 1982. I've seen it referred to a number of places as "the movie where a woman gives birth to a full-grown man," but honestly, that only starts to scratch the surface. The opening scene shows a young brat named Tony throwing sticks at the family dog with his father before dad's abducted by something - we never actually see anything but a bright light, lots of wind, and a thrown stick inexplicably freezing in mid-air. A couple of years pass, and Tony's father returns to claim Tony and take him away to space. Or something.

I'm having a lot of trouble right now trying to explain what happens in the middle of the film because there really is no logic. An alien crashes on earth and somehow impregnates a random woman with the man-sized version of Tony's father. The father is born, Tony wakes up covered with blood, both develop telekinetic powers, a midget clown with a razorblade yo-yo appears and slashes some throats, Tony's father eats some snake eggs, a black panther appears in the hallway... The list just goes on.

Nobody watches a film like this for any sort of logical plot though. XTRO was one of the post-grindhouse era films that rode into the world on video and could have just as easily disappeared without a second thought. It was temporarily included on the list of "video nasties" which were banned in the U.K., and gained some notoriety when a news story about a murderer showed a copy of XTRO sitting in his living room. The director, Harry Davenport, maintains no illusions about his body of work, and freely admits that they were just out to shock with this film. For the most part it does its job. This film is interesting precisely because you're not sure what it's going to throw at you.

Unfortunately, aside from its unpredictability XTRO doesn't have a lot going for it. It's weird, but not particularly clever. Other than a few surreal scenes (particularly those with the clown), there's not really any artistry in the carnage. Davenport brings some enthusiasm to his work, but it's not always enough to balance out the lack of care. The low budget of this film sometimes works to its disadvantage, and after a while its seams start to show. Nevertheless, it's worth checking out just because it is so bizarre. I'd say there probably won't ever be another film like XTRO, but there are two sequels, with rumors of another coming soon. Directly to video, presumably.

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