Xtro (1982)

Walking in on my your mom banging her douchey photographer boyfriend is pretty traumatizing for a whiny little boy. Even more traumatizing is watching your dad get abducted by aliens. Most traumatizing of all though? Having to listen to your mom bad mouth your dad for walking out on you while trying to position her new boy toy as your replacement dad! Most of us from broken homes can agree that great portions of our childhood were spent fantasizing about how our real dad came back with all kinds bad ass alien super powers and just killed the crap out of everyone and high fiving us when it was all over!

Xtro is exactly this sort of wish-fulfillment right down to the unexplained presence of a sexy young French girl who lives with the family and helps out. And by helping out, I mean going off during the middle of the day to have trysts with her boyfriend.

For little Tony, times are tough what with his daddy, Sam, taking a new job off-planet and suffering through nightmares about it. His almost step-dad Joe kind of tries to be a good guy, but you can tell he’s got no patience for Tony’s pissing and moaning about his dad’s close encounters of the fourth kind. It’s been three years after all, so isn’t it time to grow the hell up and accept that your worthless dad liked his alien friends better than you, Tony?

Sure, Tony could do all that, buckle down and start warming up to Joe’s half-hearted attempts to be the father figure in his life. Or he could enjoy being mysteriously drenched in blood due to a psychic connection he has to his dad after his dad’s new alien form stands stupidly in the road displaying no more brains than a possum and getting run over!

It’s not one of the more auspicious beginnings to an alien invasion, but Sam recovers nicely killing a few folks in the woods before assaulting a woman, impregnating her and causing her to give birth to himself just a few hours later! Watching full-grown Sam tear his way out from between this woman’s legs and then chew through the umbilical cord is just one of Xtro‘s trademark “laughable, but undeniably queasy” moments. Another one comes later when Sam is back at home and Tony catches him eating his pet snake’s eggs! Watching Sam wiping reptile yolk from his face, you’re sympathetic as you realize that all this being reborn as a killer alien business caused him to lose his memories about not only much of his past, but how to use a freaking napkin!

Being reborn as some icky alien-hybrid though isn’t all just raping women and feasting on exotic housepets. There’s the more mundane domestic issues that now confront Sam, Joe, Danny and Danny’s mom, Rachel. Like where is Sam going to stay now that he’s back. And how is Rachel’s dead-turned-alien husband going to react when Joe announces at the dinner table that he’s marrying Rachel. (Proving you can take the white trash out of the solar system, but you can’t  take the white trash out of the guy, he throws a bottle at Joe.)

Sam though at least doesn’t have to worry about whether Danny is still on his side despite the awkward snake egg eating incident because Sam bites Danny and infects him with all his alien awesome! And it isn’t just being all grody, eating people and laying eggs either. That’s for your regular run of the mill space monsters. When you go Xtro, you get dosed with super mind powers, too!

You know all those toys you loved as a kid? Like your toy top, tanks, G.I. Joe and midget clown doll? Xtro, Jr. can now bring them to life! And even better, use them to kill jerks who do crappy stuff like that old lady in the downstairs apartment who killed Danny’s snake! (Who knew that rinky-dink snake was going to figure so prominently in the plot?)

Now that both Sam and Danny are infected, there isn’t really much question as to how things will end up, even with the tacked on patented surprise ending. (There was a briefly released version that ended in the woods without Rachel going back to her apartment which would have been more bleakly effective than the predictable and showy antics back at her apartment that closed out the film.)

Xtro is an odd mix of domestic drama punctuated by gross out effects, an ear shattering overbearing music score and distractingly bad dub job. The mostly muted response everyone has to Sam’s reappearance without explanation after three years doesn’t ring true and Sam’s aimless agenda doesn’t exactly keep things moving. If he was there to take Danny back with him, why not just do it the first night? What’s all this moving back into the house and hanging around Joe and Rachel?

Sam himself also seemed as ill thought out as his reason for coming back. Was he an alien impersonating Sam? Is that why he had no memories? But then why did the memories eventually return? What was the creature that got run over who then “fathered” Sam later? Why did Sam get born at all after his abduction three years before? Why didn’t Sam ever use his mind control powers to make things easier on himself? Is all the egg laying part of a colonization effort? Isn’t there a more efficient way to do that than having the alien invader spending time looking at photo albums with his wife? And what happened to Rachel so that when she came home to find that the midget clown had filled he refrigerator with guacamole to keep the giant alien egg sacs safe, she didn’t start complaining about who made such a mess in her kitchen?

An interesting detour from the usual alien invasion film, but mostly unsatisfying because of how random and meaningless much ofwhat  went on was. That said, there is a midget clown cavorting around and the scene with the life-sized G.I. Joe doll coming alive to stalk and kill a woman is quite creepy and well done, possibly giving very forgiving fans of the genre a decent reason to check Xtro out once.

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