The first time was for his family! The second time was to dominate our pathetic dimension! Now, Xtro is back and this time it’s for his family! Seriously! But it’s like really, really double personal!
To Xtro’s credit, despite this being another kill spree inspired by his obsessive dedication to his family, he somehow manages to turn it up a notch from the first Xtro movie. Not merely content to turn his human child into an alien hybrid like himself and slaughter whoever gets in the way, is needed for food or for breeding purposes, this time Xtro is just straight up torturing humans for revenge 40 years in the making!
In keeping with the Xtro movies’ “smart in theory though lacking in actual execution” practice of ditching everything from the previous films and starting completely over, gone is the worn out premise from Xtro II that saw our slimy protagonist lamely doing his Alien impression by stalking humans trapped in a lab. In its place is the mildly more intriguing, X-Files-inspired story of a crashed UFO, secret island military base and alien vivisection.
Xtro himself gets a redesign to fit the new story and if isn’t exactly an upgrade (he appears to be your standard issue “Grey” alien with a sour disposition and is hampered by his cheesy Predator camouflage special effects), it is at least much more entertaining since he comes equipped with all sorts of nasty powers like a tongue he uses to strangle and burn people with and this sticky crap he spits all over which traps people like a spider web. Even better is that he has no compunction about using surgical tools to slice and dice any humans who fall into his bony clutches!
Lieutenant Kirn, an explosives expert is assigned by Robert Culp (the movie’s sole name actor in a cameo) to lead a team of his former students to an island where a Japanese internment camp once stood and that was turned into a weapons testing site to clear away any remaining bombs. Tacitly acknowledging that he was a terrible military instructor, Kirn immediately wonders why a group of screw ups like his former students have been chosen for the mission. That he doesn’t instantly realize this is one of those missions where everyone is expendable shows you just how expendable he really is.
A crabby, mysterious spy named Captain Fetterman is leading the mission. Only he knows the secret of the island and while he probably thought he was brilliant picking a bunch of wash outs no one would miss if they suddenly died in a “training accident”, he was kind of dumb in not realizing that they could just as likely inadvertently screw everything up with those same non-talents. Which is of course what they did!
In retrospect, putting a bunch of amateurs with explosives on an island where where the most pissed off alien in the Galaxy has been trapped in a cement vault for 40 years, is one of those plans ripe for second guessing. Is anyone really surprised when a hole gets accidentally blown in it and the alien the starts his rampage? (Even worse, it was revealed earlier that one of the soldiers was a missing a finger because he didn’t follow Kirn’s directions about safety in the past!)
Fetterman strands everyone on the island, leaving Kirn and his crew to hang around a survivor of the previous military operation on the island and coax some backstory out of him. This is done via some (not very convincing) old film footage about the alien crash landing and the military’s response he just happened to have laying around with a film projector in his spider hole shelter. It goes on too long, but does explain why the alien is in such a bad mood.
And if it isn’t bad enough that Fetterman marooned them on the island with a homicidal alien, Fetterman returns with attack helicopters and a team of assassins to kill everyone! Not surprisingly this is as poorly planned an operation as the one that brought them to the island. Not only are Fetterman and his team not prepared to deal with the alien and his abilities, Fetterman lets himself be tricked into setting the alien free from a cave that Kirn had buried him in! If you weren’t concerned with our government’s ability to manage an alien invasion before this movie, you will be after!
There’s a wholly unnecessary framing device where Kirn is telling his story to a reporter (some of the things the movie shows are things Kirn could not have possibly known) that also causes the periodic use of a cheesy narration by Kirn, giving things an out of place faux film noir feel.
Probably the least annoying of all the Xtro movies, it benefits from the exotic locale and an alien that has an understandable motive. The characters are initially almost cartoonishly moronic for soldiers, but thankfully drop some of that once thrust into the horrors confronting them on the island.
And while Xtro 3: Watch the Skies can get delightfully brutal with lengthy scenes of humans and aliens torturing one another, it is hampered by slow pacing at the beginning as well as during the alien vs. human scenes on the island which become repetitive as you realize all the running around isn’t actually advancing the story. Still, it is an occasionally entertaining and unexpected end to a weird and not very good film franchise.
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