An insane British horror from the 80’s Xtro managed to slip me by somehow and now with a Limited Edition box set release from Second Sight featuring new restoration with the original and alternate endings plus the original UK video version I finally got a chance to witness the weirdness.
How weird was it? I hear you scream. Extremely weird and for a film made all the way back in 1982 with an extremely low budget considerably more disturbing and shocking than I ever imagined.
Opening on an idyllic country house where a father and son play ball with the family dog there is a sudden flash of light and the Dad disappears. Three years later the son is still having nightmares about the event and although his mother Rachel (Bernice Stegers) has moved back to London and moved on with a new boyfriend there are still unanswered questions.
Although believing he simply ran away like a deadbeat Dad Sam (Simon Nash) was in fact abducted by aliens who return him to Earth in a form far from what he once was and after slaughtering a couple in their car the thing finds a cottage with a lone lady who it also attacks.
Assaulting and impregnating its victim the woman’s stomach suddenly swells and she and the audience experience a grotesque birth scene as a full reformed Sam emerges from inside her. Back in his body the being heads for London and Rachel is forced to except the oddly acting Sam back in her life for the sake of her son who is overjoyed however everyone is unaware of this inhuman monsters true plan and the terrible things that are to come.
Reveling in blood, guts and violence Xtro is a true video nasty with the barmy birth scene mentioned above just one of several shocking surreal sick scenes included in this movie. From the brilliantly reaslised alien Sam at the start to him assaulting his own child to transforming someone into a cocooned alien egg laying machine, for many non-horror lovers the gore may be too much however in this reviewer’s personal opinion there is a purpose to all this perversion.
Taking away the extraterrestrial element Xtro is about families specifically the 80’s dynamic of separated parents and the effects on the children in these many British broken homes. Statistically in England divorce rates massively rose from 119,025 in 1972 to 146,698 a decade later in 82 peaking at 160,300 in 85 before decreasing again.
Affecting all areas including the upper classes and financially secure represented by Rachel who is bringing up her son alongside her new man and their au pair played by Bond girl Maryam d’Abo, the alien version of Sam returns to try and reunite the family in a traditional dynamic as it was before his abduction but that’s the point he is no longer human and what he wants is no longer possible.
This concept is extended after SPOLIERS Sam infects his own son with the extraterrestrial element which not only makes him pliable to his master plan but also gives him strange powers to make his thoughts manifest in reality. The boy uses his gift to create life size toys which get revenge on a nosy neighbor in a nightmarish scene particularly horrifying if you have a fear of clowns or dolls coming to life.
In the same way the old fashioned family structure is perverted, the boy’s fantasy of his father’s return is terribly tainted too with even his own innocent imagination twisted into a weapon for causing pain and death and much like any psychological impact from parents splitting up there is nothing his mother can do about it.
Is it her fault for abandoning the search for her husband, does Sam have any control over what has happened to him, is there son better off in space with his new infected father, much like real life and real break ups the answers are unclear and allocating blame does nothing to diminish the tragedy.
This dark and depressing message runs throughout Xtro all the way to its crazy ending giving it a depth many may have missed especially admits the gore and controversy when it first came out where it narrowly avoided inclusion and prosecution on the original video nasties list.
A very British horror film Xtro is an 80’s spectacle of madness and gore but there is more to be found in my opinion once you wash away the viscera and for that reason it should be viewed by as many horror fans as possible.