Crash Analysis: XTRO (1983)

Extraterrestrial trip of guilty pleasure proportions

Once scooped up by aliens, a father returns for his son 

Hmm… Not easy to begin this review because it’s hard to talk about a movie that is so disjointed in narrative while unnerving in some of its special effects. Regardless, a family is torn asunder when a father goes missing one day. Three years later, his young son dreams of his father’s abduction and only wishes for him to return. Well, daddy (Philip Sayer) does just that – and the movie goes off the hinges in its surreality.

What makes XTRO work is that it maintains a non-sterile atmosphere. And regardless of what you’ve heard regarding the movie’s bizarre nature, the acting is solid. Even if Director Harry Bromley-Davenport may have been a bit whacky, due to a script that had been written “400 times” (according to him from the phenomenal featurette, which is a must see on the DVD), the actors went all out. And don’t get me wrong, after watching Davenport’s interview, I have nothing but respect for him. After all, he was honest as hell about the three XTRO films and their productions. Nonetheless, though the production may have been tongue in cheek (and I wonder what substances the crew was on), the actors played it straight, which adds to the wild feel.

Though some of the visual effects are sorely lacking, the make-up effects are often fabulous and worthwhile.

However, the most enticing element to this crazy trip of a sci-fi/horror is to try to find a thread of logic. With this, I’m referring to the birthing of the alien, or copy, or clone, or whatever. I don’t know what’s going on, but I liked it because I see the production team laughing at the notion of maintaining a linear thread. As the amazing Ian Curtis once sang, “People change for no reason at all/It’s happening all of the time” – well, it’s happening with the aliens and their reproductive process throughout the movie. And I love that craziness.

XTRO colored outside the lines and didn’t tell a story with blinders on. What the story is or what it means is clearly up to the viewer. For me, I just enjoyed the ride – though I wish Davenport would dump his synthesizer soundtrack (as I wish John Carpenter would have done quite often) for something stronger.

However, if you want to watch a freaky horror and have a blast doing so, this will not disappoint.

4 out of 5 stars

5 Replies to “Crash Analysis: XTRO (1983)”

  1. I think it works because, despite the loopy and grotesque narrative, under it all it’s just about a little boy who misses his daddy.

  2. This is one I’ve been meaning to re-watch for a while. I stumbled across Xtro by accident very late one night on the Sci-Fi Channel; it was half over (starting with the setpiece with the toy soldier that comes to life), and everything that followed creeped me the hell out. And that interview with Davenport is hilarious – it’s rare to see a director call his work for what it is.

    1. I don’t know if there’s one absolutley right answer to that. I mean, is what happens between father-thing and son ultimately tragic or transcendant? There’s room for both interpretations depending on your perspective. I’ve always been ripped up by father-son films (I’m still a sucker for the ending of Field of Dreams) and now that I have a son of my own, this movie touches all sorts of weird nerves. That it’s utterly nihilistic and borderline amoral makes it all the more weird and experience for me.

  3. The “love conquers all” or “love destroy all” element sounds like fodder for a full-length analysis to be presented at a conference – and that’s no lie. Regardless, an interesting item is that the father and son didn’t love the mother enough to bring her along – or were they protecting her from something she just couldn’t handle?

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