Halloween

The Greatest Horror Movie Moments!
by: Dr. Boogie

Xtro

When you want horror, especially horror with an emphasis on spectacle, you can't go wrong with the "Video Nasties". It takes a certain special something to get on a watchlist. That's why I had particularly high hopes when I checked out a little sci fi horror film from the early eighties called Xtro.

The basic premise of Xtro is that a young boy named Tony loses his father to an alien attack, only to have said dad mysteriously reappear three years later, with no memory of what happened during those lost years. His mother and her new beau don't believe the boy's outlandish story, in spite of the incredibly bold nature of the kidnapping, wherein the aliens instantly change day into night and capture Tony's father using gale-force winds. No, as far as they're concerned, Sam (the dad) merely decided to leave the family one day. Without taking any of his things. In the middle of playing with Tony. Oh, and he apparently took the time to concoct a harebrained story about aliens to explain his disappearance to Tony.

One of the kindest things you can say about Xtro is that, as a horror movie, it's odd. It starts off as a fairly standard sci fi horror movie, but then it quickly goes through a few tonal shifts: the sci fi horror gives way to a family drama as Sam tries to pick up his life where he left off, in spite of his wife's new boyfriend. Then later on, Tony is... infected, I guess would be the word... by his father, and he gains psychic powers that turn the movie into a strange children's fantasy-type film. We go from seeing a women impregnated by a hideous alien give birth to a fully grown man, to seeing that same man try to reconnect with his son, to watching the young lad animate his toys to amuse himself, and later kill people. It's a bit jarring.

And the overall atmosphere isn't really helped by the synth-heavy score (which was composed by the director). At moments of tension in the film, the score steals away much of the seriousness, but during the more graphic sequences, the score makes things downright surreal. Just listen to the tense "walking to school" theme to see what I mean.

From this film, I've selected a moment that really captures the schizophrenic nature of the film. I'll try to provide a running commentary, but don't feel bad if you have stop for a bit of head scratching: Both Tony and his father have their eyes set on their lovely housekeeper, Annalise. In Sam's own words, "she's just what we need, but we mustn't damage her." Tony knows exactly what he means...

He's turning her innie into an outtie!

That's right; time to infect her with one hell of a bad hickey! Earlier in the film, you get to see Same give Tony the same treatment, although his looked more like he was sucking on a giant goiter on Tony's shoulder.

It's about this time that Annalise's boyfriend starts to wonder where she got off to. Well, she's certainly not in the basement showing off her midriff from an alien-human hybrid. The boyfriend (he has a name, but we won't need to know it for much longer) goes looking, but encounters a toy tank shooting live ammunition. He ducks into the bathroom to avoid the tank and finally locates Annalise:

There goes the deposit on the apartment.

Oh Annalise, that's not how you make cotton candy!

Emboldened by the sight of his cocooned girlfriend, our man tosses a towel on the toy tank and makes a break for it. He makes it all the way to the front door, but then he's stopped by the panther.

"To me, Guenhwyvar!"

Yes, there's a panther in there, too. Did I mention that earlier? No I didn't, because this is the first (and last) time that panther will show up, save for a brief shot at the end. Apparently, Tony brought a panther to life just to kill this bland-looking fellow. Hey, why not?

Anyway, with the boyfriend out of the picture and Annalise ensconced on the bathroom wall, Tony can move onto Phase 2:

Defrosting the freezer has never been this much fun!

I should mention that most of Tony's dirty work is being done by a creepy midget clown that he brought to life earlier. In between assaulting people in the apartment, the clown entertains Tony with short pantomime routines and various other comedic hijinks. See, now that panther from before seems almost normal, doesn't it?

Right now, the clown is mixing up some kind of sludge and dumping it into the knocked-over refrigerator while Tony watches with rapt attention. If this is one of the clown's comedy routines, I'm curious to see what the payoff is going to be.

But no, no comedy this time. This is all prep work for Annalise's big role:

Cocoon, starring Wilford Brimley

Her cocoon has upgraded from a tangled mass of cobwebs to a full-on alien pod, complete with its own funnel. Then again, "funnel" probably isn't the most accurate term for it. It's really more of an ovipositor.

That's the biggest olive I've ever seen!

This is what the movie Alien would have been like if it had been directed by David Lynch.

It's definitely creepy, at least enough so to distract you from the fact that the plot seems to be meandering at this point, having moved away from Sam just wanting to bring Tony and his mom back to the alien world. Personally, I think the odd score and the juxtaposing of so many bizarre, incongruous scenes make this a very creepy movie. Oddly enough, the director claims that the bizarre atmosphere in the film was purely by accident.

There's a great quote for the cover: "This movie is accidentally bizarre!"

Alien puberty graphically portrayed.

Have any questions or comments about this piece?
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Reader Comments

Slim Goodbody
Oct 17th, 2011, 05:53 AM
This movie is genuinely stupid. It takes most of the movie before anything worthwhile happens and nothing really makes sense. But the goddamn finale is so fucking off the wall crazy that you'll enjoy it just for the spectacle. Or just skip the movie and only watch the ending, that'll be good.
Forum Chaos Lord
Oct 18th, 2011, 11:40 AM
That third to last image reminds me of that one girl my dad dated for about a week.
Trust me, you really don't want to know.
pickled
Oct 20th, 2011, 10:30 AM
Dear god, what did I just read?

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