Three years ago, young Tony (Simon Nash) was playing with the family dog at his country house home while his father Sam (Philip Sayer) was throwing a stick for it to catch. Tony urged him to throw it higher, whereupon the stick froze in mid air and there was a blinding flash of light and a gale force wind as the area was plunged into darkness save for an illuminated beam of white apparently dragging Sam towards it. The boy managed to get away, but his father was not so lucky and was not seen from that day to this. However, there are signs he has returned, and he's not quite the man he used to be...
If there's ever a cheap horror film that screams Britain in 1983, it would be Xtro, which has the dubious distinction of being the only other British movie on the "Video Nasties" list aside from Expose. It was not banned for long, but its mere appearance on such a list lent it an outlaw glamour far overshadowing the merits of the work itself: now it has been released on DVD with a 15 certificate which is either a sign that the United Kingdom has moved on, or a sign that the country has gone to the dogs, whichever reaction the sight of a woman giving birth to a fully grown man brings out in the viewer.
It was patently designed to shock, but as with a lot of that nature, it doesn't half look silly now, with setpieces strung together to fly in the face of plot logic, or that's how it appears. We never get much of an explanation for what the hell is going on, for example where has Sam been all this time and why was he abducted in the first place? Is he a goodie or a baddie? That one is especially hard to answer because one moment he is the loving father returned to do the best for his boy, the next he is sucking the life blood out of him, again, for no reason that is forthcoming. Indeed, so baffling is Xtro that it could almost qualify as a surrealist picture as after a while it does begin to take on a dreamlike demeanour.
After the opening, we see Tony is now living with his mother Rachel (Bernice Stegers) in the city with her new boyfriend Joe (Danny Brainin), who in one of the production's gestures towards class is a photographer, although what the pint of beer accompanying the model is there for is anyone's guess. Another move towards an air of refinement is that the au pair is French, played by future Bond Girl Maryam d'Abo in her first role and putting on an accent that would not be unrecognisable to fans of Peter Sellers. As everyone in the film is a potential victim, you do get used to the idea that most of the characters are simply there to end up bearing the brunt of the special effects department's innovations.
This means a curious emphasis on reproduction, inspired by the huge success of Alien a few years before, so someone is impregnated with an alien attaching itself to her face, and another turned into an egg laying device thanks to the machinations of Tony's imaginary friend. If he is imaginary, it's difficult to work out, but that's pretty much what you have to accustom yourself to with Xtro, yet it does offer what could have been some typical yawnfest cash-in a shade of interest. Because everything is done here for effect, it has a way of surprising you, so Tony's Action Man doll turns life size and kills Lou Beale from Eastenders, or Sam decides to start snacking on his son's pet snake's eggs out of the blue. Make no mistake, this is not a good film by any stretch of the imagination, but sometimes something of this downright nuttiness can be more diverting than some ultra slick Hollywood project. Music by the director - on a synthesiser, of course.