Of course, these people often also have serious psychological issues.
If it were a human being, the British sci-fi WTF-stravaganza Xtro (1982, dir. Harry Bromley Davenport) would be one of these people.
We open at a country cottage not far removed from the bustling heart of London, where nurturing nice-guy dad Sam Phillips (Philip Sayer) is playing fetch with his adorable son Tony (Simon Nash) and their even-more adorable border collie Katie. Perhaps hoping to recreate his favorite scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Sam hauls back and launches the stick high over the roof of the house. He succeeds better than he could have hoped, as the stick explodes in a shower of sparks and the sky is immediately filled with blinding lights and sci-fi noises of the most sinister variety. As the sky darkens and an unnatural wind sweeps him toward the light, Sam urges his son to run for it, which (being the obedient sort) he does. Long moments later Sam is gone, leaving his son an orphan and his wife Rachel (Bernice Stegers, previously of Lamberto Bava's Macabre ) back on the market.
|This dog refused screen credit for this picture.|
Three years pass in a jump-cut. Rachel believes Sam's disappearance to be a classic case of Spousal Abandonment, but still has filed neither a missing person's report nor divorce papers. She has not let the sheets of the marriage bed get cold, however, as she now shares her London apartment with her boyfriend Joe (Danny Brainin), a successful commercial photographer and former friend of her disappeared hubby. The lovebirds largely leave the care of young Tony to their French au pair Analise (future Bond Girl Maryam d'Abo, in her debut movie role), whose main job qualifications seem to be a terrible accent and her undeniably smokin' hawtness.* For his part, Tony has never accepted that his father just up and run-oft, and constantly looks forward to the day they will be reunited.
*Nota bene: Maryam D'Abo is the cousin once-removed of Olivia D'Abo, who made her debut as the spoiled princess in Conan the Destroyer (1984), and whom I had previously erroneously assumed to be Maryam's twin sister.
Unluckily for everyone involved, the little moppet's wishes are soon to be granted. Back in rural England, a familiar blinding light falls from the sky, depositing a pool of goop in the woods which soon coagulates into one of the freakiest extraterrestrials it's ever been my pleasure to see on the screen. You want a little practical FX post-Giger nightmare fuel? Check out THIS bad boy:
The ickiness is just beginning, however: upon awakening an hour or so later, the woman finds herself the subject of a time-lapse short on the wonders of childbirth, as her belly swells to full 40-week distension in a matter of moments. The strain on her system is too much: she collapses on the floor, dead. Just as well, for this spares her the pain and horror of seeing a full grown man climb out of her vagina, dragging most of her meaty innards with him before gnawing through his umbilical cord with his own teeth! The filmmakers do not skimp on the caro syrup nor the sloppy sound effects, making for a gloriously gross moment of WTF.
|Worst party favor ever.|
Of course the newborn manchild is Sam, who has been a resident alien on the alien planet since his abduction. ("I had to be...changed...so I could live there!" he later explains.) Now back in roughly human form, he quickly finds his way back to London and insinuates himself into his estranged family's life, claiming no memory of the intervening three years. Tony is the only one happy to see him. Rachel is understandably torn, and Joe struts around taunting his rival with public displays of affection toward his wife, like an alpha dog marking out territory. Still, Rachel thinks, no sense involving medical professionals (or the POLICE) in all this; instead, she invites Sam to stay at the apartment with them until they can sort things out.
This gives Sam the opportunity to start working on his real objective: apparently he's more than happy being a Double-Jointed Killbeast from Planet Yog, but can't go another space year without his dearly beloved son at his side. Left alone with the boy, Sam gives Tony a love bite on the neck--a visual that would be icky even if it weren't for the body-horror effects--which imparts to the boy some of Dad's alien abilities. What kind of abilities, you may well ask? Well, how about the ability, through simple concentration, to make anything he can imagine become real?** Talk about your fringe benefits!
|Submitted without comment.|
**This explains, one assumes, how Sam was able to teleport into his doomed baby-momma's house earlier--though it sheds no light on why, this being the case, Sam didn't just concentrate on coming to Earth already in human form, or better yet simply imagine Tony on the alien ship with him and have done with it.
The Xtro train has never had a firm grip on the narrative rails since the stick exploded in scene one, but here it really jumps them for good--or rather, points the engine upward and rockets straight into the outer BatShittosphere. Little Tony quickly crosses over into "It's a Good Life" territory, bringing his toy soldier to life to wreak vengeance on a meddlesome neighbor, materializing a live panther in his room, and animating a wooden clown to be his accomplice in evil! (The "real" clown is played by Peter Mandell, a Little Person in exactly the type of role Peter Dinklage hilariously vented on in Tom DeCillo's Living in Oblivion .)
Even though this is far afield from the story's beginnings in Alien Abduction territory, it actually fits in to film better than you'd think. The whole movie has had an odd, otherworldly quality. Scenes shift from day to night and back with abandon. Night scenes are lit brightly from impossible sources. Chunks of context are missing or never existed. Murders happen, and no one seems to notice or care, much less phone the police. Characters speak their lines in a somnolent daze, and motivation is the merest afterthought, when it's thought of at all. In a way, the entire movie has played like an extended dream sequence--like Twilight Zone without restraint, or Tim Burton without horizontal stripes.
|"If only Olaf could see me now!"|
Meanwhile (and with absolutely no buildup other than a jump-cut), Sam and Rachel are rekindling their physical relationship (like rabid minx). Unfortunately Sam's alien physiology causes him to have an allergic reaction to Rachel's sex stank, the symptoms of which include ruptured back lesions and acute horrifying ugliness. Joe shows up and is dealt with via sonic scream, and the reunited father and son walk into the woods, sloughing skin as they go, to be taken back into the mother ship. Either in shock or not too bothered (it's hard to tell), Rachel goes back to the London apartment, where a dwarf, a live panther and one last icky surprise await her. And Fin.
|"You've got to be fuckin' kidding me."|
Parishioners, Xtro is a movie that delivers the goods, and throws in a bunch of extra snack crackers you didn't even know you were hungry for. The effects are all practical and wonderfully disgusting, and the creature design is pretty great too. The acting is nothing to write home about, though the actors themselves are probably less to blame than the writer and director on that count. Still, even though the script is all over the place, there's just so much happening at all times it's hard to get too upset about. All the actors seem admirably committed, though, with special props to Maryam D'Abo, who provides some high-quality nekkidity more than once. The sythesizer score (also by director Davenport) made me want to puncture my own eardrums with Q-Tips, but given the unrelenting weirdness of the piece, I wondered if perhaps this was by design.
In closing, if you can just shut off your logic centers and let the MADness wash over you, you'll have a great time with this one. Gory, crazy, entertaining and never dull, Xtro deserves a place at the table with 80s scifi insanities like Inseminoid and Galaxy of Terror. 3 Thumbs. Seek it out, and let Xtro make you happy. That's all it wants!
More photos from XTRO (1982):
|Didn't figure on this much action|
|"DWARF FROM ABOVE!"|
|"You know the rules, Sam. You lost at Connect Four. Get suckin'!"|
|"What the fuck am I doing here?"|
|"Mommy! Give us a kiss!"|