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Xtro

Year: 1983
Production Co: Amalgamated Film Enterprises
Director: Harry Bromley Davenport
Producer: Harry Bromley Davenport
Writer: Harry Bromley Davenport
Cast: Simon Nash, Philip Sayer, Marayam D'Abo

I was too scared to see this film for the longest time after seeing the trailer many times as a kid when the film was out. Riffing on the then-monstrously successful ET: The Extra Terrestrial, I can still hear the gravelly voiceover in the trailer promising that 'some extraterrestrials ar-en't friendly (no, that's not a misprint, that's how the guy said it).

Harry Bromley Davenport, the creative brains trust behind the film, was a bit John Carpenter-like, writing and directing it as well as composing the score, and with his sensibility firmly anchored in the early 80s, it's now a hoot to watch after all these years. The schlocky acting and editing (staples in cheap horror movies of the 80s) is funny enough, but the Gonk-like synth score caps it off. You can also check the rest of boxes from the genre like the gratuitous nude scene by the hot foreign au pair (D'Abo), but there's an even less expected atmosphere of Lynchian strangeness like Tony's midget clown helper.

And for the record, the bit from the trailer that terrified me (a glimpse of a man becoming an alien, looking up with sharply angry eyes and a mouth full of oversized teeth) was on screen for less than a second and about as scary as a tuna sandwich.

In fact, while some parts are inventively gory like the woman giving birth to a fully grown man, most of the film is not only not scary but devoid of action altogether. The entire midsection of maybe 45 minutes is more of a mystery thriller, with no blood or horror at all.

A little kid and his dad are playing in their country cottage garden in rural England when a light descends from the sky, turning day suddenly into night (presumably the result of dodgy continuity rather than special effects) and vanishing with the father.

Three years later, little Tony thinks his Dad still loves him and will return one day, even though his mum has moved on in life and has a new guy. Then one day, father Sam shows up with no memory of where he's been. In fact, he's been taken home with the aliens who picked him up in the beginning, and he's changed. For one thing, he has strange new powers and promises to share them with his son if he trusts him. He also eats snake eggs raw, can apparently control things with his mind, and was returned to Earth in the most unusual of circumstances.

In the film's centerpiece, a light appears in the sky to deliver the alien monster I remember so well from the VHS cover with the backwards front legs. Perhaps inspired by the biology of Alien, it finds its way to the remote house of a random blonde, impregnates her with a hand over her face, implants the soon-to-be-reborn Sam in her and dies. If you're a horror aficianado the creature will be on screen for a disappointingly short time, leaving the rest of the story a chase thriller with a few supernatural elements until the climactic forest chase to the departing spaceship. Don't get your hopes up there either though, it's just a bright shaft of light and there are still no effects to speak of.

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