XTRO: Not All Aliens Are Friendly, or Cute, or Particularly Lucid

Second Sight’s Blu-ray restoration of the 1980 alien possession film, Xtro, is the best the British director Harry Bromley-Davenport’s movie has ever looked. Well, kind of. There are multiple versions of the film on the disc that’s out now, including a re-colored version by the director himself.Stick with the Second Sight restoration. Bromley-Davenport’s version looks pretty nice during daylit scenes, but if there’s any darkness, the contrast gets blown out so bad the white positively glares. It’s a visual nightmare that does more harm than good.

Anyhow, the film, should you not be familiar with it from the Horror Business episode a while back:

“Father Sam Phillips is playing with his family in the back garden of his idyllic English home when a bright light appears and seemingly abducts him. Three years later, the light returns and dumps a half human half alien creature. After slaughtering a couple who inadvertently stumble on it in a country road, the creature impregnates a woman who gives birth – in one of cinema’s most outrageous scenes – to a fully formed Sam. He heads to London, seeking out his family and developing a strange bond with his son. And then things start to get really weird …”

The film is weird and nasty in equal parts, with the monster scenes coming across as some of the stickiest, gooiest images ever put to screen. Much is made in Second Sight’s press material of “the notorious alien induced birth sequence,” and for good reason — it’s horrifying. Like, Cronenbergian body-horror levels of jaw-dropping shock.

When I’d previously seen Xtro, the night scenes were these murky bits where you kind of had to guess as to what was going on: “Is that the alien? Maybe? I dunno. Might be the father?” I mean, that’s got an element of terror to it, because hearing the sounds and having to visualize plot elements in your imagination is sometimes more frightening than having it directly shown to you, but Bromley-Davenport and his crew were intent on making Xtro look as good as it could, and this new restoration brings everything into focus.

I interviewed Bromley-Davenport a month ago, about the film and it’s new restoration, and I had mentioned that the movie’s unusual in that it shows the creature early and often:

“And to have a couple of lingering wide shots of it, too,” the director said. “That was quite intentional, and for precisely the reason you mentioned: people just want to have a glimpse of it, because it’s usually more frightening that way.”

It’s certainly a big difference from the majority of every other alien invasion movie or creature feature, where it seems like they save it for the last ten minutes. On top of that, you have all kinds of other craziness brought about by the alien, like the action figure come to full-size life and all that, and ending with a scene that’s even further madness, and it’s surprising that Xtro keeps getting labeled as an E.T. knock-off.

The Xtro extras are really where it’s at, with the nearly hour-long documentary, “Xploring Xtro” featuring interviews with pretty much anyone involved in the production who’s still alive and available, with the exception of Simon Nash, who played the young boy, Tony. It’s a thorough examination of making the film, and the stories are really glorious, telling the story from its inception, all the way through its current reputation.

Xtro has been a seedy little film for too long — and it still kind of is — but the restoration done by Second Sight, along with the heaping helping of extras, might let it get the respect long overdue it.

Xtro is available on Blu-ray from Diabolik

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek
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