XTRO is a British science-fiction horror movie from the 80s—which kind of says it all, because they were never that great. It’s also one of the strangest movies I’ve ever seen. Normally that would be a compliment, but in this case it’s not.
It was one of the films that almost made the official “Video Nasties” list, but for some reason was left off. And yet somehow people often look back fondly on the movie. I kind of get it, but then again I kind of don’t.
XTRO was directed by Harry Bromley Davenport. I had read that Davenport had only done four (bad) films, but he’s also responsible for the made-for-TV film Mockingbird Don’t Sing about the “feral child” Genie. Which is probably his best work… Unbelievably, he was once an assistant to Nicholas Ray, as was Jim Jarmusch. I don’t think Davenport and Jarmusch were paying attention to the same things during their time with one of the greats. Davenport also made the two sequels to XTRO, which because of rights issues have no relation to the first.
Plot in a nutshell: a dad is abducted by aliens. He doesn’t come back, but three years later an alien creature attacks a couple and rapes a woman., who later gives birth to a fully grown human who looks exactly like the missing dad. He seeks out the abducted man’s family, and then things get even weirder—like a toy clown becomes a murderous dwarf clown thing. It’s also entirely possible that the creatures are actually some kind of Lovecraftian beings from another dimension—they aren’t ever actually called aliens. The sequels kind of expand on the interdimensional aspect.
It was clearly meant to be a sort of sexploitation rip-off of E.T., but the guy directing this mess clearly can’t make a film. The plot is all over the place. It got terrible reviews, as you might imagine, but gained a cult audience on video.
But while you would think a film with so many bizarre elements would at least be an interesting cult movie, it’s actually just really dull and boring. Even the director has said that the bizarre atmosphere of the film was completely unintentional. The result is frankly bonkers., though not in Ed Wood territory. So despite having one of the creepiest looking clowns you will ever see in a film, it’s so poorly done and unengaging that you will likely end up baffled. As Roger Ebert wrote in a scathing review of XTRO: “It’s movies like this that give movies a bad name.”
The disc includes a ridiculous amount of stuff, including four different cuts of the film with different endings. There’s a new hour-long documentary about the film and a bunch of featurettes-including one about the new ‘reboot,’ XTRO: The Big One (which has some of the worst CGI you will ever see). It’s available in a limited edition that has a softcover book with writing on the film, publicity and more, plus the soundtrack, also by Davenport, which tries to ape John Carpenter.