Friday, October 7, 2016

Talking Xtro With the #1 Fan of Xtro

by Patrick Bromley and Dennis Atherton
Some people are crazy for this crazy movie!

Anyone who has spent time in the comments section of F This Movie! -- or following our Twitter account or on our Facebook page -- knows that longtime reader Dennis Atherton will find a way to bring up the movie Xtro whenever possible. His love for the movie has become infectious, inspiring more people to check it out and creating new fans not just at F This Movie! but at other horror sites as well. This Scary Movie Month, we're celebrating Xtro by talking to our friend Dennis about what makes it such a special film for him.

Patrick: Dennis! In the last few years, you have become known around these parts as the biggest fan of Xtro, the 1982 sci-fi horror movie directed by Harry Bromley (!) Davenport. It is one of the craziest movies ever made, but you have turned many followers of our site onto the film and even the hosts of Killer POV/Shock Waves. Elric Kane even recently included it as part of his 31 Horror Films for October piece for Blumhouse.com and we have you to thank for that.

So I'll start with this: is Xtro your favourite movie? Second: Why Xtro?
Dennis: Thanks for asking me to chat about this movie with you! Frstly, I noticed you put the exclamation mark on the name Bromley(!). I did smile at the connection. Where do I start? Xtro is a film that all three on Killer POV (Now Shock Waves) agree on. That does not happen very often as you know! A genuine rarity, so we are in good company. We could first talk about "Championing the Ambitious Failure," something I know you can get behind, but I guess really it's all about feelings and this film does genuinely touch my heart. It's got everything I love about '80s horror in it. I don't think I could ever have a single favourite movie, but this would always be in my top ten-- hell, top five. It's my Possession movie, my Back to the Future. it is definitely my favourite movie to talk about though, I love The Evil Dead and, for reasons too long to get into now, I own over a hundred versions of the film,  but why champion it? Does The Evil Dead need championing? Everyone has seen it already. In my life, sometimes people ask me for recommendations: "Dennis, you love horror, gimme something good, something I haven't seen," and the answer is always Xtro! Because it never fails. It's got so many things going on that it's hard not to find something to connect to. I will tell you some of the reasons below I love it and you can try not to connect with some of these

Firstly, How's about a gorgeous Bond girl? Naked! (Maryam D'abo) Boom! You're in already. Do I need to continue? There's a good start. Next -- and something I feel strongly about -- is that it is a practical effects thing of beauty. I will take rubber monsters over CGI any day, all day. I find it hard to care about something that is not real, like the reaction I had to Crimson Peak. This is at the opposite end of the care spectrum. I have said before that Xtro is the most unpredictable movie ever made, and I stand by that. No other film jumps from a Naked Bond girl to a Six Feet tall Killer Action Man to a Dwarf Clown with a Yo-Yo with blades on it then to an upside down walking Alien (#TimDry is my spirit animal). And then there's the Black Panther and, next, exploding Alien Eggs and a Killer Tank.

Also, Xtro has got one of the best birth scenes ever! This is pretty much undeniable. After alien sex, inception to birth takes just six minutes. Six minutes! I timed it, and not just child birth, or alien birth, but a fully grown adult man is born and then he rips his way out of the unfortunate lady and bites his own umbilical cord. As JB would say, “I’ve never seen that before!” Stir this crazy pot of weirdness and melt this all together with a broken family drama at the heart of it and you got the totally bonkers Xtro!

It's like a British Giallo. You just don't try to understand it too much; just let it wash over you with that amazing score that even our musical friend Chaybee was blown away by. Turn it up loud and it really works. Just like with Italian cinema, it's an overload for the senses and you get drawn in by it.

It is also the perfect double bill film, because you can watch it with literally anything else and it will play perfectly. Once Warner start to open their vaults, I predict this could have an epic Blu-ray release resurgence. I have dreamed of it for many years. For now, though, the version from Optimum releasing is my favourite; it has a good transfer and it has the best ending. I don’t like the later changed "happier" ending on some releases.
Patrick: I've only seen Xtro once and I'll admit to it a) blowing my mind and b) leaving me cold, probably because I couldn't make sense of any of it. But this was a few years ago and, as you well know, I have expanded my views of what horror movies can be since then. I need to rewatch it this Scary Movie Month.

I remember loving the effects and the weirdness, but is there a story or an emotional through line there that you can connect to? Or do you enjoy it more on the level of, as you mentioned, "Well, I've never seen THIS in a movie before..." Because that's certainly true of Xtro.

Dennis: I can certainly see it leaving you cold or frustrated on first viewing. It all depends on the mood you were in and also that our tastes change. We have all had different reactions to films at different times. I re-watched Avatar because of you and the second time it really worked. I thought it was amazing. The first time i could not get past a "Blue Smurfs in space" joke I heard and it really pulled me out of the movie.

Patrick: You're welcome. #Iseeyou

Dennis: I am happy you will give it another try. I am genuinely interested in yours or anyone’s thoughts on this movie! It is only 83 minutes long. Turn it up loud and watch it on your bigger projector screen. I am laughing to myself here, thinking of using Elric’s term and saying “It’s Pure Cinema!”

I can also see it not making to much sense being a bad thing sometimes, but I think you possibly already know what I'm going to say here: do the giallo films you love make sense? Does it ruin or enhance your pleasure? I like the term "dream logic"; this film is dreamy, but there is definitely a story you can connect to at the heart of this film. There is a broken family with a missing dad scenario, and when Sam (Dad) returns home after three years away he wants to rejoin the family as he left it. Now his wife is with someone else and they are planning to get married, but Tony (The Kid) wants his real Dad back. It's a tough situation for Rachel (the Wife) to be in, who is still officially married to the returning Sam,.This is not a side plot; this is the heart of the movie. On last viewing, last night, I really connected with the Mum and the tricky position she was in. One particular jawing moment for me is when young Tony and his Dad go missing and Rachael looks at her new boyfriend and says “He’s taken him!” That bit gets me every time. And when Tony shouts loudly from upstairs “Dad!” and then both men downstairs stand up in a Mexican style standoff, and the fake dad has to admit defeat, it's heartbreaking stuff.

Patrick: As someone who is constantly championing the movie to people who have never seen it, what do you hope new viewers will get out of it?

Dennis: We all have our movies that we connect to, and I feel I have connected with people over this movie. Tor the people who "got it," it's like a lost '80s movie they never saw, like Kindred, Pieces, The Burning, Evilspeak, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Xtro! These films were never really talked about much in my life. The reason is am a part of the F This Movie! community is to talk about this stuff. In my day to day life, going to work making false teeth (pulling back the curtain), people I talk with don’t know who Tobe Hooper is. Choptop? Bill who? “Never heard of him.” If you ever wondered what the Community at F This Movie! want, in my opinion it is to connect with other people with similar views or loves. That’s why i’m here, to share what I love, and I Love Xtro!

One of my favourite things recently was when some clever sod on Twitter during your Podcastathon came up with the term BreXtro. Sorry, I forgot who. It was the middle of the night here. From Brexit to BreXtro, Xtro is the British nightmare. That is epic! Well done to whoever you are. Side note: I recently watched Mirrors (The Tortured cut) and if you think about how a film with mirrors in it might end, you're correct. I guessed the ending ten minutes into the film. But with Xtro, you can’t guess the ending. Damn it, you can’t even guess the next scene! Just like with giallo, I am happy to not understand everything. It's why I love Donnie Darko. Xtro is kind of a time travel movie, too. In the opening scene it instantly goes from night to day with no explanation. One of my favourite sayings in life is “I went looking for Answers and I ended up with more questions!”

For example, I have probably seen Xtro more than any other film -- twice or three times a year since 1983. You do the math. I still find new stuff to look at and connect with each time. I still have questions, and until I get answers I will keep watching. Why does Sam sniff gas? Why does the phone melt? How did her foot end up in the steering wheel? And, most important, where did all the blood come from? Was it all the missing blood from the bedroom in the series Making a Murderer?When Sam was born and in reality he was only six minutes old, how did he know how to drive a car? He isn’t Michael Myers. Adam Green did not give him driving lessons. I like questions! The world would be a boring place if I knew all the answers.

Another reason for the love could be because it is British, even though it came out through New Line. I love producer Robert Shaye for sticking to his guns and wanting a black panther in a white room in it; it adds to the film. I live in the UK near Manchester and the only film I could also champion from my hometown is The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie). I like this film a lot and recognize streets in it, but it’s not Xtro. It does not hit that same sweet spot.

You can also see this film as a really dark comedy, too. It covers all genres. For instance, I like it when Annalise (D’Abo) is sneaking off to have sex with her boyfriend in her room and she says “I’m going for a lie down” to young Tony and Tony very blank-faced says “You're always lying down.” Or the polite Manager calling Rachel a “bitch” after he puts the phone down. It gets me every time, just like the guy walking of the pier for no reason in Wet Hot American Summer. It’s always funny,

Patrick: Have you seen any of the sequels? I haven't, but a half-formed memory tells me that even the director has disowned them in some way. Do I have that wrong?
Dennis: I own them, of course I own them, but I don’t watch them. The director talks negatively about his first movie in a short interview on the disc and puts it down, saying we were just making stuff up, it's all bullshit. He is not proud of it, so it does not surprise me if he disowned the other films, which are much worse. If you ever have to watch Part Two, watch for how drunk Jan-Michael Vincent is and how they have to shoot around him because he can’t get his lines right. Part Three is slightly better, but I would not recommend it or any of the others. It’s a one off. For some reason, Harry made something special that he could not replicate again in parts Two or Three, and even if he does not know it himself I think he made a very unique and memorable film. Not a lot of people manage to do that, and he should be proud. Maybe he has low expectations of himself? He did name the snake in the film Harry, after himself. He is at least a true horror fan, as the ending is a good homage to the classic shock ending in Carrie, but with a twist. If you did not see this, then you saw what some people call the "Happier" ending, which I don’t like.

Patrick: I was definitely more of a slave to narrative (I think) when I first saw the movie, so I'm curious if a rewatch will bring out new stuff for me. I certainly don't always need a movie to make sense, but when a film gets as crazy as Xtro gets I feel like I no longer have any tether to the ground at all. But, again, these days I see that as a positive -- I'd rather see a movie that goes completely nuts than one which is more "real" but uninspired.

Honestly, even if I never love the movie (and I might!), I'm always going to love the movie because of how passionate you are about it. I love it when people take ownership of movies that need more attention, and your love of Xtro comes through even in your writing. That will always mean a lot to me. It's what we're always trying to get across on this site -- to share our love of the things we love. You do that every time you talk about Xtro.

Dennis: This film is certainly untethered. It's like Braindead, when Peter Jackson just went for it and had no limits to his ideas. I like to watch a film where I don't feel safe and I love any film that goes to places I did not expect. Xtro does this time and time again. The more films we see, the harder it is to catch us off guard, so to not be able to guess where a film is going next is a joy. I suspect your new love for giallo is subconsciously because you really enjoy the feeling of being untethered and to not know where a film will go. It's a luxury we don't often get. It is these films I love. Other films I like, but I will always love a film that catches me by surprise.

Just as a final thought, something I just recently noticed is that Xtro was made in 1982, which, as a lot of people already know, goes down as a fantastic and unique year for horror. So many good movies. And in this wonderful year of horror 1982, Xtro comes out, as you all know by now, as my favourite film of '82 and is a perfect 82 minutes long. This shit means something. I'm not sure what, but it makes me very very happy.

I thank you for asking me to talk about this crazy movie! This was fun. I will end on saying a BIG hello to all the contributors and F-Heads on this site that make this place the special place that it is, and thank you to Patrick for giving us all a place to share our thoughts about film.

Time to go now and watch some more films for Scary Movie Month! I hope Xtro is on all your to watch lists this month because you know it is Xtrodinary!

30 comments:

  1. Michael GiammarinoOctober 7, 2016 at 5:14 AM

    Xtro... wow. I haven't seen Xtro since I was a little kid. I probably saw it in 1985 or thereabouts. I can still remember the clamshell box at the video store. Everytime it's been watched and discussed in past Junesploitations, I've been wanting to revisit it. If I don't see it again finally this month, I'll feel sorry for myself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How was it Michael joining our cult? At least the kool aid tastes sweet

      Delete
  2. Not that it's important for me to take credit for, but just to relive memories of the podcastathon, I said BreXtro in the youtube chat during that last hour which will be forever lost. Patrick and Doug had mentioned Brexit for reasons I don't remember and which were probably due mostly to sleep deprivation. Due to Dennis mentioning Xtro in the chat every few minutes the connection sorta made itself.

    But yeah, I get the appeal of championing the lesser known movies. I'd much rather talk about the merits of Knightriders as opposed to Dawn of the Dead because I don't feel like I'm repeating what millions of other people have said.

    Harry Bromley Davenport seems like an interesting guy, and the clip that's mentioned of him discussing making the Xtro movies is up on youtube. I actually watched his most recent movie, American Grand (about the restoration of a Grand Piano) and it was a decent documentary, but the rest of his filmography doesn't look too promising. I actually tried to track down Life Among the Cannibals since it had Juliet Landau in it, but have come up empty so far aside from youtube, which honestly is how I had to watch Xtro also.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well done Ross, it stuck with me, I'm glad I got to find out who came up with the slogan, I could of dreamed it at that time of night

      Delete
  3. Love this! It optimizes "movie love for movie lovers".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And you got a mention as I remembered you loved the score, you are right, the score is amazing too, last watch last week I turned it up loud and it was brilliant, the music in the scene with the Dwarf Clown were chilling

      Delete
    2. Absolutely, thanks for the shout out, man. That score is super legit!

      Delete
  4. This movie has a permanent place on all of my future Junesploitation and SMM lists. Thanks Dennis!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who's the first to get a tattoo? It's gotta be me

      Delete
  5. I was definitely going to watch Xtro at some point but this bumps it to the top of my list - maybe tonight! :) Great stuff, Dennis!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hell yes, Friday night a few beers and Xtro is a recipe for a good start to the weekend

      Delete
    2. You're a madman, Atherton! No, you know, I really enjoyed it - it's bonkers but it definitely does some interesting and unexpected things - I don't quite LOVE it but I'm glad I watched it and I would really like to see a hi-def copy on blu-ray. I actually found the introduction to the creature fairly unsettling and some of the early scenes genuinely scary but I think the score ends up hurting the horror element - it's so quirky though that it's worth it for the entertainment value. And, yeah, you can tell the people involved were trying to make a really good movie and, in a sense, they did, so I always appreciate that.

      Thanks Dennis, I think it's safe to say I never would have watched this movie if it weren't for you, and I'd be a lesser man for it!

      Delete
    3. That's excellent, the love comes next, first time you see it it goes to so many places you are always pulled out by its Bonkersness, is that a word? It is now, next viewing I find you can enjoy it for what it actually is
      The Optimum release Dvd looks pretty good, I can't even imagine that birth scene in Bluray or that Clown, One day hopefully my dreams will come true

      Delete
    4. Interesting reaction to the score because Chaybee went the other way and loved the score

      Delete
    5. No no don't get me wrong - I think the score undercuts the HORROR; i.e. with a different score it might be a scarier movie; but the score is one of the big reasons it's as FUN as it is. I wouldn't have it any other way!

      Delete
    6. Yeah I get it now, with a different score on certain scenes it could of been really scary, but it is kinda upbeat and funny, its a strange mix of tones, I'm with ya

      Delete
  6. I kept waiting for Xtro to show up on Blu-Ray, but after reading this article, I finally just decided to watch it on YouTube. I have to give the film credit: even with all of the talk about how nuts it is, it was still nothing like what I expected. Though I can't say I loved it, but everything about it is totally unique, which I give it a ton of credit for.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's what I love, it is like nothing else, and its hard to predict where it is going next
      We will keep dreaming of that bluray
      Thanks for watching

      "One of us"

      Is this the point where I say my real name is Harry Bromley Davenport?
      Just kidding

      Delete
  7. Awesome! This is why this community is so great. Had my first Xtro experience during Junesploitation and will have my second during Scary Movie Month. All thanks the to F This Movie! crew and one F Head in particular. Xtro is just one example of the many movies I've watched over the past year, which I never would've heard without all of you. Thank you all for making movies this much fun. It's Thanksgiving weekend in Canada and I'm being emotional :).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your making me emotional Frank
      Happy Thanksgiving, come back and tell me if my theory is correct, "Xtro is much better the second time". It's to much to take first viewing, second time you can really enjoy it more for what it is is and connect with the family struggle at the heart of the movie more, the monster stuff has more resonance once you feel sympathy for the family breakdown

      Delete
    2. Totally agree the with family aspect. At its core it's about a family in transition but struggling to move forward, dealing with stress, abandonment, anger, grief etc. The first 45 minutes is borderline a straightforward family drama, plus an alien abduction and the birth of man... I'm not going to pretend to understand everything that goes in the second half, but it works. Dreamlike is a great way to put it. But it pays a lot of what was presented earlier on - toy soldier, panther, clown etc. along with the family issues.
      The effects are really good too. It helped I had a better version this time around (although still on YouTube). Love the alien design and I know that's not the story being told, but more of it, or a different alien invasion movie would be badass with that creature.

      Delete
    3. This is what I said to Patrick, there really is a great through line that connects all of this crazyness, the family drama in the first half builds the story so that by the time the craxy stuff kicks in you already are invested in the people, the effects still look great on a good looking dvd

      Delete
  8. Awesome! One of the best things is always seeing these what to watch lists on twitter and different sites and knowing that Dennis is going to pop up with the Xtro bump! Your love for the film is infectious good sir!

    ReplyDelete
  9. http://www.platinumcultedition.com/produkt/xtro-35th-anniversary-deluxe-edition-limitiert-auf-500-inkl-figur-filmbild-t-shirt-soundtrack-etc/


    Dream coming true, Thanks to Patrick for the heads up, a fucking four disc Bluray, holy fucking fuck, 4 disc edition
    God damn we need stuff like this in this Brexit Trump world
    This is truely amazing

    ReplyDelete
  10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CqKWGTojb8

    And here is the first footage ever of Xtro in HD

    Holy crap I'm excited

    ReplyDelete