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?
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.
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!”
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?
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!