(Warning: This post contains spoilers for three movies you'll likely never see anyway)
A post by robyn_ma
reminded me of the amazingly bad (and ideal for MST3K fans) series of sci-fi horror films, XTRO
As bad as the films are to begin with, they get worse when you lump them together.
Perhaps the oddest thing about the series is that the connection between the three films isn't the theme, the type of monster, or the main characters (all the "normal" things that tie a film series together). Instead, the connection is that all three were written and directed by Harry Bromley Davenport.
For those not familiar with Davenport, he's best known for, well, the Xtro
movies. The only other movies he's done that you might have encountered are Mockingbird Don't Sing
(a fictionalized account of Genie, the famous feral girl found in the '70s) and The Adventures of Young Brave
, considered by many to be the worst children's movie ever.
But Xtro is where this guy really shines. He managed, over the course of thirteen years (the films were released in 1983, 1990, and 1995, respectively), to put together three completely different horror/sci-fi films, each of which manages to suck in completely different ways, and each of which rips of completely different films. Xtro
, the classic original, hit in 1983, on a budget of three Pounds (did I mention that it was produced in the UK?). Fully two-thirds of that budget was spent convincing future Bond girl Maryam d'Abo to do full frontal nudity, a budget decision that was absolutely worthwhile. The remaining budget was spent on f/x. Don't count on much "acting" here.
That said, this is far and away the best film in the "series." The concept? Sam Phillips is abducted by aliens as his son watches. No one believes the kid, and the mother hooks up with a decadent American. Sometime later, an alien beast is dropped off on earth, and after killing a passerby or two, finds a lonely lady, and rapes her, impregnating her with, well, itself.
Right after the woman wakes up and discovers that she's pregnant, the beast bursts out of her stomach, as alien creatures are wont to do. Unlike the cute little Aliens, however, this time the creature emerges as a cute little Sam Phillips, the guy who was kidnapped.
As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.
Then, the movie gets weird. "Sam" claims amnesia, although everyone else assumes he was off having a fling (why else would someone vanish for three years?). Sam has weird powers, and he somehow imparts them to his son, Tony Phillips (not the former Oakland Athletic/Detroit Tiger, although that would also have made for an interesting film). I can only assume that he manages this because DNA tinkering works retroactively, and Sam thus mutated when his dad did. That makes more sense than anything else in the movie.
Sam also eats the eggs of Tony's pet snake, because that's what long-lost fathers do when they return home (surely you all remember the snake-egg eating scene in Tommy?) The victims include all the usual suspects, but Maryam doesn't get turned into an alien breeding unit until after her French au pair character and her horny boyfriend do the nasty in one of the more revealing sex scenes in any horror flick. Tony and Sam do things like turn his toys into monsters (one gets stabby, another, a tank, can shoot missiles, etc), raise random black panthers out of nowhere, and all sorts of other fun stuff. By the end, everyone but Tony, Sam, and Mommy are dead, and Sam and Tony head into space while Mommy returns home to find one of at least two different endings that I've seen, both of which are utterly predictable (don't know which will be on the new DVD release).
That first film might have been bad, but at least it tried some interesting stuff (swiping from slasher flicks, alien movies, and other genres).Xtro II: The Second Encounter
, was just The Suck. The plot involves scientists who get lost while traveling to another dimension. Only one is recovered successfully, and she has an alien (who looks nothing like Sam Phillips) pop out of her. Because that's what they do. The alien then kills everyone in the station, but we only get glimpses of the monster, because they had to save on f/x*. Eventually, the monster is shot, dropped down an elevator shaft, and bludgeoned to death with the purloined scripts of Alien
The only things remarkable about this movie are the fact that the character who is ripped off (poorly) from Bill Paxton's Hudson in Aliens
is played by future X-Files
villain Nicholas Lea, and that the lead is played by Jan Michael Vincent. For those not really that familiar with JMV, his career basically consists of two things: Airwolf
, and a big steaming pile of crap**. That said, he took enough drugs during this period that I don't think he remembers doing this movie.
Somehow, there was demand, five years later, for another movie with the same title. So Davenport, being a professional, sucked it in and gave us Xtro 3: Watch the Skies
. We've moved away from Alien
being inspired by X-Files
. This time, our big names in the cast are Robert Culp and Andrew Divoff (think of this movie as "Kelly Robinson and the Wishmaster vs The Predator," if you want), although we also get a star turn by none other than Jim "Hey, my brother's won a bunch of Oscars!" Hanks.
In Watch The Skies, a group of soldiers are sent to an island, supposedly to clear it of land-mines from WWII. But they soon discover a government conspiracy (*gasp*), and an alien who has been frozen in concrete, but has now escaped. This alien can turn invisible, just like the Predators, but unlike the Predators, he's 2'3" tall, sort of an extra-dimensional alien Chucky. Without the winning personality. The monster (I never know whether to say "the Xtro," since I still, three films later, have no fucking clue what an "Xtro" is supposed to be) also traps people with a sticky secretion (insert whatever joke you prefer here -- it'll be better than any line in the movie), and dissects folks with his Alien Scalpel of Doom. Oh, the alien's motive? According to a random film reel from the '50s, the Government cut up its mate! Those bastards! After hours of the usual shenanigans, we get the post-conspiracy denouement, in which every cliche is put on full display.
How bad is this last one? Go watch the trailer
(yes, it'll work on Macs with Windows Media Player installed, in spite of the warnings). In most movies, if your alien looks that bad, you don't show the fucking thing in the preview
I can only wait in anticipation for the next Xtro movie. What wonderful concept will Davenport come up with? An unrealistic alien who pops out of a haunted videotape? An unrealistic extra-dimensional being who carries a chainsaw and canibalized teenagers? A horrific monster from beyond who gets trapped on an island and befriends a volleyball? With the mind of Davenport behind it, the possibilities are endless.*The need to edit around a small f/x budget is the only thing this has in common with Jaws.**Yes, I know he was in Bufalo '66. But that's only because Vincent Gallo clearly wanted someone more fucked in the head than himself around.