Unremittingly cheesey and occasionally ridiculous, it really does feel like XTRO is from another planet.
IN the wake of seemingly endless ALIEN (1979) rip-offs, Britain’s contribution to this unnecessary subgenera were two low-budget films both structured around extraterrestrial rape: Norman J. Warren’s INSEMINOID - where Judy Geeson is assaulted by a monster with a test-tube penis - and Harry Bromley Davenport’s XTRO - where a male abductee is reborn fully grown by a girl who has been probed by an alien tentacle. For those who want to try this at home, the inseminatory fluid in Warren’s entry was a combination of raw egg and watered-down Swarfega.
INSEMINOID tells the story of an archaeological expedition, who discover a vast tomb-like complex and an assortment of crystals beneath a strange planet. The first half is unbelievably slow (with dialogue functional at best and banal at worst), and only gets going once Sandy (Geeson) is attacked. Once impregnated, the character - at the psychic urging of the crystals - hunts down her colleagues, feasting on them to sustain her pregnancy, and eventually gives birth to plasma-seeking twins who eventually abscond to Earth. The highlight is John Metcalfe’s low-lit Chislehurst Caves interiors, which make the most of the combination of blue and red filters - with this surprisingly lush element contrasting with the increasingly garish content.
“...A far from Human Birth”: INSEMINOID’s exploitative poster.
XTRO is a completely nihilistic shocker, mixing scenes of bitter, understated British life with effects heavy on teeth and slime. Narrowly escaping becoming the second official Brit-made “video nasty” - that honour only belonged to James Kenelm Clarke’s EXPOSE (1975) - XTRO was marketed as the “anti-E.T.”, with the tagline “Not all aliens are friendly.” In fact no-one “phones home” here - they're usually bludgeoned, stabbed or sucked to death in a mess of rubber mallet-head bopping, murderous toy tanks and (inconceivably) a black panther.
Surprisingly, XTRO opens on an idyllic autumn afternoon. Tony (Simon Nash) is playing with his father Sam (Philip Sayer) and their dog in the garden of their house; the sky shatters, its crisp sunlight replaced with darkness and howling winds. Sam is absorbed by a blinding white light and disappears; three years later, Tony is suffering from recurring nightmares. Feigning amnesia, Sam returns and moves back into a fragmented family unit, and sets about rebuilding his relationship with Tony and Rachel (Bernice Stegers). But this is a front to get closer to his son; in an unsettling scene which could be viewed as a child abuse allegory, Sam bites Tony's neck and starts pumping secretions into the child, preparing him for a similar change. This gives Tony amazing abilities which he uses to bring a toy clown and an Action Man doll to life. The latter set piece is truly outlandish - the boy sends the life-size doll to slaughter his next door neighbour after she chops up his pet snake. The fact that neighbour Mrs Goodman is played by Anna Wing - who spent years as Lou Beale on EASTENDERS - is a fittingly trivial fact for a wholly trivial viewing experience.