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Many, many years ago, the VIDEO NASTIES debacle meant that horror fans like me in the UK were starved of movies. My only source of news at the time was STARBURST magazine which carried an article about a film called XTRO. I was so intrigued by the bizarre images that accompanied the feature (a woman trapped in a cocoon giving birth to eggs over a bathtub, an alien with inverted knee and elbow joints, and a full-size Action Man on the rampage to name but three) that teenage me made a promise to myself to hunt out the film. It took a few decades, but I managed it. It really is an oddity. I watched it again recently and decided it was a perfect obscurity for me to recommend here.

Here’s the story in a nutshell: after throwing a stick over the roof of his house for his dog to chase (seriously – it’s that kind of movie) a chap called Sam is abducted by aliens. He unexpectedly returns three years later and is reunited with his wife (now living with another man) and son. Things are as awkward as you’d expect between the main characters, and then the situation deteriorates as Sam begins to have an increasingly bizarre effect on his young son. Throw in a few sex scenes, a supporting cast of nosy neighbours and the like, a midget clown (like I said, it’s that kind of movie), and a woman giving birth to a full-grown man on a kitchen floor, and you’re just about there.

Read more: XTRO

It’s a mess. It’s bizarre. It’s incoherent at times. So why am I recommending XTRO?

Because unlike the majority of movies which see the light of day today (I’m looking at you endless remakes, sequels and superhero movies), XTRO is jam-packed with originality. Though it takes its inspiration from some familiar sources (there’s more than a hint of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and it was marketed as the anti-ET at the time with the tag-line ‘not all extraterrestrials are friendly’), it’s refreshingly different. It moves along at a decent pace, doesn’t make a huge amount of sense at times, but it’s never boring. The effects are remarkably good, particularly for the early 1980s, the creature designs are great, the score (by director HARRY BROMLEY DAVENPORT) is effective in a John Carpenter-esque way, and there are a few scenes that’ll make you question what you’ve just watched and have you skipping back a couple of minutes to check you weren’t imagining things.

Like I said, with XTRO you’re not going to get the most coherent movie experience, but you will get a film chock-full of ambition and originality, and that’s got to be a good thing, right? And if one XTRO movie’s not enough for you, check out XTRO 2 and 3 (I intend to, though apparently there’s no connection other than the name and the reviews I’ve seen are less than glowing…). And be warned, as recently as 2010, Harry Bromley Davenport was promising more. Here’s a trailer for the 2019 blu ray release which confirms as much:

If you’re in the UK, you can stream XTRO now on Amazon Prime. You’ll thank me for it. I think.