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by Eli Kroes

You might not be familiar with the term 'Z-Movie,' but if you grew up in the 90's, chances are you've seen one. They're the beyond-low-budget monstrosities that teased you from the walls of the mom-and-pop video store. Usually, the films themselves could never live up to the pictures on the videotape boxes (because this was way before your fancy 'Digital Video Discs' and 'Blu-Rays') but occasionally you'd find something truly unique. 'WEIRDO FLICKS' will clue you into some movies which 'unique' doesn't even begin to describe...

'Xtro' - 1983, Directed by Harry Bromley Davenport

This, hands down, is one of the strangest little films you will ever see.

From what I can gather, the director (who also wrote and scored the film) is having a laugh at the expense of Spielberg's 'E.T.' but also trying to ride on the success of 'Alien.' It's an unusual combination. But, the movie just feels SO angry for some reason...like Davenport was actually upset by the success of 'E.T.' and wanted to make a negative version of it.

I stumbled across this film because it was part of the notorious British 'Video Nasties' - several horror films banned by the censor boards in the early 80's. 'Xtro' really isn't all that gory or disturbing, unlike some of the other 'Nasties, but it is very, VERY VERY weird.

The plot is quite similar to 'E.T.' but with drastically different results. A creature from outer space visits a family, but instead of playing nice, it abducts the father. We flash forward a few years, and the young son (who now lives with his mother, a French au pair and his mother's boyfriend) is still having nightmares about his father's disappearance. The family seems to feel that the father just 'left' for whatever reason, denying the boy's insistence that he disappeared in a beam of light.

Around this time, the alien returns to earth, for whatever reason. It looks similar to the 'Alien' creature, but a lot weirder. It proceeds to kill some people, before impregnating a young woman who then gives birth to the boy's father FULL SIZE. Yeah, this is probably what got it on the 'Video Nasties' list, I'd be willing to bet.

The reborn father (who I gather is actually just the alien consciousness in human form) finds his son and ex-wife, and goes about trying to become a part of their lives again.

This quickly goes bad when the son catches his father eating the eggs of his pet snake, and doing other strange things. He hypnotizes his son and blows into his neck creating a large goiter that apparently gives him psychokinetic abilities(!) The two of them can now terrorize the rest of their apartment building with all manner of bizarreoccurrences.

For example, there is a nosy older woman who complains when the boy makes a racket in his room. No problem, because his toy soldier grows giant and comes to life and bayonets her.

Yes. This is one of the most head-spinningly bizarre pieces of video trash to ever exist. I won't give away anymore of the strange scenes, but I will say that a deranged clown midget makes several appearances, and the final scene rivals pretty much anything else in terms of sheer surrealism.

You won't see much else like this one.

VHS photo by Toby Hudson.