Since I seem to be in the groove of reviewing flicks of late, I might as well do Xtro.
Now, I first discovered this forgotten sci-fi horror flick when after I visited the Easter Show in 1994, when I watched a video of Kenny Everret's greatest hits. It was one of the trailers at the end of the video, and it shows that no one was really thinking target market. After a laugh out loud collage of slapstick, very bad female impersonators, and the ultimate question of what the hell the old 'two girls in a bath, one says, "Where's the soap?" the other says, "Yes, it does"' gag actually MEANS... well, what seems to be a gore-soaked alien slasher flick clearly meant to remind the audiences of the 1980s that one little alien troglodyte saying "ET phone home" does not a nice universe make.
I later discovered that Xtro had two reasons to be remembered - one, it was banned in Britain as a video nasty and thus became popular for all the wrong reasons (hence the attention-grabbing Young One quote) and 2) it was Kamelion's first acting job. Yes, once I get that DVD of The Awakening I will have Kamelion's entire reportoire!
Many a Doctor Who fan will have watched a movie or a TV show to see one of the actors, but few hopefully will have tuned in to see a prop. But then, Kamelion does blur the line. He was a real robot you know, built specifically to take part in this horror film (though exactly why a genderless silver android would be needed I still am not sure of). OK, it couldn't walk and took three weeks to program, but back in the 1980s he was cutting edge and the kudos of a C3PO without a man inside was serious publicity. Indeed, that's how JNT was sold on using the android in the first place, since they managed to convince him he could get it to walk. (In true Eric Saward fashion, when he realized Kamelion wasn't working out, he tried to retcon the silver fella out of existence, rather than using his imagination. I digress. Frequently).
So, with some spare cash in my pocket and a morbid curiosity to see the film whose trailer had so shaken me in my youth, I bought it.
Stupid, stupid, stupid...
Now, you might think I regret getting the film because it was crap. Which I suppose I do in a way. But I still haven't taken it back to the shop and the reasons I regret are very, very different.
Onwards. Now, a film like this has a fractured storytelling - not surprising considering the production team had seemingly stepped out of a Charles Daniel anecdote of stoned lunatics with no idea what they were doing - to the point where you think they filmed AROUND the stuff in the trailer rather than the other way round, so, let me see if I can explain... and understand... what the hell happened.
Our story starts outside a cottage in rural England in the year 1979 as Sam Phillips (who, like most of the cast looks annoyingly familiar) plays with his his son Tony and their dog. Then, suddenly, day turns to night, there are flashes of light in the suddenly dark sky, and Tony and the dog are left alone when the sun comes back.
Suddenly, it's 1982. The rush of patriotism following the marriage of Charles and Diana has fallen, and after inflicting Time Flight on the general public, not even Doctor Who can save us now. It's grey, cold, damp and lonely. There's nothing good on TV (in fact, no one seems to own a TV), no books worth reading, no games worth playing and generally a dull, boring, lifeless place. This is good, because this mundane little world is going to be ripped apart in a distinctly gross and messy way.
Tony lives in an apartment with his careworn mother Rachel, (whose large, typoid-like eyes rival Sarah Alexander's) and her common law husband (who looks to be the reincarnation of Bob Dylan, or maybe Gordo from Lizzie McGuire). It appears that Rachel has been drinking a cup of denial ever day, and now believes that her faithful, loving husband decided to walk out and leave his son alone in the middle of nowhere - which makes the idea he was kidnapped by some passing alien spacecraft rather credible? Or at least he was murdered by some lunatic in the woods? But no, everyone seems to think Sam hightailed it to Vegas and don't expect to see him again, so Rachel has replaced him with Joe (seemingly just to provide a father figure for Tony, and he's not too rough on the eyes), which she doesn't seem to care about.
Joe sums up the disenfranchisement of this London. He's passionless about anything, and rarely blinks or talks in anything other than a monotone - and he doesn't even have the psychotic rages that Blowup! made standard for fashion photographers. Bar his announcement that the only way anyone can survive Thatcher's Britain is 'to look British and think Yiddish', he doesn't seem to have any real opinions. He's the least human figure in the film, which is impressive...
Similarly given up all hopes is Analise, the nanny that Rachel has called in to look after Tony in this grey, boring world. Exactly what the mother does for a living, I dunno, but I doubt it's interesting. It's also a pity Tony isn't a few years older or he'd realize he has the hottest nanny in history, a French bombshell vaguely resembling Venus without the clamshell. Analise, unlike seemingly everyone else in the world, has not buried herself in her work but rather bludges the whole time, using the apartment as a shag pad with her boyfriend, the older, goofy-faced Michael (the one person in this bar Kamelion I recognize: most obviously as the second version of Chris the Greek in Birds of a Feather). Cause this is a video nasty, we get to all of Analise, though thankfully not of her in-comparison decrepit boyfriend, as they silently work their way through the Karma Sutra.
Right, that seems to be everyone set up. Time to cut to the alien horror stuff (which flashes back and forth between kitchen sink and Lovecraftian horror with such intensity you start to wonder if you're watching two different films) which is accompanied by music that seems to have been nicked from Doctor Who - very much like the tootles of Snakedance, but just different enough for me to brag.
Back at the countryside, speficially the bit of the first abduction, what seems to be an arrow formation of lights in the sky leads to a massive explosion in the woods (which seemingly no one notices). Is this one of the worst space craft landings in history? Like much of this film, these apparently nonsensical events seem to be very deliberate. At ground zero, something crawls out of the mud - vaguely resembling a cross between a komodo dragon and a shaved cat. This proves to be one of the creepier things of the movie, as while it IS a man in a rubber suit, he is crawling on all floors, but upside down if you get what I mean? The actor's stomach is facing the sky, so his arms and legs now appear to be crooked and alien, and when this thing shuffles through the woods, the wongness of the body language is more unsettling than the strange fanged alien face.
The creature's first contact with humanity is when it scuttles out onto a country road... and is immediately knocked down by a car. When the yuppie at the wheels stops the car to see what it was, the creature seems unharmed to the point you wonder if this was a deliberate trick to catch the yuppie unawares. So, the creature squeals and somehow uses two tentacles to skewer the yuppie through his skull with minimal bloodloss. The creature seems bored with this nifty death trick, and so when it comes across the yuppie girlfriend in the car, settles for biting out her intestines and killing her instantly.
Seemingly settled with its homocidal tendancies, the creature moves towards the cottage Sam was abducted from, now being owned by some blonde Swedish woman who lives their with her small yappy dog, a monster capable of consuming the most disgusting dog food I have ever seen. The small yappy dog detects the fact an inhuman beast is in the woods outside and immediately runs outside to start barking - until the dog seems to realize that a monster who just killed two human beings might not have any inhibitions on caninocide, so it runs back in. The Swedish woman sensibly decides not to investigate but lock all the doors and windows.
This has to be one of the scariest bits in the film, simply because the woman DOESN'T act like a total idiot. She does everything she should logically do - so it's a real pity that she has only succeeded in locking herself in with the creature, which has somehow teleported inside the cottage, specifically under her bed. Leaving the only clue as to its presence the ominous music and a sinister red lighting affect, the creature reaches out and grabs the woman's ankle, knocking her over, climbs on top of her... and a tentacle grows out of the creature's stomach and clamps itself over her mouth, beginning to pump some kind of gunk into her.
Meanwhile, Tony wakes up from a nightmare, drenched in blood. But he's not injured. And the blood's not his. So, the Phillips household do what they do best and completely forget all about this impossible happening. Even though Tony insists that his father has somehow been responsible for this.
The next morning, our Swedish woman wakes up on the floor of the cottage, mouth filled with gunge and generally sore. The only hint to what happened the previous night is the decomposing corpse of the monster itself... which is now being eaten by that yappy dog. The Swedish woman goes to wash her mouth out, literally, but it seems the one thing NOT to do after close encounters of the fourth kind is to eat or drink. The woman goes into convulsions, fall over and then, with a spray of gore is gradually burst apart from within to reveal the dazed, blood-drenched Sam Phillips!
Sam, as dazed as a post-regenerated Eighth Doctor, grabs a hose to wash off the entrails (which that yappy dog decides to eat... isn't it full yet?). Sam wanders off and finds the previous victims of the monster. Suddenly those murders don't seem so random, as Sam now possesses clothes, money and a car. However, he's clearly not firing on all cylinders as he forgets to remove the corpse of the yuppie woman from the passenger seat - and he's not used to his body as an attempt to use a payphone causes him to breathe toxic fumes that melt the reciever. Who was he ringing? Why, his misses of course!
Having returned to the 'B plot' Sam abandons the car (letting some passer by discover the corpse, which leads nowhere, not even a police investigation) picks up Tony from school, leading to a freaky chase scene as Rachel struggles to hunt down her son... and finds Sam with him. Sam claims not to remember anything that's happened over the last three years, and Rachel decides to believe him. Presumably because anything else would mean she'd have to fight the walls of denial she's built up. Of course, she doesn't take Sam to a doctor or anything, no, that would be far too logical - and since we saw what happened to the LAST person to act logically, this might be a good move.
Sam, acting completely convincingly as an amnesiac and showing no strangeness whatsoever, returns home for kitchen sink drama. Joe, showing his usual imagination, immediately deduces that Sam is after money or something, and tells him to piss off despite the fact his mere presence has cheered up Rachel and Tony no end. Sam is annoyed and decides to calm himself down by eating the eggs of his son's pet snake (scaring the snake no end). Tony sees his father chowing down on eggshell and slime and runs for it, and Sam chases him. It appears he's not as amnesiac as he appears - he was abducted by aliens and taken to the strangest of world imaginable, so different his body needed to be changed to survive. Using that unfortunate Swedish chick, he has managed to bring his 'humanity' to the surface, but his alien side still likes snorting propane gas and eating the eggs of a snake. Oh, and he has venom in his teeth that pass on this alien mutagen, but he fails to mention that before biting his son's shoulder and transferring this nastiness...
Of course, when Rachel and Tony notice the father and son have gone missing, they reappear in the living room, safe sound and completely not looking like a bunch of alien mutant freaks. But as Sam explains to his son, he has a few days before the aliens return and Sam only came back to Earth and get his boy - who now has the ability to change the nature of reality (Black Magic, the trailer calls it, and would explain the wacky teleports that these duo seem to manage).
There then follows the most disgusting and revolting scene in the film. I feel quite nauseous just thinking about it. Ok, remember the snake? Well, it's managed to travel into the next apartment where a fussy old woman lives, and accidentally manages to end up in her salad. The old lady, understandably, freaks. However, she KNOWS that the snake belongs to the kid next door, has no venom and is really quite tame.
So she kills it.
With a hammer.
In a close up.
Yeah, I think this scene is the one that got Xtro the nasty reputation, as this horrible cruelty to animals is far nastier than anything else (at least visually) in the movie. What's worse is the old lady gathers up the bloody remains, puts them in a bag, and takes it next door to complain that Tony is a freak for owning snakes.
Since Tony now possesses evil warlock alien powers, this is not the smartest thing for the old lady to do. Tony's GI Joe now is human size and, Auton like, it stalks the old lady and hunts her down. Maybe this was originally what Kamelion was built for, if GI Joe was C3PO. But it seems that old Kamelion wasn't QUITE up to slipping his arm through a door to unlatch it, charge down a hallway, do a ninja midair somersalt and then search the flat for the old lady. The old lady has wisely hidden under the couch and the GI Joe, seemingly flumoxxed, is about to leave when the old lady reaches out from under the couch WHILE THE MONSTER IS STILL IN THE ROOM and takes A CHOCOLATE under the couch and EATS it VERY LOUDLY.
It's so utterly moronic, you have no sympathy as the GI Joe bayonets the sofa until blood pours from under it (and the blood is so clearly cherry pink paint it's more surreal than horrific). The moral of this story is to not, under ANY circumstances, piss off Tony.
Simple enough, you would think?
Rachel confronts Sam about the fact he has another man's wallet in his pocket and somehow agrees to end up going to the cottage to look for any clues to the abduction which might have survived three years. They do not find the remains of the Swedish woman (unless the dog ate it all), or the dog, but they do find some entrails on a tree. Sam seems to be coming down with some virus, shivering, ice cold, and curiously in the mood for some rumpy-pumpy with his wife. Who thinks, sure, why not? That's BOUND to help her sick husband, whose human body seems to be reaching the end of its guarantee. Stupid Swedish workmanship.
Meanwhile, Tony considers changing his name to Damian and practising evil smiles. A clown toy is transformed into an evil circus midget who Tony wordlessly gets to do all the hard work. Interrupting a 69er between Analise and Mike, Tony lures his scantily-clad nanny into a lift, where the evil circus midget knocks her unconscious with his comedy hammer. Tony then seems to be, at first glance, blowing a raspberry on her stomach to wake her up, but he has infact injected the alien goo into this highly fertile au pair girl, and bubbles start to rise out of her skin...
Finally, Mike decides to look for his girl (and since he is supposed to be hiding in her bedroom in case the parents find out, you can tell it's serious) and he discovers Analise is a bit preoccupied at the moment. She is now a blobby cocoon of green/grey/blue mess stuck to the bathroom wall above the bath, with a kind of tube growing out of it. Mike reacts to this info by trying to run for his life. It appears the Autons are on the loose as a toy tank with real ammo chases Mike around the apartment (which seems far larger than it should be), but no sooner has he escaped the toy than Mike is ambushed by a black panther and, presumably, eaten.
Rachel rings her other neighbor to check that her son is alright (his muttered, "BITCH!" is really quite extraordinary, since it involved him walking about a meter and knocking on a door). But it seems that simply knocking on the door is too much of a crime and the circus midget uses a razor-sharp yoyo to slice open the guy's throat, before wandering into the apartment and filling an overturned fridge with lumpy green slime. This is so it can act as an incubator for the translucent eggs sliding at regular intervals out of the cocooned Analise's tube. As we wonder exactly HOW this alien life cycle works when eggs need to be kept COLD instead of warm, Tony teleports himself to Joe's studio and gets him to drive out to the cottage where his mum and dad are now doing the mummy and daddy dance.
Unfortunately, Rachel has gone off the idea when Sam's body starts to rot away in her hands, revealing the Pure Alien beneath... a kind of bony, skeletal, fanged... MY GOD! KAMELION! There you are! They've stuck a comedy pair of fangs on you!
However, Kamelion's limitations are immediately obvious as he magically transforms into some guy in makeup whenever required to move. Kamelion stumbles across Tony and somehow triggers the same transformation, leading to the demented sight of a midget skeletal insectoid alien. In an anorak.
Rachel and Joe run after the mutating pair, and Kamelion lets out an ultrasonic scream that blows Joe's excluse for a mind and kills him. Then, with the little boy stopping him from falling over, Kamelion summons the mothership and teleports away with his son, leaving Rachel alone in the woods. I think it is fairly safe to assume she is no longer QUITE so skeptical of UFO abductions.
No... wait. There's more!
A shellshocked Rachel returns to the apartment (presumably that ol Black Magic has gotten rid of all the corpses) and finds it filled with a blinding light. As the incredibly wistful-looking Rachel looks at the panther, which is still on the prowl even though GI Joe, his tank and the circus freak have gone, an army of clones identical to that of Tony welcome her home. It seems that Sam is a quick mover, and Rachel is heavily pregnant with some unknown lifeform that the clone Tonys seem eager to meet.
No... wait. That made no sense.
A shellshocked Rachel returns to the apartment (presumably that ol Black Magic has gotten rid of all the corpses) and finds it filled with a blinding light. As the incredibly wistful-looking Rachel looks at the panther, which is still on the prowl even though GI Joe, his tank and the circus freak have gone, that the eggs left in the fridge seem to be talking to her in Tony's voice. As she picks one up, it strikes us maybe these ruthless misogynistic aliens might have wanted more on Earth than just picking up a ten year old boy. If so, they'd decided to invade the war the xenomorph starbeast Ridley Scott aliens do - by leaving a batch of eggs to hatch, with nastiness inside that facehugs the poor sucker. Exactly what happens to Rachel after this happens is unknown, because this time, it really IS the End.
What do you think the moral of that was, boys and girls?
The moral for me is not to buy cheapass DVDs just because of a tenuous link to Doctor Who. Or, to be more precise, not to buy DVDs that need British only players. While my super duper computer was able to reconfigure itself to play this disc, it seems to have decided it LIKES British only DVDs. Meaning it won't play any other type of commercial discs bar bloody Xtro.
Indeed, the curse of Kamelion runs deep.
What curse, you say? Well, if you haven't read The Completely Useless Encyclopedia, the fact is Kamelion seems to cause intense bad luck and even death in those around it. Before the end of The King's Demons, the only bloke that knew how to use it died horribly in mysterious circumstances. Terence Dudley, who wrote The King's Demons, died not long after, as did Peter Grinwade, who wrote Planet of Fire, the only other story to feature Kamelion. Of course, there was that brief bit in Caves of Androzani by Robert Holmes. And he died within two years. Craig Hinton, the one man who gave Kamelion a cover-starring Missing Adventure, is now also dearly missed - more, his book The Crystal Bucephalus, nearly ruined his career, leading him to say the curse was real. And then, Gerald Flood, the main voice of Kamelion died, as did Dallas Jones (who played Kamelion's inbetween body), and Anthony Ainley (who played Kamelion more than anyone else). Of course, Kamelion appear in The Awakening, but his solo scene was edited out and kept in secret by JNT. Who has also died. Of course, Christopher Bulis has used the character twice with no ill effects... as far as we know.
Mind you, I've written a bit about Kamelion in my rewrite of Resurrection of the Daleks... but I'm still alive. So far. Then again, I had a terrible time not long after I finished it, involving sackings, harrassment allegations, and ego-crushing anxiety attacks. And then, this Kamelion DVD totally screws up my computer. But my life sucks even without Kamelion, so it must be some kind of coincidence... that maybe effects the TV industry...
Anyway, my main point is that Kamelion's only other alter ego in Xtro is Phillip Sayer (Sam Phillips), who died not long after.
Like I say, how many coincidences does it take?
A lot of critics have derided Xtro for various reasons, but the fact there is a reasonably straightforward plot (the alien-possessed Sam goes back for his son while leaving the vanguard for an invasion) seems ignored by all the gross set pieces. Since the DVD featured a discussion with Harry Davenport I decided to see what HE had to say for himself, and was stunned at what seemed to be a real life enactment of one of Charles Daniels' interviews with Tom Baker.
When the main force behind the movie is so totally stoned that he doesn't remember anything after a street party in Amsterdam, there's bound to be some kind of knockon effect on the film. Harry notes that he suddenly found himself making a film he knew nothing about, with a bunch of enthusiastic amateurs who kept suggesting wierd stuff, like involving a panther for no real reason, or getting a malfunctioning apple to do all the alien violence and rape. Harry's musings that the film ended up a lot better than he expected, considering he expected something whose quality was below a Ben Chatham adventure.
In conclusion... I have no idea why I reviewed Xtro. Except that no other Doctor Who fan seems to have (not even Andrew Worship Him Pixley), and that it's left me with a few ideas for a Youth of Australia episode on Nigel's birthday, where he gets the DVD for the sex scenes, and maybe a Big Finish spoof for Exotron, whose name is perilously close to Xtro.
It's a pity that the main point of Xtro has been lost. The whole thing was supposed to be an evil version of ET, so instead of befriending a young boy, the alien corrupts and kidnaps one, rubbishing Spielberg's cuddly alien lifeform and the theatregoing public. I mean, the tagline was NOT ALL EXTRATERRESTRIALS ARE FRIENDLY!! but the DVD prefers THIS ALIEN IS PURE EVIL. Well, thanks for that. Seeing the madeup Kamelion screaming on the cover suggested he was just confused and a little tetchy.
There's a film called You Are Not Alone, you know. It's not about Time Lords, though, just a bunch of disturbingly young Aryan lads exploring their sexuality. Cue really dumb Queer as Folk gay agenda gag.