I keep doing alphabetical movie challenges, and let me tell you, such titles are thin on the ground. Earlier this year I did Xtro, and I didn’t care for it. Yet now, here I am, watching Xtro 2. Gavin is also doing Xtro 2, because, like I said, slim pickin’s. Cronenberg should have just lopped off that useless initial e in eXistenz, because it would have made life a lot easier on me.
I’m …going to have to talk about Xtro 2 eventually, aren’t I.
So there’s this massive underground scientific complex where they are attempting to project three scientists into a parallel dimension. This seems to have some value to the Department of Defense, who are threatening to shut the whole thing down, “especially in light of what happened in Texas.” What happened in Texas was a guy made the trip to the parallel dimension, came back, and blew up the complex. So our high-strung project head Dr. Summerfield (Paul Koslo) is under a great deal of pressure.
The three scientists make the jump, the weak video signal coming back from the other side shows some sort of spherical construct in the distance. Then they lose contact completely. A rescue team of four professional badasses prepares to go in after them, while the other head of the project, Dr. Julie (Tara Buckman, who you just know is the heroine because she has Linda Hamilton hair) insists on bringing in the guy who blew up the Texas complex – her former lover, Shepherd (Jan-Michael Vincent).
About the time Shepherd arrives and the pissing match between him and Summerfield begins, one of the missing scientists, Marshall (Tracy Westerholm) wanders back into the “transference vector” and is brought back. While the rescue team preps, Shepherd tries to kill the comatose Marshall in the clinic and is put under arrest. Everyone except the audience is surprised when a creature bursts out of Marshall’s chest and slithers into the air ducts.
This has the effect of setting off the complex’s biohazard alarm. Most of the personnel leave in an orderly manner through the elevator system to the surface. Remaining are the rescue team, Shepherd, Summerfield, Dr. Julie, and some other
cannon fodder technicians who will attempt to track down and kill the alien invader before the biohazard protocols flush the base with radioactive gas.
I guess we’ll ignore the fact that all this could have been avoided if Shepherd hadn’t clammed up after blowing up Texas. “Would you have believed me?” doesn’t cut it when some preparation would have been much better than none.
A lot of people told me not to bother with Xtro 2. These people do not do movie challenges. But here is the thing: it’s not bad. It’s well made, the actors are all good. it’s got fairly high production values (except for one especially glaring thing we’ll talk about in a bit). Its major problem: you’ve seen all this before.
I had my problems with Xtro, and I’ve been over those. But it has to be admitted that Xtro was creative in many spots, even unique. Director Harry Bromley Davenport reportedly kept the title rights to Xtro but not the story rights, and so was obligated to go the unconnected sequel route. Xtro 2 winds up being a complete reversal from its predecessor: Xtro wasn’t too well-made, but it had creative energy; Xtro 2 is well made but lifts the templates from several other successful movies, most noticably Alien, Aliens and, of course, The Andromeda Strain.
Don’t want to take my word for it? Hey, look, the leader of the rescue team has a steadicam gun:
At least they didn’t go so far as to have a fiery Latina on the team.
And then we have our monster, the whole reason we’re watching this. It’s necessary in these low-budget affairs to keep the monster hidden away for most of your running time, saving the full reveal for the end. So we see a lot of monster feet and monster hands, and a monster tail, and a toothy maw, and it all looks so terribly familiar when you can see it:
That is the Xenomorph crossed with the goddam Rancor, so you can add Return of the Jedi to the list of movies being ripped off.
And that is really the worst thing I can say about Xtro 2: it took four writers to come up with this, and I strongly suspect each writer was assigned a different movie to imitate. And this is the result.