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Retro Review: XTRO 3 (1995)

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XTRO 3
aka XTRO: WATCH THE SKIES
(US - 1995)

Directed by Harry Bromley-Davenport. Written by Daryl Haney. Cast: Sal Landi, Andrew Divoff, Robert Culp, Karen Moncrieff, David M. Parker, Jim Hanks, Andrea Lauren Herz, Daryl Haney, Virgil Frye, Sal Ruscio, Jeanne Mori, Martin Shienle. (R, 96 mins)

In the world of late 1980s-to-mid-1990s DTV, it wasn't at all uncommon to find in-name-only horror franchises filled with at-best tenuously-connected sequels linked almost entirely by brand recognition. THE HOWLING and THE CURSE spawning numerous unrelated sequels immediately come to mind, along with multiple WATCHERS and CHILDREN OF THE CORN installments. The XTRO series is unique in that it consists of three films, completely lacking in continuity aside from the title and the involvement of some kind of alien life form, yet all share the same director: Harry Bromley-Davenport. Part of the slew of early '80s ALIEN knockoffs that included Luigi Cozzi's Italian gorefest CONTAMINATION, and sleazy offerings like the Roger Corman-produced GALAXY OF TERROR and Norman J. Warren's INSEMINOID (aka HORROR PLANET), XTRO was a British import released in US theaters and drive-ins over the spring and summer of 1983 by a pre-NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET New Line Cinema. The XTRO money shot involved a woman being impregnated by an alien creature and giving birth to a fully-grown "man" in a scene that, once seen, can never be unseen. Prior to XTRO, Bromley-Davenport's most noteworthy credit was having a hand in the script for Richard Loncraine's 1977 cult classic THE HAUNTING OF JULIA. Though it was expectedly trashed by critics, XTRO became a cable and video store fan favorite, yet it didn't lead to much of anything for Bromley-Davenport. He was MIA until he resurfaced with 1991's Canadian-made XTRO 2: THE SECOND ENCOUNTER, which had nothing to do with XTRO beyond an alien creature, and is only remembered at all today for Jan-Michael Vincent turning in another of his "visibly shitfaced" performances that were unfortunately all too common during that period of his career.






Bromley-Davenport fell off the radar once again until 1995's XTRO 3, a second sequel that, of course, had nothing to do with either of its predecessors. This one was shot in the Los Angeles area in locations that were once part of the Iverson Ranch, a popular movie location from the silents through the 1950s, known for its unique rock formations and not far from the better-known Spahn Ranch, infamously commandeered by Charles Manson and his followers. Roger Corman shot a lot of his 1950s programmers at Iverson Ranch, and that connection, along with the involvement of writer/co-star Daryl Haney--a late '80s Corman/Concorde regular (CRIME ZONE, MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH) after a brief dalliance with the majors when he wrote 1988's FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD--gives it that distinct '90s Corman/New Horizons vibe more in the vein of Jim Wynorski rather than The Notorious HBD.


"Uh, did I mention that I know Tom Hanks?
In a rare lead, B-movie and busy TV guest actor Sal Landi (SAVAGE STREETS) stars as Lt. Kirn, a career Marine who's holed up a shithole L.A. motel telling his story to an incredulous reporter (Jeanne Mori). He was part of a secret military operation to explore an uncharted island 200 miles offshore that was once the location of a Japanese internment camp but has been deserted since WWII. Kirn is ordered by Major Guardino (I SPY and THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO TV favorite Robert Culp, dropping by for a morning's work, clearly looking off to the side at cue cards or reading his dialogue from the file he's holding) to destroy an extensive weapons stockpile still on the island, which the military plans to use to construct a massive fuel station. That's the official story at least, as Kirn is given a ragtag quartet of losers, screw-ups, and malcontents (among them Haney and Jim Hanks, Tom's look-and-soundalike younger brother) and ordered to report to Capt. Fetterman (Andrew Divoff as Robert Davi), a Pentagon hardass who accompanies them to the island. They find a lone survivor (Virgil Frye), along with evidence of some activity dated 1955, ten years after the island was supposed to be evacuated. Soon the secret is out--the island was home to an Area 51-type military base where everyone--except the now-insane survivor--was killed by an alien life form found on a spacecraft that was taken there in 1955, after which the ship--with the alien inside--was encased in a massive block of concrete. And because of the irresponsible dicking around of obnoxious Hendricks (Haney), the alien is set loose and starts picking everyone off one by one.


Just out on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome (because physical media is dead), XTRO 3 is a blatant ripoff of not one but two late '80s blockbusters. It steals a lot from ALIENS, though the Marines here are less badass and more Bad News Bears. Andrea Lauren Herz as tough-talking Banta is an obvious clone of Jenette Goldstein's Vasquez, while Divoff's treacherous Fetterman, who knows the real reason they're there and takes off on the boat and leaves everyone stranded when the alien gets loose, is a stand-in for Paul Reiser's weaselly Burke. But XTRO 3 doesn't stop there--it even gives the alien, who looks like a geriatric MAC AND ME, the same kind of chameleon-like camouflaging ability seen in PREDATOR. The alien also has this weird death trap where its victims are caught in a gooey, slimy spider web that looks like Bromley-Davenport and Haney saw the deleted scene from ALIEN where Sigourney Weaver discovers Harry Dean Stanton and a barely-alive Tom Skerritt in a massive alien cocoon, and ran to the nearest CVS for cotton balls and K-Y to recreate it. XTRO 3 doesn't seem to be under the illusion that it's anything other than a junky B-movie, and it even seems to recognize its own ridiculousness by giving the alien the stock sound effect of a cougar roar that you hear in every Tarzan movie. But where Bromley-Davenport had enough of a stylistic sense of scuzzy exploitation around the time of XTRO to be lumped in with the likes of grimy British genre counterparts Pete Walker and Norman J. Warren, here he's just plodding along in a listless and utterly perfunctory fashion. XTRO 3 went straight to video courtesy of Triboro, and it's interchangeable with nearly every other early-to-mid '90s DTV sci-fi title from companies like New Horizons, Prism, A-Pix, and Vidmark that were regular fixtures in the "Hot Singles" section of Blockbuster's new release wall. XTRO 3 marked the beginning of a partnership between Bromley-Davenport and Haney, who went on to work together on several little-seen, non-horror indie titles like the 1998 hitman comedy ERASABLE YOU and the 2001 drama MOCKINGBIRD DON'T SING. In 2011, Bromley-Davenport told Fangoria that he and Haney were planning an XTRO 4, though as of yet, nothing has materialized.



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