Xtro 2: The Second Encounter (1990)
Director: Harry Bromley Davenport
Starring: Jan-Michael Vincent, Paul Koslo, Tara Buckman
Why bother? Furthermore, why not just call the movie Xtros and have done with it? Oh, wait, I know why…
This is not a sequel to Xtro. Yeh, I know it says Xtro 2. I’m also painfully aware that it says this is the second encounter. Nevertheless, the… errr, sequel, has got absolutely rock all to do with the first one. Rock. All. I shall explain this conundrum shortly, but first the blindingly original synopsis…
Scientists have designed a transporter to send foolhardy personnel into a parallel universe. Not entirely sure why but hey, it’s their funeral. They arrive on a planet – this is relayed back via fuzzy helmet-cam footage – and almost immediately they sight a giant bollock in the distance. But there’s a sudden kerfuffle and contact is lost. Don’t worry, a STRIKE TEAM! is sent for, but before they can mount a rescue the signal is re-established and a survivor is beamed back. Wandering gloomily into the mix is Shepherd (Jan-Michael Vincent). This guy’s got previous – he was part of the last mission to Planet X three years ago and so far the only one to return. So perturbed by what he saw there, Shepherd blew up the transporter. Julie (Tara Buckman) decides that this unbalanced individual is the man to call in an emergency. Boss Alex Summerfield (Paul Koslo) is naturally resistant to recall the bloke who destroyed his life’s work but is blithely overruled. He looks like the sanest man on the planet when Shepherd duly attempts to murder the returned female explorer, so Alex has him handcuffed to a pipe. Female explorer duly convulses, rips open and out jumps a chest-burster. Chesty The Rib-Bender grows bigger and starts using the air ducts to move about in. The STRIKE TEAM! – four blokes who I wouldn’t trust to strike a fuckin match – gear up to hunt it down. Instead, it hunts them…
You’ve seen Aliens, right? So have the writers of this garbage. And it took four of the buggers to put this cheap knock-off together. I’d back any one of us to scribble something better than the fluffy sphericals they pooped out. Harry Bromley Davenport absolves himself of any blame and drops it on the “reprehensible” Canadian investors behind Xtro 2. Basically, he needed a job and still owned the rights to the Xtro title. He didn’t have any intention of filming a follow-up to the original (which he regards as a “mess”) but the title, by some quirk of contract, had to be used in some fashion. But why then go and add The Second Encounter? Stupid and misleading. And Harry hates Xtro 2, describing his own movie as “rubbish”. He’s particularly scathing about leading man Jan-Michael Vincent. Poor Jan-Michael clearly needed the dough because here he’s not interested; he looks bored shitless throughout. Apparently, he didn’t even bother to learn the script, Harry had to feed each line to him off-camera. In JMV’s defence, I’d say he knows a turd when he reads one.
The STRIKE TEAM! Honestly. When writing a screenplay, ask yourself, will people care about these characters? If your audience is saying things to the screen like: “Die, you twat…” to the good guys, the characters probably need working on. Also, when setting up a STRIKE TEAM! – endeavour to make sure they are reasonably professional as a STRIKE TEAM! and not monumentally inept. Baines (Nicholas Lea) is probably the bloke you want to die the least but only because he’s Hicks-lite. Yeh, the writers love Aliens, they just can’t help themselves; there’s a noise in the ceiling so someone sticks their head in the vent to have a look; cigar-chomping leader McShane (Jano Frandsen) gets himself a smart gun and they all go creeping up and down the same fuckin corridor – but without a motion-tracker sound effect to build tension, just cack music; Julie strips down to her vest and gets tooled up with a big gun, then they pile into the air ducts to effect an escape while the alien tries to batter a way in. On and on it goes…
There isn’t a single set-piece worthy of note. Not a single spark of imagination. Why is the control room so dark? Christ, you’re gonna give the employees eye strain, they’ll all be putting a claim in. They’re stealing a trick from Inseminoid here, bung a few monitors in the middle of the room, darken periphery of set – voila! – shit. I know they couldn’t have had much dollar but that’s no excuse for how bland the environment is. The drab transporter room looks like any typical pop music television studio, circa 1979. I kept expecting Hot Gossip to slink into a very literal, vaguely erotic dance interpretation of I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper.
The monster-reveal sequence; Julie does her ‘Ripley’ thing as the alien advances into a room. This room is featureless, punctuated by triangular columns – which are featureless. Have I mentioned the featurelessness pervading this show? This scene shows off the creature for what it is; a lumpy, immobile, rubber, fish-faced novelty dildo. Anyway, at some other point, McShane gets his fat, papier mache head punched through meaning Baines assumes command and he gets to climb up an elevator shaft for fuckin hours. This all culminates in a whopping great explosion that the creature miraculously survives – it’s an Annie Wilkes moment, it never got out of the cockadoodie elevator! So it’s left to Mogadon Man Shepherd to try and remember his last few lines.
Xtro 2 even pinches the tag line from Forbidden World – nearly – “Part Alien. Part Predator (Human). All Terror (Nightmare)”. If there’s one shining light in all of this it’s the acting juggernaut that is Paul Koslo and the scene where Alex, eyes agape, unexpectedly finds his body covered with discolouration while facing a mirror (he was scratched by the survivor and is slowly mutating). This shock discovery causes him to honk noisily into a wash basin and disappear out of shot. A second later, he pops back up into shot with a handgun rammed into his cakehole. I cried laughing when I saw that.
It’s not worth this much analysis, really. They’ve got nothing. There’s no love in the project. Turn up, read the lines, fuck off. You wouldn’t believe this was from the same director as the original, there’s no stylistic consistency. Atmosphere isn’t endless shots of hazy corridors and spinning fans. Tension isn’t repeated close-ups of someone’s stupid face. In short: this zombie rode the horse (this phrase copyright Xiphos/ Barfy).
And what did Harry go and do? Another one…
Xtro 2 trailer here: http://tinyurl.com/lay6fw
It’s not worth a full movie link; here, have Hot Gossip and I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper instead: http://tinyurl.com/yakksem
ThereWolf, June 2010.