Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Xtro II: The Second Encounter (1990) A Review

Made in 1990, Xtro II: The Second Encounter is a sequel in name only to the English splatterpunk film, Xtro (1983). Amazingly, both were directed by the same man, Harry Bromley-Davenport who later admitted he hated the sequel and made it only because he needed a job and the money. You may think that I want to praise the film, but I point it out as an example of what happens when you have no business writing a script or making a movie.

It took four men to script this disaster and not even the presence of Jan-Michael Vincent who was beginning to enter the nadir of his career could salvage this wreck of a film. Dealing with alcoholism, the reason Vincent delivers his lines with all the energy of a sloth is that the director had to individually feed him his lines before Vincent spoke them.

The movie's pacing is interminable, there are logic and continuity problems, and basically, the storyline makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

The movie opens with 3 full minutes of credits interspersed with a helicopter flight going through ice-capped mountains but from the perspective of the helicopter's interior showing the back of actress' Tara Buckman's head.

Finally, we get to see an 8-bit computer display of the facility in which the entire movie takes place and the female computerized voice that will act as the chorus to our sad little journey into terrible movie making.

Then we see an interior shot of the place and you will recognize right away that the producer just grabbed some random factory in which to film the movie.

The story line has all the familiar tropes: two scientists in competition with each other, a rude government-type who wants to shut the project down, a moody hero who knows a lot but isn't telling anybody anything, but has the hots for the female lead, a rubber monster who can suddenly appear in different locations with no idea how it could logically travel from Point A to Point B.

Think of Ridley Scott's Alien (1979) and James Cameron's Aliens (1986) combined on a $5 budget.

Unfortunately, in attempting to describe the plot, I will actually make it sound like there is some sense to the story. Abandon all hope ye who enter here. There is no sense at all.

For some reason, the U.S. government has rebuilt a facility to restart the Nexus Program that will enable people to travel to parallel universes. The first facility in Texas resulted in disaster three years before the start of the film when one Dr. Ron Shepherd (Jan-Michael Vincent) blew the place up and, (wait for it), never told anybody in the government the reason for such a dramatic action and somehow he did not end up in a federal prison. Instead, he enjoys a cozy retirement and for the rest of the movie, though he traveled to the alternate universe and knows everything that is going on, says nothing to anybody about what they are facing.

After the pointless helicopter ride intro, we see Secretary Kenmore just arriving at the facility (by car, mind you, not helicopter) and he is just in time to see a team of three people take a foray into the alternate universe. Now they should have sent robots to retrieve air and soil samples, but they send a team of people first and when they finally get visuals, they are grainy and in black and white. The trio sees some type of globe-shaped structure on the horizon when suddenly they are attacked by something and all contact is lost.

Now evidently there is no oxygen in the parallel universe (no idea how they knew that and the suits they are wearing are not airtight) and if the team is still alive, has only 12 hours of air left.

After an intense discussion on how to rescue the exploratory team, it's revealed that the two scientists in charge of the Nexus Program have strong feelings about Dr. Ron Shepherd, the guy formerly in charge of the Texas institution. It seems Dr. Julie Casserly (Tara Buckman) was Shepherd's former lover and Dr. Alex Summerfield (Paul Koslo) hates Shepherd with a passion that goes beyond all reason. So in spite of the fact that Shepherd blew up the original Nexus Program's Texas facility without ever giving a reason, Secretary Kenmore insists they bring him to the current site to act as an advisor.

"Take me home, country roads!"
So 15 minutes into the film, we get to meet the film's hero played by Jan-Michael Vincent and who looks eerily just like John Denver, the late folk singer.

Anyway, once again Shepherd refuses to reveal why he blew up the original facility, but he agrees to come and find out what has gone wrong and offer what help he can.

In the meantime, Dr. Summerfield assembles a military rescue squad of four of the oddest most eccentric military men possible: Colonel McShane (all business military guy), Zunoski (a New Age hippy), Baines (played by Nicholas Lea before he became famous in TV shows including the role of Alex Krycek in X-Files), and finally, Mancini, a long-haired, smart-mouthed guy with a foreign accent.

These guys are military. Right.

Anyway, at a group meeting, Shepherd encourages the military people not to go into the parallel universe and once again refuses to tell anybody what happened the last time he himself made the journey. However, the viewer will never get a chance to see an alien world anyway, as one of the original trio, Marshall, the crew's sole female, somehow returns and is in a coma. No neat trip to a parallel universe for us. The budget wouldn't allow it.

Well, here's a spoiler for you: Marshall is pregnant with a monster and when she does wake from her coma for a moment, she scratches Dr. Summerfield on the neck infecting him with some mutational disease of some type that nobody ever knows about so no explanation is needed.

The monster is born and escapes into the air ducts (you never saw that coming) and while the facility is being evacuated, the AI computer that runs the facility locks all the doors trapping the four military guys, as well as Drs. Summerfield, Casserly, and Shepherd. And the AI is going to set off a nuke within a certain number of hours to cleanse the place unless the source of the "bio-hazard" is removed.

Respect the amount of rubber that went into this.
Cue the increasing body count, the monster who can impossibly appear in places that are not linked together, Summerfield losing his mind as he mutates into a monster himself, lots of screaming, and lots of rip-offs from the Alien franchise.

And then cue an ending that makes absolutely no sense at all.


What puzzles me is that somebody sat down and thought this was a great movie to invest in when even some of the worst writers I know could have taken this incomprehensible mess and at least made it understandable.

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