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Xtro II: The Second Encounter
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by Jack Sommersby

"Just Another Disposable Sequel"
2 stars

Well, it's got a fair amount of gore but not a whole lot in the way of invention and scares.

Xtro II: The Second Encounter has absolutely no relation to the 1983 original, an underappreciated piece of sci-fi horror chock-full of enough macabre touches and creativity for ten movies. Luckily and unluckily, the same director, Harry Bromley Davenport, has returned, with this sequel's first half technically assured and the second half technically haphazard, as if an altogether different director had taken over production in the later stages. Rather than a thinly veiled Alien clone this time around, Xtro II is a thinly veiled Aliens clone, with the majority of the time having its armed-to-the-teeth characters moving around in an underground structure either running into or running from an inimical outer-space creature that gruesomely knocks them off one by one. Derivative and imagination-deprived, the story takes place in an underground top-secret government installation where the Nexus project is to be demonstrated to the visiting Secretary of Defense: it involves transporting humans into a parallel universe; three scientists are being sent to the very same coordinates the project's founder, the now-retired Dr. Ron Shepherd (Jan-Michael Vincent), sent himself to three years prior. (For reasons kept from us until later on, when Shepherd returned to Earth, he blew up the Texas facility after refusing to discuss the details of his intergalactic trek.) The transportation goes as planned, with the command center getting spotty audio and a fuzzy video feed that shows a dome-like structure but not much else; but then blood-curdling screams are heard, and all contact is lost. A crack squad of military soldiers shows up for a rescue operation, but one of the two lead scientists, Julie Casserly (Tara Buckman), argues that sending more people might just be signing their death warrants; one of the three manages to get beamed back, a woman who's been rendered unconscious. So Casserly succeeds in persuading Shepherd, both a former co-worker and lover, to help out because he's the only one who's been to "the other side" and come back. As will surprise no one who's seen either Ridley Scott's masterpiece or James Cameron's okay sequel, the woman who's made it back starts convulsing and then gives birth to a nasty extraterrestrial, which disappears into the air ducts and starts growing exponentially. And while the humans are far better weapons-equipped than the ones in Alien, with one brandishing more or less a carbon copy of the huge smart gun in Aliens, this particular creature is considerably resilient to firepower.

For about thirty minutes the movie impresses with the kind of stylish lighting and dexterous camerawork that director Brett Leonard graced his excellent sci-fi tale The Lawnmower Man with. That movie also largely took place in a government scientific facility, and they both boast expressive visuals that help lend variety to the proceedings, which helps in the several talking-heads scenes of scientists speaking in endless techno-babble. Davenport's developed quite a bit since the original: he's much more comfortable with moving the camera around, and the assuredness of the early scene transitions have precision and snap. Until the inevitably grotesque alien birth, Xtro II is surprisingly understated and eerily suggestive. Unfortunately, the follow-through isn't nearly as entertaining as the set-up. Once a creature gets loose in a cinematic endeavor such as this, it all comes down to the quality of the execution, and Davenport simply doesn't get enough in the way of momentum going. Granted, he didn't have a hand in the screenplay, so a truly odious bit of a male soldier and female nurse engaging in some brief hanky-panky before the extent of their dire predicament is known can't be laid on his shoulders, but when it comes to staging action sequences (something he didn't have to do in the original) his work is largely negligible. He can't keep the spatial logistics straight to where we know an approximate of where the humans and alien are in relation to one another, and because there isn't enough atmosphere, what should be an ever-increasing sense of isolation and claustrophobia within this underground setting doesn't take hold. And because of a low budget and subpar special effects, the alien itself, shown to us in fragmentary shots so we never get a clear look at it, is basically a piece of drooling hodgepodge that never for a second frightens. (I've seen scarier-looking things left in a refrigerator a month after the expiration date.) Shepherd finally reveals why he destroyed the previous lab, but it's never made clear why he wasn't returned "impregnated" like the recent returnee. But it's hard to care, anyway, because Vincent gives such a quintessentially lazy performance we doubt his Shepherd could place in even an elementary-school science fair. With a sunken face and granitic voice that renders half his dialogue indecipherable, he makes for one sad-sack of a hero. Much better are Paul Koslo, as Shepherd's occupational adversary, and the gorgeous Buckman, who's gone from eye candy in The Cannonball Run to an actress of some substance and force -- she's terrific; the same can't be said for Xtro II: The Second Encounter.

Check out the original if you haven't. (See my review.)

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4015&reviewer=327
originally posted: 02/26/14 17:24:37
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell the first one was awful 1 stars
11/24/02 Charles Tatum Terrible, blatant ripoff of Alien 1 stars
9/29/01 Mohammad J. Absolutely awful Alien rip with especially bad acting 1 stars
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  02-Sep-1990 (R)
  DVD: 25-Sep-1991

  N/A (18)

  02-Nov-1990 (M)

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