Screams From The Crypt: Close Encounters of the WTF Kind
Welcome back to Screams from the Crypt, Talk Film Society’s home for horror! This week, Staff Writer Sean Beattie rips through crazy low-budget horror offerings—one with an ever-growing cult following and one that absolutely doesn’t have one (yet. Maybe).
The Fiancé (2016) d. Mark Allen Michaels
Twice-divorced top executive Michael (Dallas Valdez) decides that his current young girlfriend Sara (Carrie Keagan, former and current Extra correspondent) is “the one,” and invites her to his secluded cabin deep in California’s forested hills. But (there’s always a but with these movies, or we wouldn’t get a movie) just as she reaches the cabin’s door after a long drive, she is attacked by a ravenous Bigfoot. The attack is hilariously unnoticed by her would-be fiancé Michael because he turns up some experimental jazz just as her screams begin. Her wounds are viciously inflicted, and we only see the Bigfoot itself in silhouette. Spoiler alert: Bigfoot’s got nards.
Sara is left a bloody mess, as she knocks on the door to the cabin. When Michael opens the door for her, however, Sara attacks him, severing a few fingers, a toe, and ultimately, his penis. All but the dick are shown in decent prosthesis work, covered in buckets of blood. The bite of the Bigfoot, you see, makes her a bloodthirsty monster somewhat like a were…Bigfoot. Were-Bigfoot. God that’s fun to type.
Overall, The Fiancé is a truly low budget affair, with most of the money clearly being spent on the design of the Bigfoot. And it is a Bigfoot, as a segment of a Sightings-like program is dedicated to delineating the difference between Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Abominable Snowman. Mostly it’s relating to habitat and mating calls (I wish I were kidding about that).
The design of the creature is actually fairly novel, in that while it is a man-in-a-suit style creature, the production chose sparser hair covering than you’d expect for Bigfoot, given the famously fabricated photographs from the 1970s in the cultural lexicon. Really, the Bigfoot in The Fiancé is closer in appearance to what you might think of when you picture a wendigo, in that it’s close enough to human to be creepy and off-putting, but not necessarily imposing enough to make for a good Bigfoot.
Story-wise there’s also a really boring subplot about how Michael is in with the Russian mafia to get Sara’s father to give his blessing, and a bunch of Bigfoot-fodder (not skunk ape or sasquatch, or this film’s writer will cut you, apparently) that doesn’t really go anywhere. The film closes with Michael interviewing with the same Sightings-like program from earlier, promising to prove the Bigfoot’s existence, with a glint like Sara’s post-attack, in his eyes. Sequel, anyone? The Fiancé 2: Bigfoot Harder, Fall 2019. (not really)
XTRO (1982) d. William Bromley Davenport
In this UK-sploitation alien possession/attack/family drama, Sam Phillips (Philip Sayer) is abducted from his country house’s front yard one evening, in front of his young son Tony (Simon Nash, Brazil). Three years later, whatever abducted Sam returns to Earth, murdering a pair of motorists on a backwoods road, and menacing a young woman.
It gets pretty disturbing from here, so if you have any issues with seriously screwed up imagery, turn back now.
So, the alien creature (all practically designed in a slimy, lumpy fashion that just works really well on-camera) proceeds to project a proboscis at the young woman, impregnate her for a seriously long time against her will, and then dissolve. In a matter of hours, her belly distends, and she begins convulsing. She falls to the floor, writing in pain as a fully-grown adult human-looking Sam exits her vagina, arms first. He showers and goes about his business of infiltrating the real Sam’s family. She just lies on the floor, drained of all fluid and very dead.
Infiltrating that family is not hard, as Sam’s wife Rachel (Bernice Stegers) misses him quite a bit, despite living with her new boyfriend Joe (Danny Brainin). Sam finds an easy “in” to staying in their old London flat and reconnecting with Tony. He then mouth-infects Tony with alien influence, in a shoulder tumor something like you’d find in The Manitou.
Tony begins manifesting terrible powers of his own, which he uses to clear a path for Sam with Rachel. First, he kills a mean neighbor by bringing his RAF rifleman toy to life-size. Next, he menaces Joe with a toy tank he animates to fire deadly shells (not at life-size). He also hypnotizes his au pair Analise (Maryam D’Abo, The Living Daylights) so that he (a 10 year old boy) may repeatedly impregnate her within a cocoon in the bathroom and collect the egg sacs she excretes.
Xtro is, in short, a movie that rocks. Repeatedly. In gory, slimy fashion. People get face-hugged all over the place by tongue-like tentacles. Children wake up covered in blood, screaming. A clown toy is animated with telekinesis so that it’s a little person circus ringmaster with a creepy grin. And, I cannot stress or prepare you enough for this, a woman gives forcible birth to a fully grown adult. And it all ends on a nihilistically hilarious note: Rachel returns home to her kitchen-cum-incubator and is immediately face-suckered by an egg sac from her comatose au pair.
Xtro’s had cult status for several years, and has been significantly reevaluated by gorehounds and exploitation fans alike. This, despite Roger Ebert’s scathing original review, calling it, “painful to watch” and “an exercise in sadness.” Xtro is nihilistic and depressing in its coda, unless you’re like me and enjoy laughing at shocking developments.
Fun side note: I used to own the VHS of the third entry in this franchise, titled, Xtro: Watch the Skies. None of the entries are connected to each other, however. A fourth entry was talked up by director Davenport in 2011, but nothing to date has been released.