Blu Release – 4.5/5
Director – Stephen Herek (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure)
Starring – Dee Wallace (The Howling), M. Emmet Walsh (Home Improvement), and Billy Green Bush (Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday)
Release Date: 1986
Rating – 3.5/5
Tagline – “When you’ve got critters…you need all the help you can get,”
Everyone has heard of the Critters franchise. Horror and sci-fin fans alike love the series and this year we have seen an influx in support for the franchise with a new Shudder web-series and a new film in the works. This is a series I actually enjoy but I had only seen once in recent years when I bought the four film collection on DVD from Wal-Mart. Now, Scream Factory has released these films in one hell of a box set and I was lucky enough to get one for review.
**Spoiler Alert**The film begins where a space craft is carrying prisoners to a prison built on an asteroid. The prison is home to some of the nastiest alien scum that space has to offer. However, a creature, known as crites, is sent to the asteroid prison to be destroyed but somehow escape and make their way to Earth eating everything in sight.
The warden of the prison send two bounty hunters who have the ability to transform their appearance to look like the surround lifeforms. Back on Earth the Brown family are unaware that a horrific creature with an insatiable appetite is making their way to their farm. On Earth, the bounty hunters have problems fitting in, even with the help of their morphing skills. One bounty hunter chooses to transform into a rock star while the other one seems to be suffering from an illness or hardware glitch and randomly morphs into some of the towns people he has came in contact with. Meanwhile, back on the Brown’s farm the critters are eating cattle, chickens, and boyfriends. The town drunk, who predicted the aliens invasion, joins the family to help fend of the furry furies. Once the bounty hunters get their act together they are able to save the day before returning to space, taking Charlie with them.**Spoiler Alert**
I really enjoy the first film and I still can’t figure out why I waited so long to check them out. I really enjoyed the cheesy storyline and acting. The acting is solid with horror icon Dee Wallace Stone taking lead for the most part. She is an amazing actress that doesn’t get the roles she truly deserves. The supporting cast is solid as well and we even get a little camera time with the Demon Knight himself, Billy Zane.
The story for this one is fun as fuck for fans of horror and sci-fi. The 80s was still very much the time of the drive-in and this was a great way to get that old drive-in experience with a monster movie. It is cheesy and fun as hell with some suspense when the movie needed it. This review may be biased but I loved it.
Finally, the effects are extremely fun. The transformation scene when the bounty hunter turns into the rock star is the coolest thing I have ever scene in a movie that did not involve gratuitous nudity. Sure, it’s cheesy as hell but it was cool as fuck and I would have loved to see that as a kid. The critters look great and the blood is fun. If you want gore you will be disappointed but fans of cheesy sci-fi effects will enjoy it.
Critters 2: The Main Course
Director – Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers)
Starring – Scott Grimes (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Liane Curtis (Married with Children), and Terrence Mann (Big Top Pee Wee)
Release Date – 1988
Rating – 3.5
Tagline – “Critters 1 got your blood pumping…this time they want more than a taste”
The first time I saw this film a few years ago I noticed several things that somewhat caught me off guard. First thing I noticed was that this little flick was directed by Mick Garris. Garris is known for his Stephen King adaptions and has directed two episodes in the Masters of Horror television series.
With the exception of Sleepwalkers, I dislike his films. His films often drag out for long periods of time with some of the worst dialogue imaginable. From what I can see on imdb.com that I’m not the only one who dislikes his King adaptions. To me his MoH episodes are definitely the weakest in the series. So it was safe to say that after seeing he was attached to this I had my doubts.
**Spoiler Alert**The film begins with the cliche rebel type teenager and what appears to be a hobo discovering a nest of green eggs. This is unfortunate because the young boy from the previous film is returning to his hometown to visit family after moving away due to the events that unfolded. While he is in town the townspeople begin dying. Meanwhile, in space, Charlie and the bounty hunters are kicking ass and taking names until they are informed that they did not finish the job back on Earth.
The three then venture to Earth to finish the job. On Earth one of the bounty hunters resumes using the appearance of the rock star and the other still glitches in and out of different appearances. The bounty hunter goes from taking on the appearance of a playboy model, a fast food restaurant manager, and many of the townspeople. The townspeople start blaming the young boy for the incidents due to his return to town coincides with the crite’s attacks. The town turn their backs on the boy until more and more crites appear and the town has no option but to work together. The town has to join together, with the young boy, to destroy the crites after one of the bounty hunters is killed.
The remaining bounty hunter, Charlie, and all the towns folk work together to create a plan using hamburgers as a decoy to get them in one location to kill them but it does not work. The crites merge together creating a death ball and go on a rampage through town before Charlie crashes a space craft into the giant crite ball. Charlie miraculously lives and the townspeople go on with their lives and the bounty heads off to space leaving Charlie behind. **Spoiler Alert**
I’m always shocked by how much I like this film considering it was directed by Garris. I assumed that because Garris was behind it the movie would have pacing issues like the other Garris films I have been unlucky enough to come across. However, I was way off. This movie was actually as good as the first, if not better.
This movie does not have the look and feel of the previous film. The portions of the film that take place outside are beautiful and reminiscent of a classic Tim Burton film. I refer to certain scene, in particular the bunny costume scene, where the grass is extremely green and the sky is so blue it hurts your eyes like the suburbs in Edward Scissorhands and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. The atmosphere and scenery is something I truly enjoyed in this flick.
The acting in this one is great but no one cast member stands out over the other. The cast is made of people who had other roles in major films but are often not cast as leads. That it is a shame, because this cast done their job. The characters are very believable and the viewer starts to really like having them on screen.
The story for this one is a solid follow up to the first film where the clean up of the crites is underway. It is a solid continuation in the story but there was a few spots that made me question where the film was really going. I liked that the film seemed to embrace the humor more than the first film where the laughs were almost unintentional. The laughs really broke up the more slower scenes.
Finally, the effects in this one are just as good as the first flick and the film goes a little further by showing more blood and gore. The crites once again look great. The puppets are always fun to watch interact with one another. The practical effects are great as well. Some top notch effects along with some cheesy visuals.
Director – Kristine Peterson (Deadly Dreams)
Starring – Leonardo DiCaprio (Gangs of New York), Don Opper (The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.), and Aimee Brooks (Sorority House Massacre)
Release Date – 1991
Rating – 3/5
Tagline – “First they devoured a farm, then they terrorized a town, now they’re ready to do some real damage”
After finally watching the first two Critters films in their entirety I was pretty pumped to finish the series. After doing some research on this one I saw Leo was in this one which made me doubt I would like it. I did not know if I should expect him to star in it or just assume he had a small role and due to his career taking off that New Line just billed him as the star to cash in on his fame. I was happy to see that Don Opper did return to play Charlie from the previous first two films and the rest of the cast has some experience in horror films so not all hope was lost.
**Spoiler Alert** This film follows a family consisting of two kids and their father. The children’s mother passed away and this trip was a way for them to just take their mind of the whole thing even though it had been a few years. Along the way they get a flat tire and pull over to a rest area so the father can fix it. The kids meet Josh (Leo) who warn them that leaving the rest area and entering the wooded area could be dangerous. A few moments later the dumb ass throws the little boys frisbee into the area he just warned them about. The three venture off to find it but find Charlie from the previous films hiding in some brush. Charlie gives the small boy a crystal that will glow in the presence of evil aliens. The kids then return to their parents. The sibling’s father is upset that his kids are now dirty and Josh’s stepfather is introduced.
He is a greedy business man that believes Josh needs to be shown some discipline. The film now moves to the city and a grubby apartment manager is evicting tenants and the owner of the building is Josh’s stepfather. He was awarded money to give to the tenants so they could stay in a hotel till they find a new home but he and the grubby manager are keeping that money for themselves. This same apartment building also houses the two children and their father, who unknowingly brought along crites that stowed away under their truck. In the apartment building the crites slowly snack away at the inhabitants. The little boy still has Charlie’s crystal and it begins to glow green warning them that aliens are nearby. Charlie then arrives and tries to protect the remaining tenants before all the crites are destroyed. Charlie then finds some eggs but before he is able to destroy them the bounty hunter from the first two films appears in a hologram and informs him that he can not destroy the eggs because they are now an endangered species. The bounty hunter then sends a space craft down to get the eggs but Charlie steps with the eggs and some sort of gas knocks him unconscious.**Spoiler Alert**
I wanted to like this one but I couldn’t. This follow up is nowhere near as entertaining as the other two films. This movie just did not click with me like the other two films did. The acting in this one is just as good as the first two films. It was cool seeing Leo in a horror film. He’s a fantastic actor and it’s cool seeing him so young and still great on camera. The rest of the cast is just as fun. It’s sad that their performances are wasted on this movie.
The story for this one just doesn’t work for me. The first two established a great universe for the crites but this one just doesn’t seem to pull that together. The film is honestly a chore to complete and feels like it was tossed into the Critter’s universe at the last minute. I did like the personality that the crites have in this one compared to the first two. With each film they seem to grow more and more with personality.
Finally, the film does have some kills but they are not that entertaining. There is only one kill actually on camera and the rest are done off. There isn’t a lot of blood in this one either. Most of the damage inflicted on the humans are by the needles the crites shoot. Also, the film feels claustrophobic once they go inside the building. The cast was crammed on top of each other, and as a viewer, I felt very uncomfortable. The effects we do get are solid but nothing memorable.
Director – Rupert Harvey
Starring – Don Opper (Black Moon Rising), Brad Dourif (Child’s Play), and Angela Bassett (Vampire in Brooklyn)
Release Date – 1992
Rating – 2/5
Tagline – “In space…they love to hear you scream”
It’s hard for a franchise to satisfy everyone but sometimes the production company behind the films don’t care. They already have their cash cow. Coming off from watching Critters 3 I had no hope at all for Critters 4. Like most of the films I watch, I looked up who directed the film and who was cast in it. The director has no other directing credits and has mostly produced films throughout his movie career. The cast consists of actors that have some outstanding films under their belts so I knew that the acting would at least be enjoyable. Sadly, four is another turd.
**Spoiler Alert**The film follows a space crew that earns a living salvaging abandoned ships. They receive a video call from the bounty hunter, from the previous three films, instructing them to find a ship that has a pod he needs stashed away on it. The pod is the one containing Charlie and the eggs from the third film. He does not tell them of the horrors that await inside it. They do find the ship, as well as, the pod contained it in. The crew is allowed to take what is contained on the ship but are ordered to leave the pod alone. However, the captain becomes greedy and goes off on his own to open to pod to see whats inside. Once the pod is open Charlie wakes up…and the eggs hatch. The captain crawls inside to get a look and is attacked by the crites where once forces it’s way down his throat killing him. When the others arrive they find Charlie and their dead captain.
They take Charlie in to question him because they believe he is the one responsible for their captains death. While interrogating him Charlie discovers that he was stuck in that capsule for 53 years. After one of the crew members is killed by the crites the remaining crew members have no other option but to believe him. The crew are able to fend off the crites until the bounty hunter arrives. He arrogantly ignores Charlie and kills one of the crew members while on his search for the remaining eggs. One of the younger crew members tricks the guards that accompanied the bounty hunter and finds some of the eggs he is looking for. After a juggling showdown the bounty hunter is knocked unconscious right as the reactor core is about to explode and the crew steal his space craft and fly off. **Spoiler Alert**
This movie is on the same level as the previous installment. I have a lot more complaints on this film than I did on the previous film as well. The only good note for this one is the acting. The acting is the only thing that is consistent throughout the series. The cast seems to always work well together and they continuously put out amazing performances for lackluster films.
The story for this one dives deep into the Critters’ universe but fails to actually pull together anything fun. They half-hazardly toss together a story that just doesn’t flow well or offer the viewer more than what is already established. My biggest complaint is the crites. The crites are only in the film for a few minutes, which is stupid when you consider the film is based on them. I would liked to have seen more kills and a lot more crite action.
Finally, the effects are pretty much non-existent. There is one really cool scene where a crite forces it’s way down the captains throat but other than that the film is missing when it comes to kills and special effects.
Overall, the Critters franchise starts out fun but ends with a dud. The box set, however, from Scream Factory is a must for any horror and sci-fi fan. I highly recommend this release for collectors and fan alike.
Disc One: Critters (1986)
NEW 2K Scan From The Original Film Elements
NEW Audio Commentary With Producer Barry Opper And Star Don Opper
NEW Audio Commentary With Critter Designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo, And Stephen Chiodo
NEW They Bite!: The Making Of Critters Featuring Interviews With Actors Dee Wallace, Don Opper, Terrence Mann, And Lin Shaye, Producer Barry Opper, Writer Brian Muir, Critters Designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo, And Stephen Chiodo, Make-Up Artist R. Christopher Biggs, Special Prop Supervisor Anthony Doublin, Composer David Newman, Second Unit Director Mark Helfrich, Critter Voice Actor Corey Burton, And Miniature Effects Supervisor Gene Warren Jr.
NEW For Brian: A Tribute To Screenwriter Brian Domonic Muir
Disc Two: Critters 2: The Main Course (1988)
NEW 2K Scan From The Original Film Elements
NEW Audio Commentary With Director Mick Garris
NEW Audio Commentary With Critters Designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo, And Stephen Chiodo
NEW The Main Course: The Making Of Critters 2 Featuring Interviews With Director Mick Garris, Actors Liane Curtis, Don Opper, Terrence Mann, And Lin Shaye, Producer Barry Opper, Critter Designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo, And Stephen Chiodo, And Make-Up Artist R. Christopher Biggs Behind-The-Scenes Footage
Additional TV Scenes
Disc Three: Critters 3 (1991)
NEW Audio Commentary With Producer Barry Opper And Star Don Opper
NEW You Are What They Eat: The Making Of Critters 3 Featuring Interviews With Producer Barry Opper, Screenwriter David J. Schow, Stars Don Opper And Terrence Mann, Director Of Photography Thomas J. Callaway, And Critters Designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo, And Stephen Chiodo Trailer
Disc Four: Critters 4 (1992)
NEW Audio Commentary With Producer/Director Rupert Harvey
NEW Space Madness: The Making Of Critters 4 Featuring Interviews With Producer Barry Opper, Screenwriter David J. Schow, Stars Don Opper And Terrence Mann, Director Of Photography Thomas J. Callaway, And Critters Designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo, And Stephen Chiodo Trailer