Skip to content
Advertisements

John’s Horror Corner: Critters (1986), a sci-horror comedy creature feature follow-up to Gremlins (1984) with viciously cute flesh-eating aliens.

November 4, 2016

critters-movie-poster-1985-1020205513

MY CALL:  A satisfyingly fun creature feature for fans of Gremlins (1984) and Ghoulies 2 (1988).  Not much of a plot, but loads of off-the-wall inventiveness, playful nods to the genre, and likably cute miscreant monsters.  MORE MOVIES LIKE CrittersCritters 2 (1988), Gremlins (1984), Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), Ghoulies 2 (1988), Tremors (1990), Grabbers (2012)…maybe even Munchies (1987) and Hobgoblins (1988), although they are of considerably lower quality.

maxresdefault

This movie’s opening is as cheesy as it gets.  After a batch of fuzzy little aliens escape a maximum security “prison asteroid” they are followed to Earth by a pair of intergalactic bounty hunters reputed for their destructive methods.

0009-1

Meanwhile on Earth, Helen (Dee Wallace; The Howling, Lords of Salem, Halloween, Cujo), Jay (Billy Green Bush; The Hitcher), and their kids April (Nadine Van der Velde; Munchies) and Brad (Scott Grimes; Critters 2) have a pretty normal life…that is, until the critters land their spaceship on their family farm to turn Kansas into their buffet.

de2751662ac0be76250d70dc85252876affiche-critters-1

Their small town has its fair share of personality.  Sheriff Harv (M. Emmet Walsh) tries and fails to keep the peace while Deputy Jeff (Ethan Phillips; Star Trek: Voyager, Critters 3) hits on their dispatcher Sally (Lin Shaye; Insidious 1-4, Chillerama).  And keeping the sheriff on his toes is Charlie (Don Keith Opper; Critters 2-4), an alcoholic simpleton whose belief in little green men is known all throughout town.  His “crying wolf” archetype and friendship with Brad clearly served as a model for the similar dynamic in Leprechaun (1993), which is a decent R-rated horror comedy follow-up for adult fans of Critters.

critters20027d7e2_medium

The shape-shifting bounty hunters learn about Earth much as Leeloo and Neo (in The Fifth Element and The Matrix) and assume the form of a rock star (Terrence Mann; Critters 2-4) and a few locals.  This hardly serves the story, but it garnishes an additional layer of silly icing on this cheesy B-movie cake.

critters-bounty-hunters

The special effects feature a transformation scene that serves as a predecessor for Hellraiser (1987) with reverse time lapse wax melting.  The UFO and scenes in outer space are forgivably laughable—mostly because it all feels deliberate and suits the younger PG-13 demographic.  This movie transcends the “so bad it’s good” territory and finds itself comfortably in the “good” zone…in the sense that it’s timelessly entertaining.  I mean, the critters’ main objective on Earth is comically “food,” they roll around like Sonic the Hedgehog, and they grow as they eat creating a giant Tribble-like threat.  Much as Ghoulies 2 (1988) has a giant ghoulie, Critters has a giant critter.

crit3-2giphy

I still like the creature effects. The critters’ toothy maws are menacing.  These critters are met with a comical impish first impression.  But make no mistake, they are here to kill and eat!  They rampage a steer leaving a ripped up gory cadaver, they eat April’s boyfriend Steve (Billy Zane; Demon Knight, Bloodrayne, Survival Island), and brutally maul any within biting range.  To level the playing field these diminutive monsters are 50% teeth, swarm like piranhas when they can, and they shoot tranquilizing sleep quills.

5304304332_45a5faf07f

Helming his first of many feisty movies to come, director Stephen Herek (Rock Star, The Three Musketeers, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) knows how to entertain us…and our kids!  That’s right.  Horror for kids?  This is PG-13 but it’s every bit as gory as some convincing R-rated movies of its time—although it’s not trying overly hard to shock us and there is nothing brutal or mean-spirited about it.  There are a few swear words here and there (uttered by cute aliens and our kid hero Brad), but this is easily suited for preteens.  It’s never really “scary” and you never “see” anyone die (although it’s implied once).

2critters_shot1l

There’s a lot to love about this movie—but most of all is that Stephen Herek really tries to entertain you instead of doing just enough to hold things together between special effects. It’s kind of adorable that the critters are intergalactic fugitives, Brad hypothesizes that the critters are radioactive gophers created by the government, a critter confronts an ET plush, Brad’s cat is named Chewie, and Jay’s bowling team shirt looks like the Ghostbusterslogo.  Also grin-worthy is that when the critters “speak” it sounds like a Pomeranian shaking a chew toy, despite the subtitles of totally normal dialogue.

tumblr_lrzgb5k3nk1qlbb6zo1_500critters_etcritters_03

This fun creature feature will happily please fans of Gremlins (1984) and Ghoulies 2 (1988).  What it lacks in cohesive plot, it more than compensates in off-the-wall inventiveness, frequent self-aware nods to the genre, and likable miscreant alien monsters.

rv3pliwempw-54325critters-poster

Watch this, then watch for more since, at the end, they laid eggs!!!

critters-movie-poster-1985-1020205513

Advertisements
7 Comments leave one →
  1. November 4, 2016 12:27 pm

    Critters is a great film, one of my favourites! Haven’t seen it in ages, long overdue a rewatch I think 🙂

    • John Leavengood permalink
      November 4, 2016 1:08 pm

      In my high school and early college years I took it more seriously. Now I can see the deliberate humor all over the place and I see it’s true nature…and I still love it. Can’t wait to move on to part 2.

      • November 4, 2016 5:40 pm

        Critters is one of those films that is so memorable for all those things you mention. It is a fun film, look forward to your views on part 2 🙂

Trackbacks

  1. The Fifth Element (1997), Milla Jovavich’s beloved sci-fi character Leeloo saves the Universe from darkness. | Movies, Films & Flix
  2. John’s Horror Corner INDEX: a list of all my horror reviews by movie release date | Movies, Films & Flix
  3. John’s Horror Corner: Fright Night (1985), a favorite 80s vampire movie with comedy, gooey gore and monstrous fanged mouths. | Movies, Films & Flix
  4. John’s Horror Corner: Fright Night 2 (1988), a stylish sequel to our favorite 80s vampire movie. | Movies, Films & Flix

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: