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John’s Horror Corner: Critters 3: You Are What You Eat (1991), an inferior sequel with less gore, blood, action, humor and storytelling.

October 8, 2018

MY CALL: Sure, it’s still entertaining. But it’s also exceedingly dumb, watered-down, devoid of gore and completely uninspired compared to parts 1-2 that I wouldn’t recommend it or even consider it comparable to the other two. MORE MOVIES LIKE Critters 3Critters (1986) and Critters 2 (1988), Gremlins (1984), Ghoulies 2 (1988), Tremors (1990), Grabbers (2012)… maybe even Munchies (1987) and Hobgoblins (1988). Leprechaun (1993) is also a decent R-rated horror comedy follow-up for fans of Critters.

FRANCHISE SIDEBAR: In part 1, a batch of critters escaped a maximum security “prison asteroid” and were followed to Earth by shape-shifting intergalactic bounty hunters. With the help of a teenager and the town drunk, they thought the threat was eradicated and Charlie (Don Keith Opper; Critters 1-4) joined the ranks of the bounty hunters. But remember how part 1 ended with a clutch of eggs? Well, after yet another deliciously cheesy SciFi spaceship opening, the alien bounty hunters received orders to return to Earth and eliminate the remaining monsters. So in part 2, Charlie and bounty hunter Ug saved the town yet again. However, they clearly didn’t complete the mission successfully because here we are for part 3 which actually begins near Grover’s Bend, Kansas where this all started…

Beginning with SciFi scenes in outer space, parts 1-2 opened with a sort of flair indicative of the filmmakers’ love for their work. These goofy space scenes felt inspired and offered unconventional ways for us to meet our monsters and protagonists. But this sequel is the first to feel like a generic 80s horror flick from its outset. This could just as readily be the first few minutes of Pumpkinhead 8 or Tremors 10.

We quickly meet our generic protagonist family including Annie (Aimee Brooks; Sorority House Massacre, Monster Man), her new friend Josh (Leonardo DiCaprio; The Revenant, Shutter Island), and when we are reintroduced to Charlie it feels as hokey and uninspired as can be. Typical of the era, Charlie gives a montage review of parts 1-2 to the group of children to catch the audience up.

Driving through the site of parts 1-2 (Grover’s Bend, Kansas), critters lay a clutch of green oozing eggs under our protagonists’ car to hitchhike to the city. Our victims end up trapped in a Los Angeles apartment building with the monsters, making for an easy (and uninteresting) low budget venue. It was every bit as unexciting as it sounds.

HORROR IN THE BIG CITY SIDEBAR: Lots of horror franchises decided to break out from their cabins in the woods and remote farms to try their hand at the big city. Among them are Friday the 13th part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989), Pinhead went solo in the club scene in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992), Leprechaun 2 (1994) took its diminutive rascal to Las Vegas and then the Hood twice (2000, 2003), Carol Anne moved downtown only to be followed in Poltergeist III (1988), and now the critters have packed their bags to head to Los Angeles.

This is easily the most hokey installment of the franchise (so far). The critters watch cooking shows, they get bowled down like pins complete with sound effects, they fart and burp and giggle about it amidst food fights, and they eat whatever they can (including dish soap) for cheap comic relief. One gets a bleach burn and actually resembles Stripe from Gremlins (1984). But far less serious, the kitchen scene antics are really more like Gremlins 2 (1990). This Stripe-like leader was the most interesting development, paling in comparison to part 1’s giant critter or part 2’s critterball and the comical bounty hunter shape-changing (into a Playboy Playmate with a magazine staple on her sternum).

Director Kristine Peterson (Kickboxer 5, Deadly Dreams) fails to capture the fun magic of the series. Critter action is less frequent, the writing isn’t clever, the gore is nonexistent (way less than parts 1-2), the blood is reduced, and the plot is as generic as they come. When Charlie finally comes to the rescue it all falls flat. I felt the creature effects also dropped in quality, and the only gore moment worth mentioning was when little old Mrs. Menges (Frances Bay; In the Mouth of Madness, Nomads) hacks a critter in half with a giant cleaver. I miss the gory flesh-eaten bones and skeletons and cadavers.

Honestly, the most interesting part was the last few minutes. Moving into the credits, Charlie finds critter eggs and gets an interstellar call from his old bounty hunter buddy Ug (Terrence Mann; Critters 1-4) informing him that they are the very last two of eggs of the species and they are to be preserved in a space pod that crashes into the building in the final shot with a big “to be continued” across the screen. It’s this Sci-Fi connection that always made the earlier movies more lively. But still, it’s nice to see some returning characters.

This sequel is clearly inferior to parts 1-2, so it’s really hard to recommend. It completely lacks the off-the-wall inventiveness that made the earlier installments work so well. But I didn’t hate it.

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