Critters (1986)

Starring Scott Grimes, Dee Wallace-Stone, M. Emmet Walsh, Don Keith Opper, Billy Green Bush, Terrence Mann, Ethan Phillips, Billy Zane

Directed by Stephen Herek

Expectations: Fairly high. I’d wanted to see this since I was a little kid.

On the general scale:
onehalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
twohalfstar


I’ve seen parts of this over the years but had never seen it all the way through. I gave it a go, but this is definitely one that would be better with a bunch of friends. It’s a horror comedy and my sights were set a bit more towards gore-fest. The key flaw to my logic though is that I never bothered to notice that this was PG-13. That would have tempered my expectations quite a bit, instead of building them up over the last couple of decades.

Basically, the Critters (or Crites, if you want to get technical) make a daring escape from a prison asteroid, stealing a spaceship. A couple of shapeshifting bounty hunters head off in pursuit. The Crites land on Earth, rural Kansas to be exact. It’s been a long flight and their little Critter bellies are rumbling. From here it devolves into a slight clone of Hitchcock’s The Birds, if the birds were prison-breaking, meat-chomping little furballs from space. I loved the opening of the movie, even if it does focus on the family a little too much. As the film dragged on, my bloodlust raged. “When will the Crites start chomping the innocents?” I thought.

The film picks up as the Critters get more involved, but on an equal and opposite decline is the acting quality. For me, the minor horror fun of the Critters just didn’t outweigh the bad acting so I found myself wanting the whole thing to be over. Dee Wallace-Stone was the main offender but pretty much every one else is close behind. I love M. Emmet Walsh but he was seriously underused in this film. No joke, he was missing in action for so long that when he returned towards the end, I had actually forgot that he was even in the movie.

As I mentioned above, the film is PG-13, so you can pretty much forget about getting any quality gore shots. There’s a couple of okay ones, but nothing inventive or terribly special. I did enjoy one moment when a Crite bites a dude’s hand as he reaches for a boombox. It’s a shame there wasn’t more of these moments as the Critter’s razor-sharp, tooth-lined mouths are ripe for that kind of thing. The Critters do get some of the funniest moments of the film though. I don’t know what it is about non-humans speaking a native tongue with a subtitle of “Fuck!” but it gets me laughing every single time.

Before the diehard Critters fans roll into a ball and shoot themselves at my neck, I liked the movie at a base level. The character design for the Critters is fantastic, perfectly capturing both scary and fun in one creature. It is fairly well directed but nothing near the greatness shown in Stephen Herek’s second film, one of my all-time favorites, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. I should know by now not to get my hopes up so high when watching horror movies, but this one had so much going for it on the surface that I expected it to be different. It wasn’t.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VkxRD3s5_I

7 comments to Critters (1986)

  • Uncle Jasper

    Real interesting choice here. I really enjoyed your review. This is one of those movies I’d really like to see again, despite knowing damn well that it will not hold up. I remember seeing the sequel at the Winnetka drive-in way back and seemed to really enjoy it as a 10 year-old.
    There is almost a sub-genre of these “little monster” movies coming from the mid to late 80’s / early 90’s. Remember Ghoulies? How about Puppet Master or Demonic Toys? It would be fun to explore more of these. Good stuff.

    • Thanks man. I’ve been watching too much high brow stuff so I needed a good trash movie. I wish Critters was better, but I still had some fun with it.

      I remember Ghoulies. That little monster popping out of the toilet on the box was one of my favorite things at the video store back in the day. That might be fun to follow up this one with that. Or yeah, Puppet Master is fun. I never saw Demonic Toys.

  • Laura

    I want to see DOLLS again…it will be done

  • Laura

    The best part of CRITTERS is when they would roll up. Funny. When I was a kid, CRITTERS always seemed to be some kind of Gremlins rip off. Watching it now, it was interesting to watch with humans’ attitude toward…well..critters in mind. Next I focused on the teenage girl and the whole daddy-walking-in thing. Then, I realized that this is a boring terrible ‘horror’ movie without any social context to keep me interested at all. If memory serves, the critters weren’t on screen very much at all…the movie focused more on the humans/aliens. It seemed like a really low budget bastardization of a ET/Gremlins cross…purely low quality product capitalizing off of those two movies.

    • Yeah you can’t expect any sort of deep undercurrent in a movie like this. The critters were definitely not in it enough. That most likely stems directly from the budget though, I’m sure if they had a ton of money the Crites would be flyin’.

  • Dan

    I do like Critters a little more than you do Will but concede it isn’t a very memorable movie. I’m always reminded of Mac and Me – that E.T. rip-off they brought out in the 80s. In a similar sense Critters will always feel like the weaker cousin of Gremlins. I had a marathon Critters run one night a few years back – think I watched one to four. Some of the sequels are okay actually. One in an apartment block sticks out as being pretty good – I think that’s Critters 3.

    • Hahaha, Mac and Me. Jeez I don’t think I’ll give that one a second chance in adulthood. Although…it might be fun. Maybe a double feature with Spaced Invaders?

      After my disappointment with this, I wasn’t gonna check out the sequels but with your recommendation I might check them out. I almost didn’t watch Ghoulies II and that would have been a grave mistake, so I shouldn’t stop myself from looking into the Critters sequels. Hopefully, they have more Critter action and less offensive acting.

Leave a Reply! Comments are always much appreciated!