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:
On the B-movie scale:
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.