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Critic Reviews for Critters
A variety of modest but well-executed special effects enlivens the otherwise run-of-the-mill effort about carnivorous aliens terrorizing a farm. The farm wins.
Black balls that kill... what more can be said?
"Gremlins on Acid" - as wacky as it is wicked, loads of fun
Audience Reviews for Critters
Looking back I cannot for the life of me remember how I got to see this movie. I know I first saw it when I was quite young but I'm surprised I was allowed to see it. Its really quite puzzling frankly. I'm guessing my dad (the sci-fi fan) may have let it pass as it was more of a silly sci-fi comedy horror rather than an all out nasty horror (bit like 'An American Werewolf in London') Anyway somehow I saw it...and became a relatively big fan of the franchise. Its amazing to think that this movies story was actually (apparently) written long before we got Joe Dante's 1984 classic 'Gremlins'. As with many movies that become influential classics there often follows a raft of copycats varying in quality. After its initial release [i]Critters[/i] was widely regarded as such a copycat, albeit one of the best copycats. Alongside that you had other movies such as the [i]Ghoulies[/i] franchise, 'Munchies', 'Hobgoblin', 'Elves', 'Beasties', and maybe to a certain extent the [i]Leprechaun[/i] franchise. Despite that [i]Critters[/i] plot was actually very different to Joe Dante's movie. The plot is your typical science-fiction hokum that could quite easily of come from the pages of a 1950's script. A prison in space (on an asteroid) houses a species of deadly creatures called Crites. The Crites manage to escape the prison and fly off towards Earth. The space prisons alien warden immediately hires two space bounty hunters to track down the Crites before they manage to feed (before midnight?). The Crites naturally make their merry way to Earth and touchdown right in the middle of rural America, because where else? Before you can say bon appétit the Crites are attacking everyone and everything in site. Now even though this movie is called 'Critters' and follows the little carnivorous creatures from A to B; technically you could call this movie 'Bounty Hunters' because essentially its more about their story than anything else. The Crites are merely a basic plot device to defeat, the human family in danger are merely there for the risk factor. The bounty hunters are the characters you get behind and cheer for because they are ice cool, quirky, funny, and the movie is always better with them in a scene. Hell most of the movie is simply following the bounty hunters as they search for the Crites. Once they find them they are able to eliminate the critters easily with their huge space guns, its just a matter of finding the little darlings. The bounty hunters are also shape-shifters (one called Ug, the other apparently nameless) with glowing green blobs for heads. They both literally have glowing green, featureless putty-like heads which effects wise actually works really nicely. We don't find out where they are from or anything about their backgrounds at tall. We don't even know what they actually look like in their original form. They are shape-shifters, they have an original form which we assume is the glowing green putty-like form. But then why do they always retain a human male form in general? It is the shape-shifting special effects sequence that wowed me as a child back in the day. When the bounty hunter begins to morph into his intended target (in this case a human male). Clearly the crew have made a full sized (?) human head out of different layers of wax or putty or plasticine or whatever. They have then slowly and carefully heated this head, presumably one stage at a time, so each layer can run and melt away to reveal the next layer underneath. Each layer obviously represents skin, muscle, blood, bone, tissue etc...Once this was completed they then ran the recording backwards as if all the layers were slowly growing or merging into place over the skull as the aliens head morphed. The trick is a simple one but extremely effective and memorable here as one of the cool gory moments. Ug is the main bounty hunter with the bulk of the dialog, he is the hero character basically. You can tell this because he chooses a human male rock star (the fictitious Johnny Steele) for his 'face' when they initially come to Earth. This means he's got that Mick Jagger type of look about him with flowing locks, a sexy voice, he's slim, and has high cheek bones. Whilst at the same time he has the cool calm serious demeanor of Clint Eastwood. You could say he's an anti-hero really because he's not exactly kind to humans initially. He's not bad or anything but he doesn't mollycoddle them, its only towards the end that he becomes more sensitive towards the humans. Johnny Steele: Power of the Night. The best fake band (and fake hit song) ever? I must also point out that the score and soundtrack for this movie are so delightfully 80's. If that's your bag then I highly recommend this. Go Google it now, now!! His partner on the other hand is a bit of a loose cannon with his space gun. This guy is kinda twitchy and won't hesitate to whip out his weapon and blow something away with no regard to any humans nearby. He also cannot decide on a face to transform into and is constantly changing throughout the movie. They are a slightly mismatched pair for sure with Ug being the more calm and level-head hunter. Still this doesn't stop the pair of them destroying a whole load of shit together, Ug certainly doesn't rein his partner in much. The Crites are (as I'm sure you are aware) little fuzzy rodent-like creatures with tiny arms and legs, glowing red eyes, and a large maw full of razor sharp teeth. They are basically hand and animatronic operated puppets depending on the scene and shot. They look pretty different from Joe Dante's Gremlins but the way in which they were created and shot are very similar. So in general you'll have scenes where a critter will be a fully animatronic puppet for a closeup on its face, and its effective. Then other scenes where the critter is operating something and you get a closeup of its little arm and claw, and its kinda basic lookin'. And then scenes where the critter is clearly a puppet or doll. When they curl up into furry balls and roll around (how they get around quickly), its a bit tacky looking. Alas the history and evolution of the Crites is not really explained well in this movie. Again like the bounty hunters we do not know where they come from, why they must eat all the time, how they can eat all the time being so small, why are they going to space prison? (guessing they ate someone or something). They are clearly intelligent creatures with emotions and thought because they can speak to each other, they fear things, they can be happy, and they can fly spaceships. But they also appear to be inherently evil towards anything...if they can eat it, they don't care. It is also shown that the Crites can grow to enormous sizes when they carry on eating, but this only happens to one of them, why not all? This rather large Crite also kidnaps the young female towards the finale, but why?? Were they gonna use her as a hostage? Use her for food? Breed with her?? Who knows. The humans in peril are of course you're typical all-American rural types, not rednecks but just good honest country folk. They live on a very nice picturesque farm with a white picket fence and a large well presented house. The father (Billy Bush) has a very strong southern accent, he's firm and seemingly a good man. Whilst the mother (a very gorgeous looking Dee Wallace) is very much a 50's looking type of house wife and offers up some more classic scream queen type antics. Their daughter (Nadine Van der Velde) is also seemingly a good girl, very attractive, and is seeing a rather well-to-do flashy young jock with a cringeworthy ponytail and Porsche (a very young Billy Zane). And then we have their son Brad (Scott Grimes) who seems completely unrelated being ginger, looks a bit like a young girl if you ask me, and has an obsession with making homemade...explosives?! Foreshadowing tip, the explosives will obviously come in handy. This just leaves old Charlie (Don Keith Opper) who is the stereotypical town drunk and conspiracy nutjob. This guy clearly spends most of his time getting pissed and shouting his mouth off about all sorts of conspiracies surrounding aliens and the government etc...We first meet Charlie in the local jail (the drunk tank) sleeping off his last bender. He's a scrawny goofy looking guy who is kind gentle and helpful. In this movie he kinda plays Brad's sidekick and second and third fiddle to both the bounty hunters and the rest of the family. Opper does get a more meaty part when Ug's bounty hunter partner transforms into Charlies visage, but other than that the character of Charlie does very little really. And yet this character goes on to become this franchises main protagonist, which is odd. End of the day what do you have here? A movie about little alien furry balls with sharp teeth that eat pretty much anything. Its all set in a small American as apple pie hick town complete with a local drunk and a tobacco chewing, aging, balding, fat Sheriff (M. Emmet Walsh). You can't really get much more cliched and cornball than that. Its clear to see this movie didn't have a great deal of money to work with, but its also clear they made every penny count. This was an early New Line Cinema B-movie release that was pretty blatantly trying to ride the coattails of a larger A-movie, but quite surprisingly had enough of its own ideas to stand on its own. Yes those ideas weren't exactly fresh (now or then) but the super creativity in effects along with other simple quirky visuals really helped this to stand out in the crowd. Oh and that special button that somehow magically rebuilt the farmhouse right at the end, how the flip does that work??
Critters involves weird, small, and somewhat humurous creatures from outer space landing in Kansas and terrorizing a family in thier farm. This movie has been compared to Gremlins a lot and I do see similarities, but I found Critters to be more dark. There is gratuitous bloodshed, people die horribly and the creatures actually have dialogue. The audience hears them speak in a weird language, but there are subtitles and the things these creatures say are actually pretty funny. I find it funny that they had more personality than any of the Twilight characters. The creatures are also being followed by intergalactic bounty hunters and the scenes with them are entertaining as hell. They're anything but inconspicuous and they just blow up whatever they see. The special effects for the creatures are also pretty good. From what I heard, when this movie was being filmed they had a very limited number of the critter puppets, so the director had to conserve them for the movie until he felt a death scene was appropriate. The movie isn't exactly perfect. There are parts where it felt like a Gremlins rip-off and some scenes I found campy. It still is entertaining though. When it comes to horror comedy, all I can really ask for is humor mixed with enjoyable scenes where people fight and die and all that stuff. Critters spawned three sequels and it's no doubt they weren't as good as the original. If you want to watch any of these movies, just stick with this one.
Some may be reminded of Gremlins hearing about this movie, but it is very different. The back story is more fantastical for example, and the critters do not start out cute and lovable, they start out small and crazy and get big and scary by the end. This movie is also more of a horror film than Gremlins, there's a good amount of blood, and people getting eaten up by the critters. But there are also humorous scenes with the critters as well to balance out the film. Overall, it's exciting, scary, fun, and I really liked it.
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