Critters 4: They're Invading Your Space Reviews
Where before humour was a very big part of the Critters series, this time it takes a backseat to plot and horror. The body count, while perhaps not higher than the first two films, is certainly a greater percentage of the cast than either. Apparently, though, it was made back-to-back with Critters 3, within the same year, despite my previous beliefs, and the ending to that one was a cliffhanger--bounty hunter and ex-drunk Charlie McFadden (Don Keith Opper, as always) is stopped by the Intergalactic Council from destroying the eggs left in the burned out tenement building of the previous film because they are in fact the only eggs left in the universe. He is told to place them in a transport pod by his former partner and fellow bounty hunter Ug, which he complies with despite some argument, only to find himself trapped in the pod with them and frozen as it is shot into deep space.
In the year 2045, a salvage crew picks up the pod and determines its origins as from the now defunct Intergalactic Council. They report it to the appropriate authorities and conglomerate Terracor requisitions it, against the wishes of Captain Rick (Anders Hove, famous to genre fans as the Subspecies series' Radu) and crewman Ethan (Paul Whitthorne). They were argued down by the rest of the crew--Al Bert (the great Brad Dourif, who many know as Grima Wormtongue these days, or Doc Cochran), Fran (Angela Bassett!) and Bernie (Eric DaRae) who wish instead to acquiesce and submit to the wishes of Terracor's representative--former bounty hunter Ug.
This time we're met with a dark, brooding atmosphere, thanks in part to Robinson's dark, cold synthetic score, with those reverberating low-pitched tones that spread an ominous feeling throughout so many horror movies, a much more bitter, meaner, cynical, sarcastic sense of humour and deaths which are a lot more gruesome, vicious and a lot less darkly amusing. Characters fight amongst each other and backstab and are selfish and greedy. Having a cast like this was quite a boon to this film, Bassett, Hove and Dourif are all (unsurprisingly, of course) fantastic in their roles--Hove's Rick is completely self-serving, sleazy and creepy, Dourif's an excitable nerd (for once a good guy, too!) and Bassett is, well, she's Angela Bassett--she kicks ass and takes names, showing the strength that is apparently so innate in her. I recall it was vaguely disturbing when I first saw this, expecting more of the same 80's bemused horror and instead finding a sort of bleak, jaded, disillusioned film that actually brings in some themes and concepts that are familiar from, say, Alien (I shall say no more than that) and some slightly more developed characters--though, again, this could be thanks to the cast, but it feels like a very solid, tight film.
I can't skip out without mentioning the natural relatives of "Critters in Space"--Jason X (which I haven't seen, and don't care to) and Hellraiser: Bloodline. I think Bloodline gets an unfair bad rep and carried off "Pinhead in Space" quite well, saving the series from the hideously banal depths of Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth (going back to my theories about third sequels/90s sequels to 80s movies, except Hellraiser was never about humour and should never have turned into a generic slasher or monster movie) but the real point is that this is the one out of all of those that actually makes sense. The Crites were always aliens, and alien bounty hunters were involved from the beginning. It was only natural to see them in their natural element at some point, and it was great to finally have an Alien-style approach to them that they deserve, to make them far more threatening than previously. An isolated spaceship and space station are a completely different story for dealing with them than a farmhouse or even an apartment building. There is nowhere possible to escape to, and that really helps the tension and fear for once.
As per usual, nastily low scores on places like IMDb, which is why I refuse to even acknowledge them for the purposes of rating genre flicks. If you dug the others, stick it out and catch this one, it's quite probably the best sequel to the great original.