Critters (1986)


The original tasty entree!

    I remember seeing this as a kid, and that I thought it was pretty scary at the time. Now rather grown up, I return to my childhood to see just what I was thinking - and let me tell you what, it's a lot more humorous than I recall. Heck, I can even feel for the ever-hungry little balls of fur, being a guy who's constantly on the look for some lunch myself - of course, I don't eat the entire cow in one sitting.

    We start off with an asteroid prison colony, where a bunch of creatures are being transferred over from a transport ship. Being rather problematic, it seems that two of the creatures had to be killed already, as they were just eating absolutely everything. The trade off into the prison doesn't quite go as planned, however, when the Critters break free and steal one of the fastest space ships on the facility to escape. The owner of the prison then sends out two bounty hunters to capture them before they cause any more trouble - with a request that they try to reign in their destructive nature this time around.

   Now on Earth, we get to watch some everyday farm life dealings of Brad (Scott Grimes) and his family. As the day goes on, we are also introduced to the friendly and helpful, albeit looked at as a bit crazy, Charlie (Don Keith Opper) who helps out Brad's dad around the farm as a job (when he's not talking about them alien signals he's picking up in his fillings!). The day progresses, and when night hits both Brad and his dad witness a spaceship landing and go to investigate, where they find a pretty well-eaten cow. From here, things start escalating for Brad's family, as they spend a terrifying night under attack from the vicious Critters - little balls of fur with a mouth full of nasty teeth and an unquenchable appetite - in their own home while the bounty hunters from space slowly close in.

   It's pretty science fiction stock story, but the focus on the family in between the space escape and the invader landing helps to get a sense of attachment in the proceedings. We see the family and how it operates, and although in terms of the overall film length it might be brief it's enough to create a "home base" feeling in the viewer. As the events play out, most of the comedy then comes from the Critters themselves, who get subtitled as they speak their little alien language at various points of the movie (in one instance, the first movie F-bomb I've known to exist in a pg 13 flick). The sense of horror is still there - and just as solid as most movies where a family is held hostage in their own home - and the bounty hunters bring the larger helping of action to the screen (often blowing things up or causing explosions in nearly every scene they are in).

"...with plenty of leathers to go around and finger-less gloves."

   Costumes here are nothing super fancy - mostly amounting to everyday wear of the time - with the exception of the bounty hunters. For them, it's almost something more out of a hair-metal video, with plenty of leathers to go around and finger-less gloves.  The Critters themselves are generally much to small to be costumes, with the possible exception of the one giant Critter towards the end, which does retain much of that Critter look even though it's gone from pet sized to man sized. There is a distinct amount of bite and dart wounds that are warn throughout the flick, and could almost be considered more a part of the costumes then the actual effect work as well - as it is less like modern movies gore and bone approach and much more bloodied clothing with bandage wraps that help give a feeling of tense fight or flight.

   Effect works here is pretty impressive, with a lot of practical tricks (such as reverse playback) making for some (at the time) mind blowing moments. As far as the previous mentioned trick, the first bounty hunter transformation sequence is astounding, if not a little bit gross, even for modern standards (where no doubt it would have been done as CG). Other moments exist of earlier CG type elements (such as the green mist added in over the bounty hunters real faces) that also end up looking quite well polished - even if they aren't quite as impressive as more modern feats of the type. The critters here are (I believe) either animatronic or puppet work in most instances, but always feel as thought they are always there and could possibly be something real when on screen. Oh yeah, there are also a lot  of explosions, so the little pyrotechnic in you should be absolutely thrilled to watch this.

   All in all, it's a fun movie that for the older crowd isn't nearly as frightening as it might be for the younger crowd. Numerous jokes dot the movie outside of the earlier mentioned F-bomb, such as a Critter interacting with a stuffed ET or rolling into a toilet to remedy being on fire, and it really tends to liven up the film for those that can get past the freaky little faces of the Critters themselves. Some good effects work is present, and if you are a fan of 80's movies in general then it should be enjoyable. As far as New Line's goal of turning this into their equivalent of Gremlins , I'd have to say it was a rather noble attempt. I personally find the later to be more enjoyable, but at the same time the saga of Critters  has far outlasted that of Gremlins , and has been pretty solid in its consistency between the movies (yep, that's right, there are 4 of these bad boys, so if you like this one then you probably just found yourself an entire series of enjoyment).

Critters @ IMDB

Starring Art Frankel, Billy Green Bush, Billy Zane, Dee Wallace Stone, Lin Shaye