Critters (1986)

Director: Stephen Herek
Starring:  Dee Wallace, Scott Grimes, Billy Zane, Terrance Mann, Don Keith Opper, M. Emmet Walsh, Lin Shaye .USA. 1h 28m

Critters are basically an intergalactic cross between Gremlins and Hedgehogs.  I feel bad saying this as the director, Stephen Herek,  got so much stick for copying Gremlins even though Critters was written and in production before Gremlins but small little creatures with a mischievous nature are all alike to me.

80’s American horror was often family based, possibly a ploy to get it into every home, but this average family find themselves having a night from hell when a group of Crites escape from their asteroid prison hijack a spaceship and speed down to Kansas where they  start hunting for food. Luckily for the people of earth there are two highly skilled bounty hunters hot on their tails but on entering earth, one takes on the guise of a famous rock star but his sidekick has a bit of trouble with his green glowing face and ends up resembling random towns people he runs into, which is something that really confuses the already confuzzled local police force.

While the Brown family go about their average lives, their farm hand Charlie (Opper) starts receiving signals through his fillings, although due to his kooky nature and history of alcoholism he’s often overlooked and ignored.

But after the Browns teenage daughter takes her boyfriend (Zane) up to the barn for a bit of “hows your father” he’s soon eaten by the Crites, and the mayhem begins as the Critters/Crites bounce, roll and jump around all night eating everything in site and terrorising the Browns. Slowly the bounty hunters get familiar our bizarre society and begin tracking their pay cheque.

As an introduction to the Crites and to get some back story I feel the movie really stands up, you can tell that everyone really had fun working on this and it’s a fun movie despite the occasional gore. It boasts a healthy level of comedy, which still retaining some scares.

The movie has two distinct storylines, the bounty hunters probing the town with their cute alien ways, and he Browns siege like antics on their remote farm, all I can say is that they do eventually meet up and the results are pretty groovy.

For the most part if really does feel like some kind of Hell night movie, the creatures seem to be a comedic demoic ball of fluff. What’s weird is that no matter how dangerous and menacing they are, they still remain so darn cute. I would gladly trade my hamster for one.

As a debut film it feels as if Herek learnt a lot, mostly that his forte is comedy as his next film was Bill and Ted Excellent Adventure (1989), and he never really return to horror scene ever again. Luckily there are several sequels, the 4th one is my favourite by far, Critters in Space (1992), their adventures were more impressive than Jason’s deep space flop.

Much of Critters doesn’t really stand the test of time, it was a B Movie at the time and some of the glamor has worn off but after a lengthy start it does pick up the pace and it is fun, but i feel the real character of the Crites doesn’t really come into play until the later movies and under different direction.

But the film will always be a fond favourite, a prime example of 80’s horror that was fun to make and just as much fun to watch.

Rating: 6/10

R: Critters 4 – Critters in Space (1992), Gremlins (1984), Puppet Master (1989)
L: Small Fiends…
5s: Lin Shaye, Billy Zane, Dee Wallace
Vs: Critters Vs Gremlins
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