Has anyone else noticed how popular movies about small creatures terrorizing people were in the 80’s? There were Gremlins, Ghoulies, Hobgoblins, and the movie I watched last night, Critters. That’s four, at least. And some of these spawned sequels. If four isn’t a trend, then maybe I just don’t know what a trend is. I’ll even count The Blob, because it fits in that nostalgic look back at the fifties that these movies embody.
I know that I saw Critters when I was younger but all I really remembered is that they rolled around to move fast. Kind of like Sonic the Hedgehog, only instead of rolling up gold coins they’re shooting people with poisonous darts and eating everything.
The movie starts in outer space. The critters are being transported from one asteroid prison to another. Intergalactic eighties justice didn’t get the memo from that one episode of The Twilight Zone that solitary asteroid punishment is cruel and inhumane. The critters hijack a spaceship and land on earth. Did Critters inspire Lilo and Stitch?
The critters land in the field of a farm-family, the Browns, and soon the family is under siege. The critters like to eat everything, can shoot poison darts from their back, and roll when walking isn’t fast enough for them. They also have potty-mouths.
In pretty much no time the Brown daughter, April’s, boyfriend (Played by Billy Zane with hair.) I liked her boyfriend because he possessed the best vanity plates this side of 1Bruce1. Yes, that is a Sweet Valley High reference.
The Brown family tries to barricade themselves in their house and fend of the critters as best they can. It’s ok, though, because there are some cosmic bounty hunters coming to collect the critters.
No, it’s not Boba Fett but two shape-shifting aliens that look kind of like the faceless aliens from one episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?. While the movie is fun eighties schlock and fairly short on scares, the bounty hunters are actually kind of creepy.
First, there’s a scene where you see them scanning a database of everything about earth and then assuming a human’s form. It looks like this scene was brought to us courtesy of Smucker’s raspberry preserves.
There’s another scene where the bounty hunters disrupt church looking for the “crites,” which is what they call the critters. The bounty hunter who didn’t take the form of rocker Johnny Steele stares creepily at the church organist while his oozing neck-wound pulses.
They also wear these red leather studded outfits that would make Pinhead proud.
The man with the ball, by the way, is Terrence Mann and I’ve seen him in two Broadway productions. He was Chauvelin in The Scarlet Pimpernel and he was Frank ‘N Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He has an amazing voice and if I’d known he was in Critters I would have hounded him to sign my programs. Oh, and he was pretty hot as Frank ‘N Furter.
In finest eighties tradition, the movie ends with a setup for a sequel. Which I haven’t seen. It’s been suggested that Critters was made to cash in on the success of Gremlins, but apparently the script was written before Gremlins and underwent edits to make it less similar. Personally, I prefer Critters. The creatures aren’t as good as the gremlins but the movie is creepier and takes itself less seriously. Plus, Gremlins has that whole Stephen Spielberg-produced love of childhood and nostalgia all over it. I think that the family in Critters is more realistic, even though I think that I’d get a slap if I called my brother a “shithead” at the breakfast table.