There’s something about franchise installments that take their antagonists out of the rural confines in which we got to know them and transport the action to the big city… they kinda suck. Jason Takes Manhattan is easily the biggest offender, I love it because it has Jason but it’s not a “good movie” by any stretch of the imagination. Oddly enough this principle kind of applies to Scream 3 (Woodsboro and whatever college Sidney went to in the sequel weren’t exactly urban), which has organic big city “touches” like the Ripley’s museum and Jay and Silent Bob.
This law is exemplified by Criters 3. We got familiar with the Crites in Grover’s Bend in the pretty-good first two films, but director Kristine Peterson dreamed bigger and dared to bring the creatures into the big city. That’s all good and admirable, unfortunately she forgot to bring any real sense of momentum or urgency. If you can disappoint an eager kid (me) who loved the first two films (and saw Critters 2 twice in theaters), then you haven’t really brought your a-game.
The film is notable for being the big screen debut of Leonardo DiCaprio, but it’s unbearably slack and chintzy. Darkly lit and lazy, the action in the apartment complex is so static the camera barely moves. It also doesn’t help that the tone is off. Leaning ever so slightly more in the comedic direction inherent to the series (a decision I get and empathize with, after all this is Critters we’re talking about), Critters 3 offers the revelatory hindsight that the first two films were actually tonal tightrope acts of a relatively high order. The overuse of Don Keith Opper’s Charlie MacFadden doesn’t do the film any favors either.
You only need to take a look at the shot at 1:14 in this trailer, Crites lazily tossed in the air after a trash can is rolled in their direction, to get a feel for where you should set your expectations for this film. To make matters worse, Critters 3 is pretty much bloodless with an insanely low body count. Oddly enough this leaves me with a desire to check out Critters 4, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen, to see if it improves matters at all.