This is an old favorite of mine, but seeing as this series has just been released on DVD recently, I feel like it deserves a review. It is a fine mix of B-Horror and Science Fiction that includes a great cast, and some great laughs as well.
The story begins when a group of small, furry, carnivorous creatures from another galaxy escape their holding cell on an alien planet while waiting for termination. The creatures, called “Krites,” hijack a spaceship and proceed to flee the planet/galaxy, only to be followed by two shape-shifting bounty hunters. As luck would have it, the Krites decide to stop for a bite to eat on Earth, picking a small farm in Kansas as their landing/feeding grounds.
Strange things begin to happen on the Brown family’s farm over the course of the night. Cattle wind up dead, apparently eaten from the inside-out. Strange pairs of red, glowing eyes appear in the darkness outside. Finally, when the power cuts out, Dad decides to check the fuse box in the basement, where he comes in contact with the Krites, who manage to trap the small family in thier home to fight for their lives. But the bounty hunters aren’t far behind, and they won’t stop until the “Critters” are eradicated!
Stephen Herek does a wonderful job directing the film. He manages to balance the humor and the scares without coming off as cheesy or ridiculous. This is most likely in part a result of the fine cast he has to work with. Dee Wallace Stone (of such horror-fan favorites “The Howling” and “Cujo”) gives another great performance here as Mom, while Scott Grimes effectively plays her son Brad, the small hero of the film. Other notable performances include Don Opper’s role as Charlie, the town drunk who nobody believes when he sees the Krites’ ship land, and one of Billy Zane’s (of Demon Knight) early roles of the daughter’s boyfriend Steve, who meets an amusing demise. And Terrance Mann is hilarious as the bounty hunter who morphs into the visage of fictional 80’s-metal god Johnny Steele.
The film’s effects are also pulled off very well by the Chiodo Brothers, who many will recognize as the team behind the cult-favorite “Killer Klowns From Outer Space.” While not as intricate and wonderful as their work in the sequel to the movie (which amazingly surpasses the greatness of the original), they still manage some of the most delightful physical effects of 80’s. Surprisingly, for a PG-13 movie, they even manage a fair amount of blood and gore. Even if it isn’t as graphic as many of the films of that era, I find it hard to believe that a movie could manage that rating with today’s MPAA restrictions in place.
All in all, I would highly recommend “Critters” to any fan of the genre. It’s an underappreciated gem in the history of horror. And with a $14.99 price tag, and widely distributed releases, it is finally easily accessable to all.
*Note: On the DVD, if you press “right” on your remote while the “Play Movie” feature is highlighted (on the main menu), you can access a hidden alternate ending for the film!