Sunday, April 5, 2015

Review: Critters (1986)

Ah, the holidays. Regardless of religion, creed, belief structure, or cynical worldview, we all celebrate at a few. And when celebrating most any holiday there are two things you're likely doing: eating or getting shitfaced. Me, I used to save my getting shitfaced for either just prior or after the holiday passed entirely. But, if you're not old enough to drink and regret the many questionable decisions made in your life, I can most assuredly bet you are binging on food.

Who needs a healthy social life or love and companionship when you've got copious amounts of food?
Why am I talking about eating so much food that Adam Richman would tell you to slow down? Because this movie is about some alien creatures who celebrate holidays every single day...hour...minute... They actually tend to prefer to never stop eating, honestly. So what happens when such creatures end up on Earth? Well, let's just say that our buffets might not be big enough for these appetites. They're so obsessed with food, I'm frankly surprised John Pinette was never in one of these films.

I'm sure he could've stood up to the Crites with gusto. Or he at least could've been hilarious right before being eaten.
Our film opens up in a space prison, where the evil little carnivorous porcupines escape, prompting the space powers-that-be to hire two well known bounty hunters to hunt them down to exterminate their obvious threat. And because space loves to crap deadly things here, the Crites land on Earth where they set out to look for some tasty viddles. Meanwhile, at a farm in Kansas, the Brown family are living a perfectly idealistic country life. Honestly, I hate living in the country and I look at their life here and find myself envious. Well...envious of the before part, anyway. Not so much of what comes later. There are quite enough things that can eat me here in Florida without wishing for aliens with never-ending appetites.

Although Harley from Dinosaur Dracula seems alright. I'd party with him. Maybe he'd rough up Ghaleon for me.
So, you've got the lovely Brown family: Jay (dad), Helen (mom), April (teenage daughter), and Brad (the younger son). You also have their farmhand/mechanic, Charlie McFadden. He's also known as the local drunk. Me? I know him as being strangely handsome for the obligatory dopey sidekick character. I mean that too. I really think Don Keith Opper should've been leading man material, but instead he never really got that. I salute you, Mr. Opper. You will always be one of my favourite horror heroes. But Charlie isn't really a hero yet at this point. He's still just the second banana guy, hanging out with young Brad because the kid is one of the few people who doesn't make fun of him. People are assholes like that. Brad here is actually our hero, following in the footsteps of the Goonies...only with a lot more people being eaten alive.

Not to mention the bad-ass shape-shifting alien bounty hunters. The Goonies didn't have those either.
Brad is your basic kid, but he's got a heart of gold. Charlie accidentally shoots April with Brad's slingshot, for example, and Brad says he did it so Charlie doesn't get fired. Meanwhile, Dennis the Menace probably would've pinned the crime on his friend Joey, then proceeded to run from the enraged Mr .Wilson before he dragged him off to his basement to teach him the sport of "buttball".

No one ever saw the tow-haired child ever again...and all rejoiced.
Brad, of course, gets grounded and April goes off to fool around in the barn with her very own charming Billy Zane, because who wouldn't? But our young hero tries sneaking out just as he and his father (and a far off Charlie) spot the Crites landing on Earth in the distance. Jay catches Brad directly afterward, but rather than scolding him, the two go off to check things out. They find some devoured cattle that some of Harley's distant cousins who are much less friendly got to. This prompts the father to make the intelligent decision to not fuck with anything eating steer without first having a proper weapon handy. Cue the horny local cop who only exists to get eaten!

He definitely hoped he'd be on the menu in an entirely different way.
After he gets eaten, Helen gets spooked by some Crite eyes peeking in on her, and things start to get serious because....Billy Zane gets eaten. Say it isn't so! Not Billy Zane! Couldn't they have eaten the annoying daughter instead? Isn't that how we all get our kicks in 1980s horror films? Watching horny teenage girls die? Ah well, at least he got to star in some good movies later on...and some questionable ones. Not to be forgotten, the bounty hunters also show up, following the trail of destruction through the town, with them both picking faces (Ug picks the face of a rock star and Lee turns into the dead cop). The weird thing about Lee though is that he can't quite settle on a face, often changing appearance (including wearing the face of the ever handsome Mr. Opper).

You can't fault him for having good taste.
While that's going on, our heroes at the farm are having a really bad night. The father gets bitten, the mother gets stuck with quills, the daughter witnesses her Billy Zane die, and Brad has to prove the gingers can save the day from deadly porcupines. Eventually, Brad escapes the house and runs to get help, finding the bounty hunters and letting them know he's got a Crite infestation at his house. The hapless sheriff follows the trail of the hunters, getting there in time to see them fighting off the Crites. He wisely opts to let them do their thing while he tries to take the family to safety. But, as April is a teenage girl in a horror film who has cliche stamped firmly on her forehead, she gets taken by a very large Crite. The bugger plans to have her as a travel snack, it seems. Brad and Charlie both go after them, saving April and throwing a homemade explosive into the ship as it is taking off. The Crite takes the time to blow up the Brown family's house before then blowing up, leaving a rather sizable mess to be cleaned.

The Crites being messy is kind of a recurring theme in this series.
With the threat put down, the hunters decide to vamoose, but not before giving Brad a device that he can use to call them if them need him again. It also has the ability to magically fix the farm, saving everyone a lot of work and hassle. Those bounty hunters sure are nice whatevers. Charlie runs off after the hunters and our story comes to a close, revealing to the audience that there are Crite eggs in the barn. And how very appropriate too, since the next film actually takes place around and on Easter. Because nothing reminds of the values of Christ like watching small creatures devour innocent people.

At least they can't kill poor Billy Zane again.
As a movie, it's quite entertaining, being one of the more notable films to try and do the Gremlins formula. I mentioned another such film in the past that was much less successful in this area. But Critters works by toeing that fine line between horror and comedy, having some great looking little monsters and some interesting (if a bit generic) characters. This movie even scared me as a kid thanks to my cats rolling around on the floor while I was sleeping there, running into me and causing me to fear being devoured by Crites. Yep, that really happened and my parents can attest to it. Even so, I watched it a lot as a kid and still include it in my yearly viewing schedule around this time of year (usually accompanied by its sequels). It's worth watching, even as aged as it is. So, until Ug shows up to take me on an adventure with Charlie, I'll be here searching for eggs that may or may not have aliens inside of them. Later days, bleeders.

Also, remember to never challenge this man to bowling. It will end badly.

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