Critters Attack(2019)(Review)[Weirdo Wednesday]
The final Critters movie in the series came out in 1992 and was met by both poor ratings and poor sales performance as a straight-to-video release. 25 years later, New Line Cinemas has given the series a chance at redemption. Critters Attack! is a film that takes the basic formula of the first 2 films in the series and attempts to duplicate them while putting emphasis on the things that made the original fun. Director Bobby Miller embraced the use of practical puppets, minimal CGI effects, and a basic storyline that let the on-screen fun take precedence.
For those unfamiliar with the Critters franchise, it revolves around an alien species called The Krites who in the first film escape from a maximum security galactic prison. From there, they hijack a spaceship and crash land into Earth in the middle of Kansas where they then wreak havoc on a small farm in the middle of nowhere. As the film unfolds, we begin to learn that they are a carnivorous species with an unfillable hunger. They are equipped with venomous quills which they fire like tranquilizer darts to subdue and put their prey to sleep for an easy feast. Although they are only about a foot or two tall and only come up to a regular adult’s knee, they attack in packs, and their teeth are extremely sharp. They also have a high level of intelligence and awareness, which makes them all the more terrifying than your typical monster-movie predators.
In Critters Attack!, we are introduced to Drea; a 20-year-old that takes on a babysitting job for a college professor of a university she wishes to one day attend. On the night she is scheduled to work, The Krites have crashlanded nearby in a field. Her younger brother Phillip observes this with his telescope, but the news of his discovery is greeted with immediate skepticism by both his sister and their Uncle (who they live with due to the untimely death of their mother). During this conversation, Philip catches wind that Drea is babysitting a girl he has a crush on, and so he decides to tag along.
Once our two main characters meet the two kids they are responsible for (a pre-teen girl named Trissy and a text-only-for-conversation boy named Jake), it doesn’t take long for Drea to realize that she has no idea how to entertain these children. It doesn’t help that Phil becomes a mindless idiot once he’s face to face with his crush – only responding to support whatever she says and not adding any conversation or ideas on his own behalf. To combat the awkwardness of the situation, Trissy suggests they all go for a picnic to which everybody is on board. Unknowingly, they go out for a picnic right near the site of the UFO crash. From there, the story kind of turns into a backdrop for the rest of the film, letting the violence and carnage of the Krites take center stage.
Keeping in line with practicality, the director approached this film knowing the right formula to use. He stuck with real animatronic puppets, lots of blood and gore, a bit of humor, and a story that didn’t require the viewer to have any real prior information. You can walk into this movie as your first Critters film and have sufficient amount of information to be able to follow along and get the experience. The only thing you’d really be missing out on is a deeper comprehension of the lore and where the Krites come from (which honestly is not all that important – we’re talking about a monster/alien movie, after all).
The puppets are newly designed and updated, but they are just as scary as they were back in the ‘80s. The Chiodo Brothers are absent from this entry but the team that inherited the torch did their research and it shows. They are scary when they stand, their faces are animated to almost uncomfortably uncanny levels, they roll and shoot poisonous quills, and their glowing red eyes still strike fear when seen in the darkness - (this was the shot I was personally most excited and terrified to see reiterated).
Critters Attack! does not offer too much expansion for the story, except for the introduction of an all-white female Krite named Bianca. Her presence and purpose is kept a mystery until the last 20 minutes of the film, and she adds a bit of balance and mediation with our characters. They directly interact with her, and off the bat she gives the impression that she isn’t as hungry as the rest of them. Minus this one addition, the film is more so a “rinse, lather, repeat” exercise of the others in the entry – which in my opinion was a great choice. Instead of convoluting this film with a loophole-ridden extension of story, or going into a direction that could have offended returning fans, the director chose to give the audience exactly what they wanted. What we got is a Critters film that has the heart of the originals but updated for a modern audience.
Now, I loved this movie, but I will admit to its obvious flaws. The characters are hollow and their dialogue reads out like a children’s storybook. They don’t endure complicated situations that require a great deal of thinking to resolve, there is no real resolution on their character’s growth, nor do they really learn anything during this process. They simply exist in the world and this is the events of a random night in their lives. Some of the jokes fall flat and often times it can be obvious what is going to happen and to whom. Worst of all is the absence of the lovable intergalactic bounty hunters from all of the previous films. Instead, we get Dee Wallace making a cameo appearance in their absence to fill their shoes – a part that required a total of 15 minutes of screen time but chopped and scattered throughout the entire film to add her inclusion. I missed Ug & Charlie; Dee’s character (whose character is an unacknowledged cameo of her character from the first film with a different name) feels like she only exists as a shout out to fans of the first film and to have a star’s name among the billing. That being said however, none of this hindered my enjoyment of this film. Critters films have always had a campy feel to them, and this one is no different.
When you compare this to the television series that Verizon and Shudder presented to us a few months ago, this film is respectful of its source material and its audience. That television show should be removed, all evidence of it destroyed, and its memories lacerated from everyone’s consciousness.
Coming back to it though, Critters Attack! is as straight-forward of a monster movie as they come. The characters serve as fodder for deaths, the body count is amped up in comparison to the others in the series, and the monsters are the forefront of our onscreen time. This is exactly what a new Critters movie should have been. The film is rated R for “bloody creature violence,” and nothing more. You could realistically watch this with the family (granted your family is not offended by violence) due to a lack of profanity and sexual content. Here’s to hoping this release does well enough financially to warrant another entry to this series.
In Conclusion: This movie satisfied every one of my Critters cravings. It isn’t a breakthrough in the series or in the genre itself, but it pays homage to what made the earlier films fun and scary. I had been anticipating this release for months, and I agree that the director ticked off every box in the repertoire. It isn’t perfect, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t laugh and enjoy my time.
Did I enjoy it on my first visit? Absolutely.
Would I go back for seconds? Already did – I watched this film two nights in a row. I was ecstatic about it being the Critters movie I’ve wanted for years, and I plan to add this into my go-to rotation.
Would I recommend it? Yes to both degrees. For fans of the franchise, it’s a delightful return. The director was respectful of our desires, but did just enough to warrant a reboot occurring at all. For new fans, it has enough content and story to pull you in and make you care just enough to ignore the obvious flaws and enjoy the ride for what it is – a blood-splattered buffet for carnivorous aliens.
Final Rating: 4.5/5
'Til Next Time, Mike Cleopatra