The Critters Collection: Critters Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Stephen Herek
Written by Domonic Muir and Stephen Herek
1986, 86 minutes, Rated PG-13
Released on November 27th, 2018
Dee Wallace Stone as Helen Brown
M. Emmet Walsh as Harv
Billy Green Bush as Jay Brown
Scott Grimes as Brad Brown
Nadine Van Der Velde as April Brown
Don Opper as Charlie McFadden
Terrence Mann as Johnny Steele/ Ug
Billy Zane as Steve Elliot
The sleepy Kansas town of Grover’s Bend is about to get a rude awakening, as aliens are coming from outer space - and they are hungry! The Browns live on the outskirts of town on their isolated farm. Helen and Jay and their teenage children Brad and April are your typical, happy American family. The tight-knit community enjoys its lack of activity and likes things peaceful. Charlie McFadden, the town drunk, has been warning of an alien invasion for years and finally his worst fears are about to be realized with the arrival of an intergalactic menace. Far, far away, the Crites (aka Critters) have escaped their prison transport and stolen a spaceship to cause mayhem across the galaxy. Two bounty hunters are on their trail, following them to Earth where they must be stopped before they can feed. The Crites land near the Brown farm and begin closing in on the family homestead. First they take out the phone lines and then they cut the power before they launch their full assault on the farmhouse.
April has snuck off to the barn with her boyfriend Steve for some private time and they are unaware of the invasion. First dad is attacked in the cellar and then the barn comes under siege. Brad rescues April and helps get the family to safety inside the house. From here it is just a matter of moving from room to room avoiding the terrifying alien creatures. The bounty hunters are not far behind and cause a lot of damage around the town as they hunt for the Critters before getting the tip about the Brown farm. This is where they will make their final stand to restore order to the galaxy.
Critters is a fun throwback to the classic monster movies of the 1950s. The titular creatures are furry little devils that roll like tumbleweeds to pursue their targets. They start off as small fuzz balls and steadily grow into larger beasties. Their main distinguishing feature is the size of their mouths, loaded with rows of tiny razor sharp teeth. These are little eating machines that are of singular purpose and prove virtually unstoppable in number. The movie came out in 1986 in the wake of Gremlins (1984) and appears to be a riff on the cute little creature motif that was a proven success. Unlike its predecessor, however, Critters is primarily a horror movie and does a lot to set up the scares that it delivers in the second half.
Director Stephen Herek (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) keeps things fresh in this salute to vintage horror of a bygone era. Domonic Muir’s story, co-written for the screen with Herek, carries all of the typical scary movie clichés, including dead phone lines and power outages, but does so knowingly. They take the familiar and inject it with new energy. The ensemble cast works really well together and audiences will be rooting for them to survive this ordeal. Dee Wallace Stone (The Howling) stars as Helen Brown, the matriarch of the family who holds things together around the house. She is the quintessential 1980s movie mom and fills the role with ease. The other marquee name here is M. Emmet Walsh (Blood Simple) as Harv, the small-town sheriff unwilling to buy into this “aliens” story. Harv is a grumpy man who likes his routine and is none too happy when the bounty hunters show up.
Billy Green Bush (Jason Goes to Hell) plays farmer and family man Jay Brown, a no-nonsense guy doing his best to provide for his family. He also does a fine job and plays really well in intense scenarios featuring little monsters. Scott Grimes (Party of Five) is Brad, our young protagonist who does a surprising amount of heavy lifting. As a testament to his acting, he remains instantly likeable in a role that could have been really annoying in lesser hands. Don Opper (Black Moon Rising) is Charlie McFadden, the town drunk and best friend to young Brad. He provides comic relief and is a sympathetic character. The bounty hunters are led by Terrence Mann (Solarbabies) as Ug, an alien who takes his likeness from a popular musician. Our young couple in love are played by Nadine Van Der Velde (Munchies) as April Brown and Billy Zane (Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight) in an early role as Steve Elliot. He doesn’t get much to do, but is a charismatic addition to the cast. Genre fans should keep an eye out for the ever-popular Lin Shaye (The Midnight Man) as Sally the police dispatcher.
The titular creatures were designed after the Warner Brothers cartoon character the Tasmanian devil and created by the highly talented Chiodo brothers (Killer Klowns from Outer Space). Critters balances the scares and the laughs in this PG-13 family-friendly horror film. Domonic Muir and Stephen Herek perfectly nail the tone of the story and keep things moving at a brisk pace. Herek’s directorial debut is a strong one and he has gone on to enjoy a lengthy career in the industry. This film knows exactly what kind of movie it is and embraces it. It’s just a fun ride meant to entertain, and it does so to the best of its abilities.