The Critters Collection: Critters 4 Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Rupert Harvey
Written by Joseph Lyle and David J. Schow
1992, 94 minutes, Rated PG-13
Angela Bassett as Fran
Brad Dourif as Al Bert
Paul Whithorne as Ethan
Don Opper as Charlie McFadden
Eric DaRE as Bernie
Terrence Mann as Ug
Anders Hove as Rick
In the year 2045, a small crew aboard a scavenger ship discovers an object floating in outer space. They claim their prize only to find it belongs to the Federation. Upon closer inspection it appears to be some sort of escape pod. They report it and are instructed to take it to a nearby space station and await pickup. They do as they are told only to arrive at a deserted facility. The ship’s captain is more interested in what’s inside the capsule than following orders to leave it alone and sneaks away to open it up. The cargo proves to be Charlie McFadden and two Critters eggs. Charlie meets the crew, who tells him he has been lost in space for over fifty years. He warns them about the Critters, which are soon roaming the corridors looking for food.
Our heroes’ ship is soon damaged and it becomes a race against time, as the space station has a faulty nuclear core that is ready to shut down (pronounced explode) in a matter of hours. The Critters do their thing and soon there are dead bodies piling up as our dwindling number of protagonists try to stay alive long enough to be rescued. There is a small number of Critters to contend with, but they are returned to the shadows where they once again become scary monsters. If this entire series is a riff on Gremlins, then Critters 4 adds a healthy dose of Alien into the mix.
Critters 4 is a much stronger film than the previous entry, but is faced with the same financial limitations. This time the action is moved to an isolated facility in space. The station is full of long corridors and rooms with plenty of hiding places for the little beasties. Franchise producer Rupert Harvey steps into the director’s chair for this final entry in the series and does a stellar job creating scares and suspense. He makes the most of his location and keeps things interesting and frequently claustrophobic. Screenwriters David J. Schow and Joseph Lyle developed a much darker story with a heavier tone than the rest of the films in this canon. This is a welcome addition that restores the energy missing from Critters 3.
The last movie gave us Leonardo DiCaprio and now we have a cast led by no less than Angela Bassett (Supernova). She stars as Fran, the no-nonsense co-pilot of the scavenger ship and proves quite resourceful when it comes to fighting monsters. The always-welcome Brad Dourif (Urban Legend) plays fellow crew member Al Bert, delivering another solid performance as we have come to expect in his career. Don Opper and Terrence Man are back once again as Charlie and Ug respectively, adding further continuity to the franchise. Eric DaRe (Twin Peaks) plays the pharmaceutically obsessed Bernie, a man who finds trouble easily. Genre fans will want to keep an eye out for Anders Hove (the Subspecies franchise) as Captain Rick, the bully in the bunch who plays a great antagonist.
Critters 4 marks a return to form and sends the series out on a high note with a solid script and strong performances. The special effects are pretty good and the Critters themselves remain fun to watch. This feels like a logical place to end the story and the filmmakers do a fine job wrapping things up. The franchise has been popular with fans of a certain age that discovered something both scary and entertaining. The original film was an unexpected hit that spawned three sequels and helped launch a lot of careers as the franchise grew. This is a fun series that exists simply to entertain. There are no deep messages or takeaways from these movies, just good old-fashioned fun.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and sporting a new 2K restoration of the original camera negative on the first two films, the picture looks pretty terrific. Colors are consistently strong and black levels solid. There is a lot of detail found throughout the entire series and this is the best these movies have ever looked.
Each film comes with a respectable DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track, the original in mono and the sequels all in stereo. Dialogue levels are clean and free from distortion and music cues are well-realized.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Each entry in the franchise receives its own disc, loaded with special features that fans will eagerly devour.
Disc 1: Critters
There are two audio commentaries on this disc, the first with producer Barry Opper and star Don Opper. The two brothers reflect on the making of the picture with a steady stream of production stories and not a lot of down time. This is an informative albeit a bit dry track that is worth a listen.
The second commentary comes courtesy of the Chiodo brothers (Charles, Edward and Stephen) and they reveal how they approached the material and how they pulled off certain gags. There is a lot of silence on this track, as they mostly have stuff to say only when the Critters are on camera. It’s too bad there is no moderator, as I’m sure these guys are filled with good stories.
The retrospective documentary They Bite! (71 minutes) is a thoroughly engaging piece that has a lot to say about the making of the original Critters. Actors Dee Wallace, Don Opper, Terrence Mann and Lin Shaye are on hand to discuss their work in the picture and everyone remembers the project fondly. The late writer Domonic Muir appears in an archival interview (2006) and reveals a lot of what went into making the movie happen. Producer Barry Opper tells about the nuts and bolts of getting the project in front of cameras and the Chiodo brothers provide tales of puppet design. Nearly all of the Critters scenes were shot by second unit director Mark Helfrich, and he shares war stories about the process. There are interviews with additional crew members that cover a lot of ground and make this a fully satisfying piece.
For Brian: Memories of Brian Domonic Muir (22 minutes) allows friends and fellow screenwriters the time to share some stories about their late friend who by all accounts was a great guy who died way too young. The segment is earnest and heartfelt and well worth your time.
The Chiodo brothers supply some behind-the-scenes footage (12 minutes) of Critter puppet testing. The material was shot on VHS and appears in the full frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio. This is some really interesting content and is a great addition to this release.
An alternate ending (4 minutes) is included and provides a look at the original downbeat finale.
The theatrical trailer and four TV spots provide a look at the marketing for the picture. It’s funny hearing them use the theme from A Nightmare on Elm Street in their ad campaign.
A still gallery (71 images) provides a look at international poster art, lobby cards, promotional stills and behind-the-scenes shots.
Disc 2: Critters 2
Michael Felsher (Red Shirt Pictures) hosts this commentary track with director Mick Garris, and this is always a good thing. Felsher asks open-ended questions and allows Garris the time to answer in full. There are no moments of extended silence and the information is pretty non-stop. This discussion is definitely worth a listen.
The Chiodo brothers reunite for an audio commentary track that starts off strong as they share some of the lessons they learned in approaching the sequel. They discuss specific gags and reflect on what worked and what didn’t. There are extended gaps of silence as they simply watch the film, but occasional comments spring up throughout the picture.
The Main Course (63 minutes) provides a solid look back at the making of Critters 2. Director Mick Garris provides additional information on his approach and his experience shooting the film. Actors Liane Curtis, Don Opper, Terrence Mann and Lin Shaye share stories of their work on the picture and producer Barry Opper is on hand to discuss his efforts getting the movie made. The Chiodo brothers reveal some secrets in making Critters and make-up artist R. Christopher Biggs (The Unnamable) talks about his work on some of the non-Critter f/x moments. This is another solid documentary that fans will certainly enjoy.
A collection of behind-the-scenes footage (24 minutes) provides a look at the making of the film. A faux TV news piece starts the featurette before moving on to traditional on-set material. We see construction of a lot of gags, especially the giant Critter ball.
Additional TV scenes (13 minutes) are presented here from a VHS source in full-screen 1.33:1 aspect ratio. These are simple scene extensions that pad the running time for the television broadcast.
The theatrical trailer is included along with a TV spot showcasing the marketing campaign.
A still gallery (38 images) reveals behind-the-scenes photographs, publicity shots and poster artwork.
Disc 3: Critters 3
Producer Barry Opper is joined by actor Don Opper for an audio commentary moderated by filmmaker Buz Wallick. Barry Opper dominates the track with numerous production stories and history. He has a lot to say about this shoot and the following picture shot concurrently.
You Are What They Eat (26 minutes) takes a look back at the making of the movie, featuring interviews with members of the cast and crew, including producer Barry Opper, screenwriter David J. Schow, cinematographer Thomas J. Callaway, actors Terrence Mann and Don Opper and Critters designers the Chiodo brothers. This featurette follows the template of the previous segments and provides a well-rounded history of the production.
The original theatrical trailer has been included, paired with a VHS promo spot.
A photo gallery (28 images) of promotional stills and international poster art plays as a silent slideshow.
Disc 4: Critters 4
Director Rupert Harvey contributes an all-new audio commentary hosted once again by Michael Felsher and this is another solid conversation. Harvey is absent from the documentaries appearing on these discs, so his thoughts here are more than welcome. He has a lot to say about the franchise as a whole and shares many production stories well worth a listen.
The making of Critters 4 is covered in the documentary Space Madness (23 minutes) with the same faces as the making of Critters 3. Participants include producer Barry Opper, screenwriter David J. Schow, cinematographer Thomas J. Callaway, actors Don Opper and Terrence Mann and Critters creators the Chiodo brothers. Everyone has nice things to say, but it feels like they were ready to end things with this installment.
The original theatrical trailer has been included.
A still gallery (39 images) of production photographs and international poster art plays as a silent slideshow.
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