I started out my October Halloween binge by watching Critters (1986). I spent most-of my childhood judging horror by the cover of the VHS tape in the local video store. Critters was the one movie I was always attracted to because the furry Aliens look like they should be my pet even though they’re intergalactic carnivores that like to jump on people and bite them with their many rows of teeth.
The story goes that these cute furry Aliens named Crites escape imprisonment, hijack a spaceship, and head to earth. They crash land on a farmer’s property and end up terrorizing the family. Bounty hunters from another planet have followed the critters to Earth and have been transformed into humans with amazing 80’s hair.
The movie has been compared to Gremlins, especially since they have the same director, Stephen Harek, but I think that Gremlins and Critters are two distinctly different movies. Still, I understand the comparison since they both don’t really have that horror vibe and they feature creatures meant-to scare but can easily come off as adorable. According to Harek, the Critters script was written before Gremlins and ended up needing extensive editing to make the two different.
There are 4 Critter movies in the franchise, and I think all of them are gems of the 80’s. The first one is filled with the flimsy horror logic that makes me question why the characters would even make the choices they do, or the writers for that matter and in re-watching it now, I enjoyed the movie so much more.
It looks like Critters will be a web series soon headed to the streaming network go90 so it will be fun to see if they’re going to make it just as campy or if it will become a serious rendition. I’m rooting for something comedic even though I prefer to watch the original films.
Here’s a list of takeaways from re-watching the 80’s classic:
1. The Crites are about 12 inches tall furry with short stubby hands but somehow can hijack a spaceship and fly it into Earth. They’re also able to cut the phone lines at the Brown family house raising two essential questions: How do these Aliens know the importance of a phone line and how are their stubby asses so nimble?
2. The inspiration for the alien shapeshifters that are charged with capturing the Crites is this rock band that is so Bon Jovi circa 1985.
3. Which brings me to the rock band which is soooo awesomely 80’s. They show up several times on TV during the movie singing whatever their hit song is.
4. The Critters manage to get the father when he comes down into the basement to check the fuse box. With one on his leg and another on his shoulder, he barely escapes with the help of his family back into the house. But when the Critters end up in the barn where the daughter is busy trying to do her Boyfriend, she screams, and the parents hear her and barely flinch. Is the daughter not important enough? Her kid brother runs out to the barn while the wounded father and the perfectly fine mom stay back.
5. The Boyfriend is played by the amazing Billy Zane and doesn’t make it in the barn.
6. There’s a part when the family tries to hop in their car to escape, and there’s one singular Critter sitting in the driver’s seat. They all scream and head for the house. But the Critters are easy to hurt if you do it at a distance. The problem is when they latch on. I would have squashed that Critter like a bug and high tailed it out of there, but then I guess there wouldn’t have been much of a story, huh?
7. The favorite part that made me cackle: Mom gets a hold of a shotgun and the family heads into the house to barricade themselves in. Outside the front door, one critter tells the other that the humans have weapons. The other critter replies with, “So what.” And I agreed, they clearly had the upper hand. That’s when Mom opens the door and shoots the cocky critter right in the head. Epic.
8. The hunters don’t exactly fit in in the small town although they fit the Era. They look like 80’s rock stars dressed in some otherworldly leather outfits, and this is a very small town. Their search for the Critters leads them to walk through a bowling alley, with everyone’s eyes clearly on them. Instead of going about their business, one of them picks up a bowling ball and hurls it towards the pins exploding the set for a strike. And I had to look deep into myself and ask why? The answers never came.
9. It’s a very small and possibly considered a weak plot point, but I loved that the kid, Brad, was written in as mischievous with a penchant for firecrackers and explosives. The tie-in is that they were able to defeat the Critters with some explosive action making the parents regret that they ever bothered the kid.
What are your thoughts on Critters the movie? Comment below or message me here ->