Wednesday, October 9, 2013

MR:Quickies Critters series

Rolling In For Halloween!

The monsters come out at night to hack and slash in these HORRIFIC reviews!

Here is the Critters series for today!

What's that, you might ask? A pretty awesome obscure film series I'd answer you back.

Not that far from Gremlins, and certainly more in tune with the first one. It's like a twisted darker and sillier take on the whole American monster genre*.

You know the genre, small town finds alien invader. Survivors band together to fight off the monster. A B-movie staple!

The original Critters was released to profit from the rising popularity of the genre in the late 80s. Thanks to the popularity of Gremlins, mischievous creatures were released on theater all the years following Joe Dante's 1984 original such as Ghoulies (1985), Troll (1986) Munchies (1987) or also Hobgoblins (1988).

Critters actually pre-dated Gremlins, the film was written long before Gremlins but it was finally put into production without a doubt due to the success of Dante's film. Even though the crew tried to reduce the similarities to distance both films.

The Critters series took a different route by following the darker path from the original Gremlins instead of the comedy and sticking to the horror genre... more or less.

This film series follow lil' aliens from outer space known as the "Krites" in the film. Bounty hunters from space are hunting them as they fall on Earth... and start eating and breeding, before they can lie eggs and overrun the planet!

The first one was a straight horror film, but later installments have some elements of horror/comedy and veer on the science-fiction genre.

*and by that I mean movies like Tremors. Not kaiju/giant monsters type.

Movie title: Critters 
Directed by Stephen Herek
Release date 1986
Genre horror/monster movie

The story begins on an asteroid. The Krites - semi-intelligent sentient creatures - escape from a prison, killing several guards.

They hijack a spaceship and disappear in the depths of space. They hire two shape-shifting bounty hunters to hunt them down and destroy the creatures.

They have to avoid the Krites from spreading again!

Back on Earth, we meet the Brown family. They live in rural Kansas.

At night the kid sees a comet falling from the sky... it actually turns out to be the ship from earlier!

The Krites start devouring the cattle.

People disappear. The police gets involved. And it all culminates at the farm, overrun by the Krites!

Let's just say dynamite and homemade molotov cocktails won't be enough to stop this invasion!

Finally, the two bounty hunters arrive on the scene.

They leave Earth at the end, once the monsters put to stop... but not without leaving some eggs behind!!

Overall: The original Critters was written by Stephen Herek and is his directional debut as well.

It's a fun original take on the whole invasion/monster movie genre, with all the usual tropes from the horny teenagers getting killed to pure hearted people surviving to the end. But what makes it so fun is that the usual giant creature or shape-shifting alien is little cute hedgehog-like critters (pun intended).

David Newman composed the score as well as the very catchy Critters theme song used in most of the sequels.

Really, it's a fun great little movie.

Very creative, with a great use of practical effects and simple puppetry.

Kind of like a Gremlins without a Gizmo - monsters let loose killing without reason!

They roll and chew and eat their way through an entire town! What will they do next time!?

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Critters 2 aka Critters 2: The Main Course
Directed by Mick Garris    
Release date 1988
Genre horror comedy/monster movie

In space, we meet Charlie McFadden again, he was the mechanic from first film. Now with the two bounty hunters Ug and Lee.

They just killed some worm-creatures. After that job, our trio is told the Krites are still on Earth! And they need to be destroyed ASAP!

Charlie's not super fond of going back to the planet after 2 years. He fears his new bounty hunters friends might leave him behind.

As soon as they arrive, the Krites start wrecking havoc in town!

The eggs from the first film hatched all over Charlie's hometown.

They overrun the town with the sheer number, the people in town try to come up with a plan to face the creatures at a local burger joint.

The Krites join together and form a huge Krite-ball rolling towards the church!

Charlie uses Ug's spaceship to destroy them once and for all, sacrificing himself in the process.

Ug who had reverted back to his alien form decide to honor Charlie by shape-shifting into Charlie in his memory.

In the end, it is shown Charlie actually survived and simply decided to stay on Earth.

Overall: Critters 2: The Main Course was directed by Mick Garris, written by Garris and David Twohy.

This sequel ventures into a more comedy/horror direction such as several horror films at the time such as Evil Dead 2. There's still plenty of gore, only now there are more one liners and visual jokes.

Actors Terrence Mann and Don Keith Opper came back as Ug and Charlie McFadden respectively.

It's a fun sequel if less original since it's a quick follow-up. It almost feels kind of like a remake of the first film, like many horror movies tend to do.

At least they make up for it with a lot creativity regarding the creatures and some great special effects.

There's some nudity in this film despite it having a PG-13 rating! But, hey, what did you expect? It's a B-movie alright.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Critters 3 aka Critters 3: You Are What They Eat 
Directed by Kristine Peterson
Release date 1991
Genre horror comedy/monster movie

After the events of the past film, we find Charlie now tracking down the last Krites left around town.

We are then introduced to a new family of three - Annie, her brother Johnny and her dad Clifford. On their way to their new Los Angeles apartment they stop for a second.

Charlie tries to alert them, but alas! It's too late.

These folks carry the last egg under their van without their notice.

They take it with them in the city, the egg hatch and soon it starts attacking the landlord and other people around.

Residents in the building are taken one after the other.

They try to reach the roof to escape to the other buildings.

Charlie saves the day.

As he is about to destroy the last two eggs, a spacepod sent from the "Intergalactic Council" arrive on the scene to collect the last specimens.

Charlies is trapped himself inside by accident...!

Overall: It's a fun change of pace (but wait until the last one for that..).

It's a much cheaper film, now clearly a full-on sci-fi B-movie.

At least it was nice not having it take place in the town of Grover's Bend anymore.

Critters 3 is still a pretty fun film. With some pretty hilarious and memorable scenes in the apartment.

It is also notable for featuring Leonardo DiCaprio's debut!

The film was shot back to back with the sequel Critters 4 actually. Hence the cliffhanger at the end!

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Critters 4 aka Critters 4: They're Invading Your Space 
Directed by Rupert Harvey
Release date 1992
Genre science-fiction/horror/monster movie

This one picks up where the last film left.

Charlie was disposing of the remaining eggs in a pod. But ends up cryogenically frozen along the creatures, for preservation!

Now after a long hibernation, Charlie finds himself in the year 2045!!

The crew of a ship find his pod, left adrift. Due to the old logo on the pod, they contact their parent Terracorp company. The Council directs them to a nearby Terracorp station to await the answer for some help in this situation.

A man gets impatient and open up the pod early. It lets loose the Krites aboard the station.

Charie finds out this is no longer 1992!

The Krites are now in their adult form already, wrecking havoc where they roam free.

Ug comes back, now a corrupt businessman since we last saw him(!!). With his old friend turned a traitor, there's but only one solution.

Charlie starts a self-destruct sequence.

They find a room full of genetically modified Krites.

The station falls from the sky, crashing back to Earth...

Overall: It's a rather unusual installment.. but a fairly standard routine in B-movies. They always end up taking long-running series either in space or into the past.

I equally like as much Critters 3 and 4 for different reasons. I know people tend to either call one or the other one the worst in the series. 3 offered a nice upgrade from the small town, a change of setting and a new cast with plenty of gore and humor. While 4 opts for a radical change of the formula and great minimalist special effects even if on a small scale of a confined space.

It is also a return to a much darker tone despite the silly premise. This one offers very little jokes except some black humor here and there.

Taking place in space. In space!! Pure science-fiction for the final film so far. Well, they announced those critters weren't from Earth since day one afterall.

It also gives this sequel a nice sense of a claustrophobic environment, not having the creatures on Earth but aboard a space station! Also a defining element from these type of horror monster films.

Speaking of which, Critters 4 shared footage with the film Android (1982), as well as locations and the same "Terracorp" company, both produced by the same studio & crew. (setting it in the same shared universe?)

Worth mentioning is also Brad Dourif as the character "Al Bert", always fun.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

And that's it for this little franchise!

Generally speaking, it's a pretty decent series despite some flaws from the later two sequels.

A fifth film was never produced, although planned to several times. First, right after those two consecutive sequels and later by the end of the 1990s.

Thing is, both Critters 3 & 4 ended up losing a lot of money to the studio. They weren't as successful as the first two episodes, and despite their modest budget went mostly unnoticed.

A Critters 5 & 6 were originally supposed to follow up.

A teaser poster of Critters 5 was glimpsed in some video clubs and along so copies of the VHS in Europe.

A pitched storyline was supposed to have some new Krites eggs found in a box and mistaken as sporting goods. They would then end up in a baseball stadium, wrecking havoc and mayhem in that new location.

Another possible script or possibly the 6th final film would have brought them back to Grover Bend on Christmas season.

Will we get another episode some day, or yet another remake/reboot from Hollywood? Only time will tell. For now you can enjoy the complete series on home release, and for a pretty affordable price.

That's all for this time's Quickies!

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