Stephen Herek’s “Critters” is a fun and gory horror science fiction film that knows exactly what kind of movie it is. It’s neat a mix of a monster movie and a tongue in cheek action sci-fi movie. As well it delights in doling out a lot of gruesome kills and fun nuggets of very light comedy that will arouse some chuckles, but never ruin the momentum of the movie. Up in the space in a prison space ship, the Krites have managed to escape their cells and are now on the run. They’ve taken hold of a ship of their own and are headed for Earth. The alien overlords hire two skilled bounty hunters with blank faces, urging them to find the krites before they reach Earth and wreak incomprehensible havoc on the population. With the bounty hunters on their tails, the Krites have crash land on a farm in the middle of a rural town in Kansas.
The Krites (aka “The Critters”) are small fuzzy black monsters that look like a terrible mix of a piranha, a porcupine, and a hedgehog. What’s worse they can communicate with one another and they have a vicious appetite. When the Brown family finds the creatures, figuring out that they’re eating local livestock and random town folks, the critters set their sights on the Brown family. The Browns are now stuck in their farm house doing battle with the monsters, while son Brad looks for a way to stop them using his wits and quick thinking. Just his luck he stumbles in to the pair of bounty hunters, both of whom are armed with huge cannons and they begin doing battle as Brad struggles to keep his family safe. A lot of “Critters” is still shockingly entertaining, despite being so of its decade. There’s a great cameo from ET when the Critters are wreaking havoc, a fun visual reference to “Ghostbusters.”
In one of the funnier moments, when the bounty hunters have to change their faces to fit human form, one of the hunters end up taking the appearance of local rock star Johnny Steele. Terrence Mann is very good in the role of bounty hunter Ug, and director Herek makes it so abundantly humorous that this intergalactic bounty hunter takes on the form of a rock star with large blow dried hair. The second bounty hunter has a tough time finding its own face, prompting a lot of unusual gags, including one when it transforms in to a local preacher. The cast do a bang up job, including Dee Wallace, Scott Grimes, and M. Emmett Walsh. There’s even a neat walk on role by a very young Billy Zane. The critters are a fun monster, and they provide a very grim threat to the small family in the film, attack them from all corners and intending to evolve beyond their status of small monsters.
The battle becomes ever more harrowing when Brad learns the critters are growing in to human size proportions and he has to work fast before they get bigger. “Critters” is supposed to be New Line Cinema’s answer to “Gremlins,” and while it’s not quite as iconic as the aforementioned film, it’s still a simple, fun monster movie with some great visuals a charming self awareness.