Critters (1986)

Sometimes I really think I was ripped off when I was growing up.

It seems as if everyone else in my age group watched Goonies and Ghoulies and they all went on to have perfectly normal lives. They all have the same social signifiers to chat about; everyone stays happy.

Instead, I watched Troll and Critters growing up. No less influential for me, as the Crites were designed by the Chiodo Brothers, the same brothers behind the amazingly awesome Killer Klowns from Outer Space, and the barn that plays a central part in the film’s action could’ve been taken straight out of Spaced Invaders. Unfortunately everyone seems to love the horrid Troll 2, riding high on the cred a documentary bestowed upon it.

10 minutes into Critters, we’ve had space ship laser battles, an alien who looks suspiciously like an overweight Twi’lek from George Lucas’ quadrant of time/space, two more aliens, the bounty hunters Ug (Terrence Mann) and uh, Jeff (Ethan Phillips), who have featureless, day-glo green heads, and the obligatory red-headed brat, Bradley (Scott Grimes), who drops the “s-word” at breakfast. (Critters was rated PG-13, and thus could get two shits into its svelte 86 minute run-time.) We’re also treated to a music video by Johnny Steele, the poor man’s Richard Marx, “Power of the Night,” which, according to its youtube comments, is quite popular.

No doubt due to the Johnny Steele band’s exceptional integration. Six band members: three male and three female! Take that, Zibahkhana and your backwards gender roles!

The fence set leading into the farm is a total throwback to 1953’s Invaders from Mars for the sci-fi nerd crowd, and a young, and not bald, Billy Zane playing a hunky, rich kid for the ladies. This film has everything covered.

Maybe I can’t blame this film for my life…

The Chiodo Brothers continue on their creature designing win streak. The Crites are lean, mean, helium-voiced mumbling hedgehog-sized machines. They’re can shoot paralyzing poison darts right off their backs, and their faces’ are 85% teeth. Sharp, pointy teeth. Plus, they’re smart enough to chew up the farm’s phone lines before beginning their assault.

Did I mention that the first thing we learn about them is they’ll happily cannibalize each other if forced to?

Critters was criticized when it came out as a Gremlins cash-in, but, Jesus, did you read that description above? They’re like Gremlins on steroids, and who wouldn’t love Gremlins on steroids?

Nadine Van der Velde is certainly no Phoebe Cates, but Ug and Jeff and are so much cooler than Gremlins’ Zach. Jeff steals a dead cop’s face for his human disguise! I can’t honestly tell if doing that would be honoring the dead by taking the fallen cop’s form to avenge him, or sacrilege as a form of post-mortem identity theft.

The bounty hunters blow up a church too, for absolutely no reason, and they’re the good guys!

This might be the only film in cinema history to have a 12 year-old boy, brandishing a double-barrel shotgun, trip and fall while firing said shotgun, and make the PSA waiting to happen into a heroic moment when the accidentally blasted ceiling fan fall down and crush the Crite. I’m surprised the NRA’s PR department hasn’t appropriated this footage yet.

How anyone mistook this for a Gremlins clone is beyond me. Critters makes a mockery of the family structure circa 1980. The father (Billy Green Bush) is brutalized in front of the family he can’t protect; begrudgingly ceding that job over to his barely pubescent son. The daughter, April (Nadine Van der Velde), starts screwing around with her newest boyfriend while her parents are still home, and the heros (the bounty hunters) do nothing besides destroy a church and a bowling alley until the third act.

If Black Flag’s Damaged was ever made into a film, Critters would be how it looked.

A Crite mauls an E.T. doll, another Crite, hiding in the toilet a la Ghoulies, gets its comeuppance via a cannon turned penis shot (the cannon-cock even has an extending barrel!), and the family’s cat is named “Chewie.”

The bounty hunters come to Earth and trash it in their attempts to exterminate the Crites. Which is exactly what the film Critters does to Hollywood’s sci-fi/horror history; ripping it up and tearing it down.

—Need to Know More About the Crite Invasion?—

Critters 2: the Main Course

Critters 3

Critters 4

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