Critters 4 (1992)

critters-4-post

Sometimes it’s hard to believe just how unbelievably lucky we 80s babies had it. Disco was dead. The slasher film genre was in full-bloom. And the mythical, magical Brothers Chiodo birthed the Critters; to-date, their most successful offering. The Crites, in turn, gave humanity three more grifts: Billy Zane, Leonardo DiCaprio, and the use of space stations as a valid haunting spot.

Outer space, where modern franchises go to die, first became a cinematic graveyard when the Crites took it by storm in ’92. Without Critters 4 there would be no Leprechaun 4: in Space, nor Jason X.

Even more mind-boggling is how the DVD release of Critters 4 has its “original theatrical trailer,” despite the fact that both 3 and 4 were filmed at the same time, for the home video market!

Critters 4 - Crite Hunting

At the end of Critters 3, bumbling bounty hunter Charlie (Don Keith Opper) is stopped before he can exterminate the last two Crite eggs in existence. There’s some kind of intergalactic mandate that prevents the extinction of any species; even the ones with poisonous, paralytic quills. An interesting point, since it makes the film’s true “bad guy” the interstellar equivalent of the USA’s Fish and Wildlife Service or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In a short six years, Critters’ directorial thrust has shifted from championing the plight of the farmers to ridiculing the Endangered Species Act! Unfortunately, during those same years, Critters’ creative department completely forgot that the original film’s aliens were decidedly alien. The lovable shape-shifting bounty hunters are gone, replaced by low-rent actors. And a slumming Angela Bassett. (Dropping from the classic Boyz n the Hood all the way down to Critters 4 in a year!)

Critters 4 - Critters Watching the Tube

This super-low budget is strange though, considering how Critters 4 is well-noted for being shot alongside Critters 3. Most times when a film crew does this it is to cut costs. You already have the all the actors and props together in one location after all. But here, the cast is completely different, as well as the setting. Meaning the total savings were nothing.

The first third of this film involves a team of junkers trying to pry open the space capsule holding the Crite eggs and the hibernating Charlie. So if you’re wondering why there’s so few photos included in this review; it’s because there’s very little to take screen-captures of besides dark, foggy interiors.

Critters 4 - Captain Rick bites it.

The Crites start off noticeably smaller this time around too. Most likely due to their infancy. What they lack in brawn, however, the Crites make up with ingenuity. With the Critters’ first kill coming when Captain Rick (Anders Hove) gets a hole chewed through his head.

Apparently all that money they didn’t spend on interiors went into buying karo syrup.

Critters 4 - Gonna Need a Stronger Pill

That said, there’s clearly a diminishment in production values with this film. Maybe it’s just that it’s harder to make a believable space station than it is to make a realistic slum apartment building. Maybe the previous film’s apartment building wasn’t a set at all, but just shot on some decrepit location.

Either way, Critters 4’s sets look terrible. Every room is black, with a few computer screens to “futurize” things. Even the scene where Charlie and space junker buddy Ethan (Paul Whitthorne) get trapped in the garbage chute, a la Star Wars, looks trashy (pun intended).

Christ, this is a frustrating movie. All the other Critters had redeeming moments. The thrill of sneaking off into the barn to have sex while your father is still home in the first one. The Easter bunny being savaged in the second. Leonardo DiCaprio’s constant cursing in the third. This one? Nothing.

Critters 4 - Bioengineered Monsters

Even the Critters do a half-assed job. They’re not even the main threat here, as the space junkers are really trying to get off the space station before its nuclear core melts down. The Critters confined to playing second fiddle in a movie that bears their name!

Such things shouldn’t happen in movies, especially movies about intergalactic mutant porcupines.

The worst part is that this plot shouldn’t have been so bad! I mean, hey, a similar storyline worked for Project Firestart. Go track down a ROM of that and see how this story can be told successfully.

Unfortunately, here all the space station location is used for is as a convenient way to get away with filming the same two hallway sets for 30 minutes. As the cast look through the station’s four different rooms: “Hey look, it’s the control room!” “Hey look, it’s the pharmacy!” (One character is a pill-head; only interested in raiding the pharmaceuticals. This would be the film’s only attempt at character development.) “Hey look, it’s the lab!”

The station’s laboratory playing a key role in the film’s ending. Future Ug (Terrence Mann) sends his stormtroopers to find Crite eggs, only to be led to the Critter-infested lab. Even this, the climatic final battle, is a victim of laziness; as nothing is shown except the close-up of a Crite’s mouth through one of the stormtrooper’s red-tinted visor.

—Need to Know More About the Crite Invasion?—

Critters

Critters 2: the Main Course

Critters 3

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