Archive for Terrence Mann

Critters 4 (1992)

Posted in Off-Season Reviews with tags , , , , , on January 9, 2013 by shenanitim

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

Critters 3 (1991)

Posted in Off-Season Reviews with tags , , , , on December 28, 2012 by shenanitim

critters3_videoposter

I ended my review of Critters 2: the Main Course by noting how quickly these deadly, yet insanely lovable space monsters could procreate. Well, their swiftness isn’t just limited to their loins… Critters 3 sees the Crites still holding out on Earth, only this time they’ve stopped descrecrating religious holidays, and have jumped to the big city. A change in locale that took the Leprechaun series five films to perfect! In life as in love, these aliens move fast.

Critters 3 - Critters Up Close and Personal

AWESOME FACT #1!: impress your friends by telling them that Leonardo DiCaprio’s first line ever put to film involved a curse word! “Hey, don’t go down there kid; there’s all kinds of wild animals and shit.” He may have the inflated head of a baby, but he also has the mouth of a sailor!

That’s what’s so great about these mid-80s PG-13 films; they knew they could get away with (usually) two curse words. A “shit” and a “fuck,” provided the “fuck” didn’t refer to the sex act. So they made sure to drop one right off the bat, to wake the audience up. Frankly, no one cares about this unnamed family or their problems. A widower dad pining for two years over his dead wife. Blah.

I post this here just to show how tough it is to write these reviews when you're a moron.  This scene made me smile enough to note its time down for a time-capture, but I can't think of why.  Most likely due to this kid's boss shirt.

I post this here just to show how tough it is to write these reviews when you’re a moron. This scene made me smile enough to note its time down for a time-capture, but I can’t think of why. Most likely due to this kid’s boss shirt.

So the “shit” flies out to grab everyone’s attention. Hey kids, there’s murderous mutant hedgehogs ahead! Really! while making the parents in the audience uncomfortable enough to make them start questioning their decision to buy Lil Tommy a ticket; without being strong enough to force an instant retreat.

Hell, it seems like director Kristine Peterson was just antagonizing the censors with this one. Five minutes after the first curse, Joshua (DiCaprio) pops out a “bullshit!” The (other) kids say “crap,” their father a “goddammit,” and daughter Annie (Aimee Brooks) caps off the exercise with “what a crock.” And every child in the audience knows what word ends that phrase.

Between the language and the subtle child molestation references, this film is light-years beyond Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in terms of questionable content.

Critters 3 - Crite Wearing a Bra

Besides that, Critters 3 is frontloaded with a staggering amount of useless material. We have Clifford (John Calvin), the aforementioned widower who can’t pull himself out of a crippling depression. There’s Marcia (Katherine Cortez), a lesbian phone worker who plays foil to Frank (Geoffrey Blake); a slum tenement building’s maintenance man who’s secretly destroying things so the slumlord can collect insurance insurance money.

Got all that?

Good, ‘cuz you ain’t gonna need it.

Critters 3 - Beautiful Crites

All this just serves as “normal story dressing,” script-filler if you will, until the Crites make their way into the tenement building. Which is where the fun begins. Remember how great it was watching the bounty hunters blow up the Brown family’s farmhouse with their blasters in the first Critters? Now imagine 10 stories of room-destroying action!

As if Peterson and company had heard the “Critters is a Gremlins rip-off” criticisms, and so decided to respond by ripping off Troll instead! And it works!

Critters 2 failed largely due to the decision to transfer the Crites from inside a dark barn to outside the town of Grover’s Bend; in broad daylight. Placing the Crites back into a confined slum allows the tiny bastards to do what they do best: roll around in the dark while shooting poisonous, paralysis-inducing, quills.

AWESOME FACT #2!: Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning iconic opening death scene, the one where a hitchhiker gets a lit flare shoved into his mouth, actually premiered here; when a Crite swallows one!

Critters 3 - before there was %22found footage%22

Critters 3 - Interrupting the Critters' Soaps

Critters 3 - Red Room

Rather than abandon Critters 2’s Easter Bunny-eating levity though, Critters 3 manages to meld the humor with its more horrifying moments. Marcia finds Joshua’s slumlord father’s corpse being gnawed upon by Crites in a room illuminated by a roadflare’s blood-red glare; that’s horrifying. Jump forward a few scenes, and Marcia’s now hanging upside down, strung up by her foot, trying madly to swing her body into a phone booth. That’s the type of farcical, slapstick humor straight out of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge.

The credits only says the Crites’ design was created by the Chiodo Brothers; whether they had a hand in guiding the series after their initial contribution is unknown. But the tone here, intentional or not, does bear a certain Killer Klowns from Outer Space touch.

Critters 3 - High Wire Stunt Acting

This levity never flags throughout the film. The ending having dim-witted farmhand turned intergalactic bounty hunter Charlie (Don Keith Opper) piecing together Ug’s old blaster to “finish off” the Crites for a third time. Naturally Charlie fails (again), as this film, and its sequel, Critters 4, were filmed back-to-back. Ug (Terrence Mann) makes a cameo appearance at the end, telling Charlie not to destroy the final Crite eggs, as they’re the last of the species or something.

Apparently this “film a crappy movie and its sequel at the same time” was a popular motif in early-to-mid 90s straight to video horror franchises, as Puppet Master pulled the same trick a year after Critters 4 was released.

—Need to Know More About the Crite Invasion?—

Critters

Critters 2: the Main Course

Critters 4

Critters 2: the Main Course (1988)

Posted in Off-Season Reviews with tags , , , , , on November 24, 2012 by shenanitim

It wasn’t widely publicized at the time, but one of the deciding factors behind the AOL / Time Warner merger of 2000 was AOL’s desire to own New Line Cinema. Why would one of the (at the time) largest internet providers want New Line Cinema? Two words: Scott Grimes. Grimes “starred” in both Critters and Critters 2: the Main Course, and the world is forever in his debt because of it.

How Grimes beat out Tony award winning stage actor Terrence Mann for top billing remains a mystery. I’m guessing it was because Grimes plays the child, a distinction that affords him a sympathy vote that his annoying qualities couldn’t overpower. Terrence Mann instead receiving last billing; though he is afforded the distinctive “and” before his name, letting all the viewers know that he’s the “omega” in the Crites’ universe.

(Such star power squabbling between Grimes and Mann would be laid to rest here, as Grimes would soon be dropped from the Critters’ universe, allowing Mann to carry the next two sequels alone.)

Critters 2 finds Mann returning as one America’s favorite intergalactic, overly destructive bounty hunters: the amazingly monikered Ug. His partner, farmhand turned bounty hunter, Charlie (Don Keith Opper), is clearly a better Crite killer then he was a farmhand. Thus validating Ug’s seemingly rash promotion of the boneheaded Charlie at the end of the first film.

Grimes returns as Bradley Brown, a hero turned pariah in his hometown, as Grover’s Bend isn’t too keen on seeing him again after mutant porcupines slaughtered half its populace on his family’s farm. The Critters, were, of course, ultimately destroyed, but their eggs remained. Incubating for two years before the new horde of Crites are unleashed upon the world.

Interesting, the original film’s marvelously over the top scene of the bounty hunters destroying a church might have a deeper meaning. As its sequel is set during Easter, a detail easily explained away as a plot device (the Crites do start out as eggs here) if one overlooks the church’s wanton destruction. Once again, though, the religious mockery serves little to no point besides a few cheap laughs.

Okay, seeing the Easter Bunny get chewed apart by Critters isn’t funny, but their pounding its crotch in the prior scene certainly is. Still a PG-13 film, Critters 2 skews more heavily towards comedy this time; with most human deaths occurring off camera, while the Crites’ deaths are comically situational.

A Critter getting its hairline blown off by a shotgun blast, then turning and commenting on its new ‘do in the mirror. The aforementioned Easter Bunny slaughter scene. It’s as if producer Robert Shaye was conceding that all the criticism about Critters being a Gremlins knock-off was partially true. Especially considering how Gremlins’ famous kitchen scene was taken wholesale and transplanted into a restaurant.

It is difficult to be critical of such thievery when Critters 2 also adds nudity into the mix. Something Joe Dante left out of his horror comedies.

Director Mick Garris shoehorning the T&A in via the nameless bounty hunter, this time known as “Lee,” who forgoes its prior dead cop disguise for one of a Playmate (Roxanne Kernohan). Kernohan, in bounty hunter uniform, looking like an extra out of Deathstalker.

All the boobs in the world couldn’t save this film though. It lacks the fear that pervaded the first film. In Critters, it was a family of famers against a horde of alien porcupines. In Critters 2, Bradley has already fought off the Critters once, and he has the added support of the bounty hunters throughout the film; not just playing clean-up at the end.

So even when there’s an attempted swerve, such as Lee meeting her untimely end, you’re still not scared for the principal characters.

When the Crites come together to form a giant alien boulder, it’s just silly, not scary. Bringing to mind Weird Al’s playful jab at Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark in UHF. Which is certainly not the note you want to evoke during what is supposed to be your film’s big finale.

Which brings to mind how the Critters could make such a boulder. Remember, Ug and “Jeff” killed off the Critter population well enough in the first one to get a cursory “Mission Accomplished” from their boss. So good, in fact, that it takes two years for the Crite population to reach a level large enough to elicit attention.

Yet when we’re reintroduced to the Critters, they’re still in egg form. Two Easter baskets worth of eggs to be exact. So how the Crites could gather so many to combine into a boulder is a mystery.

Sure, you say, after the eggs hatched, they started feeding, then loving. Even if this was to have happened, it wouldn’t work. Crites were born of egg, so it stands that they’d also lay more eggs to reproduce. And their eggs’ gestation period would have to be longer than two years, as that’s how long the eggs sat before being artificially hatched. (“Artificially” because without the church lady’s space heater, they’d still be gestating in some random Grover’s Bend basement.)

One also assumes the Crites are autogamous given the speed of their repopulation. Imagine being the first Earth-born Critter male, stuck to do nothing but fertilize eggs all day. No hunting, no eating Easter Bunnies, just sex in the name of procreation. A nightmare ripped straight from the S.C.U.M. Manifesto that sadly was not brought to life in Critters 3…

—Need to Know More About the Crite Invasion?—

Critters

Critters 3

Critters 4

Critters (1986)

Posted in Halloween Endurance Tests, Off-Season Reviews with tags , , , , , , on November 13, 2012 by shenanitim

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