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Review: CRITTERS (1986)

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Best Bad Quote:
“Let’s Roll.”
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There is a very brief period in which any artistic movement can enjoy its fresh moment in the sun before it is contaminated by copycatted cliches and the expected lampoons. As such, the horror and science-fiction “crimson” age of the late seventies– which introduced Alien, The Omen, etc– made it possible for a following of half-serious and all-out ’80s mockeries to board the gravy Terror Train. To the latter decade’s credit, it was sometimes witty enough to embrace the new standard of fear and offer its opposite. For example, one particular breed of the Bs upset audience expectations for the typical, Big Bad Wolf killer by instead downsizing its villains. First came Gremlins, which both decreased in size and suspense while multiplying in humor, and next came Munchies, Ghoulies, Night of the Creeps, and — the most bad-ass of them all– Critters!!!

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The saga of these pesky “Crites” from outer space began in 1986 and would be followed by three sequels, which as you will later see, were all over the place on the scale of utter ridiculousness. The initial splendor, as ever, was the best.

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Living in the small town of Grovers Bend, KS, the all-American family of the Browns soon finds their dusty farmhouse turned upside down when a spacecraft crashes onto their acreage and they are invaded by furry balls of fury– with layers of piercing teeth no less. (And you thought vagina dentata was a problem). These pesky lil’ Critters, despite their diminutive size, have enormous appetites and are Hella’ hungry. Trust, they aren’t going to stop feasting until they have had their fill!
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The film at no point pretends to be anything other than just what it is– wonderfully stupid. At the same time, it is incredibly smart, cleverly tipping its hat in homage to  its cinematic superiors and predecessors. Mrs. Brown is played by none other than the “Mother of all Horror,” Dee Wallace, whom I consider more awesome than Jamie Lee Curtis due to her participation in some of the era’s greatest cult classics– The Howling, Cujo, The Hills Have Eyes, etc. Everyone’s favorite cartoon character, Billy Zane, also makes an appearance as daughter April Brown’s stone-washed denim boyfriend. However, the film is commendably carried by the best ginger ever, Scott Grimes, as the troublemaking son Brad Brown. (You remember his sexy ’80s ballads, don’t lie). As the women in the family are too frail to be of any use, and Mr. Brown (Billy Green Bush) and his Bush-y eyebrows are no match for the feisty hairballs, it is up to the nubile son Brad and his drunk, washed-up friend Charlie (Don Opper) to save the day.
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Admittedly, this movie is not scary, as the Critters are far too funny (like wise-cracking Donald Ducks who have smoked too much hashish) to be fearful. Despite their red eyes and volatile tempers, they are kind of adorable and more annoying than truly fearful. Still, there is a point to be made here. It is much easier for the Davids of the world to both evade and take down the Goliaths, because the latter are big, stupid, and just plain clumsy. Critters easily walk, drop, and roll past their foes, and in their ever increasing numbers, they are damn near impossible for the lanky earthlings to destroy. This is why, when you have rats, you call an exterminator. Enter: the Bounty Hunters!
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As the Crites are actually inter-galactic prison escapees, the Bounty Hunters have been sent from space by a law enforcement of sorts– headed by a very Return of the Jedi looking alien… Commissioner… guy, (I guess)– on specific orders to take them out. Some sweet special effects are introduced as the Hunters’ faceless mugs take on a series of human visages so they can blend in with the earthlings once they hit terra firma. Ug, played by Terrance Mann (Tim Curry and Hugh Laurie’s secret love child), steals his face from fictional rock star Johnny Steele, who incidentally has a pretty tubular video for the audience to enjoy. Oddly, this duo of intervening machos with ammo actually don’t do a Hell of a lot except blow up a few bowling pins and analyze the continuing theme of xenophobia in our pathetic human hearts. Luckily, Ug’s hair is so amazing and well-highlighted that it doesn’t matter. in the end, it is the hu-mans Brad and Charlie who save the day and consequently obtain social redemption.
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This movie is awesome, not to mention incredibly entertaining. Writers Dominic Muir and Stephen Herek both obey the rules of horror by, for example, making the sister a slut, but break said rules at the same time. The body count is low– a cow, a cop, and a pony-tailed Zane lose their lives– but even the tramp survives, including her brush with what appears to be an attempt at interspeciel rape. (Critters: the dolphins of outer space). While there is enough violence to make this film an R-rated experience, it is definitely all about family fun. Fun and fur. Anyway, it’s worth watching if only to see a live boxing match between two of cinema’s most infamous aliens– a Critter and E.T.
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Rating:
I give this dose of brilliance 5 out of 5 Banqueting Balls
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