Saturday, October 19, 2013

CRITTERS (1986)

When I was young, I loved this film more than ice cream and Jesus.  Let's see if 9-year-old me really was an amazing film critic or if it will be another sad RAD-type experience.

SYNOPSIS: The Crites are the galaxy's biggest assholes (besides gypsies and ReTHUGlicans).  They're small, furry, carnivorous aliens who escape their asteroid prison and jettison off to Earth.  So the floating warden of the space-jail must contract two faceless bounty hunters to track them down before/after they wreak all sorts of mayhem.  A small town in Kansas is the first victim.  Among its residents are an all-American family, the daughter dating some New York meatball with a sissymary haircut, the son obsessed with fireworks.  Also, there's a local drunk/handyman named Charlie, too.

WHAT WORKED:
Leading off with the Crite escape/alien stuff was a good call, since after these initial scenes of bombast, we settle into character interaction and the pace is necessarily a whole lot slower.  I also liked the alien FX and the Simon-board colors of the spaceship design.  Groovy!

The bounty hunters are splendidly creepy throughout, especially during the transformation scenes which deliver the film's only real spurts of gore.  


I'm torn between loving that the most and loving the blank lightbulb-faced pre-facelift bounty hunters.  


Even the hair-synth eighties mess that inspires Bounty Hunter #1 to become a delicately-coiffed hunk is pretty enjoyable.  Enjoy!


The Crites!  They don't really get up to speed until 1/3 of the way through the film, but then you are in for serious kicks.  There's really no elaborate backstory to them, but they're certainly cool enough to fill the villain spot in what's essentially a throwback kind of creature feature.  I love that they have their own language, with subtitles.


The ravenous appetite and the poisoned quills are part of the whole Crite ouevre, but an underrated quality that they bring to the table is a devout loutishness.  The Crites really are king-size jerks, as proven when one of them knocks a kid's bike over for no reason...


...or when they vandalize property in an epic fashion and laugh about it...


Their creature design and handling is pretty cool, as we rarely see them in broad daylight or under expansive lighting rigs.  CRITTERS keeps it dark.  It also keeps it dark in terms of the Crites' debut, when they really are a theoretically frightening menace, dashing your fears based on the preceding scenes of family comedy and paranoid drunk comedy.


Good actors.  I wouldn't say that CRITTERS is a magnificent or especially enterprising script—it's no more or less than a creature-y B-fest—but utilizing solid actors like Lin Shaye and Dee Wallace elevates the material.  CRITTERS also includes good work from relative newbies Scott Grimes and Don Opper.  I remembered Opper's Charlie as being way more Forrest Gumpy, but he's essentially just a sad-sack small town drunk here (well, half the time) and he nails it.  None of the performances raised my ire and I was also mighty impressed by the deft editing in, for example, the bar scene—lots of masterful cutting back and forth between shots and careful composition.  


WHAT DIDN'T WORK:
Like I seriously just said, CRITTERS doesn't aim for the aeries of art.  It's a blend of 50s monster flicks with a Spielberg-esque 80s family feel.  So, while it doesn't make any serious mistakes, it doesn't exactly take any big chances either.  The Spielberg thing seems particularly objectionable in the sugary soundtrack, which is really my only bitch with CRITTERS.


Some of the comedy might not work for younger viewers, who can't be arsed to learn who Paul McCartney is, much less recognize parodies of GHOSTBUSTERS...

...or slick nods to Dee Wallace's other, lesser films...


As for me, none of the comedy seemed uproarious or anything, but it also didn't agitate me the way that poorly-planned comedy often does.  It was just very Branson-y and inoffensive as an opening act to the headlining Critter mayhem.  So, yeah!  CRITTERS is pretty much what I suspected it would be, not a classic, but also pretty fun and worthwhile.  I'm sure I saw the sequels at some point, but that was a long time ago, so I'm hopeful and apprehensive about what's coming...

RATING: 6

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