Critters (1986)
Critters (1986)

Genre: Horror Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 22 min.

Release Date: April 11th, 1986 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Stephen Herek Actors: Dee Wallace Stone, M. Emmet Walsh, Billy Green Bush, Scott Grimes, Nadine Van Der Velde, Don Opper, Billy Zane, Ethan Phillips, Lin Shaye, Terrence Mann




t the maximum security prison asteroid in sector 17, a custodial transfer goes terribly awry. At the termination lock, the alien warden calls for extra help, but some mischievous Crites have stolen a ship and fled the surface. Bounty hunters are then called in to destroy the escapees before they can cause further damage; they must be completely obliterated before they can find a place to feed.

Meanwhile, on Earth (in rural New York), ordinary mother Helen Brown (Dee Wallace Stone) prepares breakfast for her two children, teenager April (Nadine Van Der Velde) and preteen Brad (Scott Grimes), as well as her husband Jay (Billy Green Bush). At the local police station, Sheriff Harv (M. Emmet Walsh) contends with town drunk Charlie (Don Opper), his airheaded desk clerk Sal (Lin Shaye), and the prospects of another uneventful evening (save for the big bowling tournament). But that’s all about to change when the reckless bounty hunters, who possess transformative capabilities, arrive to subdue the Crites – who themselves possess an insatiable hunger for meat.

Although the setup, which contains extraterrestrial civilizations conducting routine alien jurisprudence, is a less than sincere way to introduce otherworldly invaders, “Critters” doesn’t really seem interested in being too serious. Goofy supporting characters and comic relief abound; the film is far more about lighthearted misadventures than genuine horror (it’s more “Gremlins” than “Alien”). Even a young Billy Zane as April’s boyfriend and Ethan Phillips as a fumbling cop are droll rather than heroic. In fact, were it not for the opening moments, audiences wouldn’t even be aware of the sci-fi aspects; the intruders from outer space don’t actually make an appearance (a full-body shot) until nearly 40 minutes in (viewers are instead treated to low-to-the-ground camera perspectives, an animal carcass, and victims meeting demises offscreen or in the cover of night).

That slow pacing at the start is largely unforgivable in a schlocky thriller like this, but there’s still some fun to be had. Brief bits of gore, characters rolling around on the ground pretending to wrestle chomping furballs, jokey subtitles for the jabbering Crites, and the look of the creatures themselves all provide amusement. Despite some acceptable special makeup effects – and some very bad puppeteering – the rolling, dart-shooting, gnashing little hellions are quite funny, especially when they’re exploded or shot at point-blank. And, when they blow up a house out of spite, the film is elevated to a whole new level of wryness.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10