Sunday, August 21, 2011

80s Revisited: Critters

Critters (1986)
Directed by Stephen Herek; screenplay by Domonic Muir, Stephen Herek and Don Keith Opper; produced by Robert Shaye

When I was 11, this movie scared the hell out of me. Now, at 35, I want to smack 11 year-old me upside the head.

This movie has a very simple premise: alien criminals steal a spaceship, land on Earth, and menace a farm family while being pursued by bounty hunters. No more, no less. It does it on a low budget and, if you don't demand much out of it, it's a very enjoyable little B-flick remnant of New Line Cinema's early days.

I really wish I had more to say about the movie itself, but it's pretty much exactly what that premise promises (though it is interesting now seeing how the opening scenes have the same set-up as Lilo and Stitch). It's got a decent cast (including the lovely Dee Wallace, always a favorite of mine), and it doesn't wear out its welcome, running just 82 minutes. That's pretty refreshing today, when even the most inconsequential of films seem to run about two and a half hours.

The only thing that really gets me about this movie is the Critters themselves (or Crites, as their race is known in the galaxy). They're just too cute. They're adorable. I want six stuffed ones right now. I know I'm supposed to be scared of them and find them menacing, but they're more funny and precious than anything else. I think it's nice that they try not to play up the humor too much--the bounty hunters, one of them Terence Mann, are very serious indeed--but there's just something inherently funny about the Crites.

Either way, I enjoyed this as a sort of off-brand version of Gremlins mixed with a bit of Terminator wannabe. It was director Stephen Herek's first film; then he made the wonderful Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, and then some of the worst movies in history for the next 20 years.

You could probably go your whole life without seeing Critters, but it's a fun bit of silliness with adorable space monster puppets.


Jason said...

Strange... I always took this movie as a comedy, a sci-fi horror spoof. But then I'm a few years older than you; I was 16 or 17 when I saw it, so I had a whole different frame of reference.

SamuraiFrog said...

Yeah, when I saw it WGN was advertising it as a scary movie and I had a very, very vivid fear of aliens and UFOs.