Carnivorous space hedgehogs armed with poisonous spikes and an insatiable appetite escape from an intergalactic prison, travel to earth and attack an unsuspecting family of farmers with space bounty hunters hot on their trail. Sounds like a standard 80’s schlock creature feature, and it was, but it also symbolized the pinnacle of 80’s horror classics.
Critters released in 1986 was New Line Cinema’s (The House That Freddy Built) answer to Gremlins, but I feel that Critters tore it’s way through the holiday/scare genre created by Christopher Columbus and started it’s own trend of monsters with teeth and a taste for destruction.
Starring Dee Wallace (The Howling, Cujo), Billy Zane (Demon Knight) and Scott Grimes (Steve from American Dad!) Critters was directed by Steve Herek who was also the force behind Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitters Dead and The Mighty Ducks.
The movie has an 82 minute run time, back when when films didn’t need to be an unnecessary 2 hours long which could sometimes drag out plot devices and potentially lose interest from the audience.
The setting and feel as the family makes their way through the dark secluded farm house as the monsters eat their way in creates a deep feeling of dread- biting the father, killing the sister’s boyfriend during a make out session and growing larger.
At the same time these bounty hunters terrorize the town in a semi-comedic 80’s fashion looking for the “crites”, causing a ruckus in church and letting all hell break loose at a bowling alley.
Amazing creature and practical effects makes the critters believable and anything but silly, accompanied by music perfectly added to set the atmosphere of hopeless escape. There is even an 80’s hair band rock video created specifically for this movie by Terrence Mann sung by fictional rocker Johnny Steele (of course).
Critters was released during the same year that gave us The Fly, Little Shop of Horrors and Aliens but I would not consider it less significant to the genre due to the encompassing status from the others. In it’s own right Critters is 80’s horror and should be treated with the nostalgic respect as a notable piece of horror classic as it deserves, even Siskel and Ebert at the time gave it “Two Thumbs Up” which says something.
If you have not had the pleasure then give yourself a great Friday night creature treat and watch Dee Wallace get ravaged by monsters from outer space, if you are a horror fan that statement alone should be enough. I give this film 5 Claws.