Monday, October 29, 2012

Night of Terror #28: Critters

Hello critters and crittettes, it's me, your FIENDly (friendly) GHOST-HOST (I am not actually a ghost). In a strange reversal of how I remember doing this blog last year, I have a bit of a backlog of guest pieces my friends have sent in, which is cool. Especially since it happens to coincide with a bit of a lag in updates. So here's the esteemed stand-up comedian / cinephile Jimmy LeChase (whose website you can check out here) on the film Critters. Don't forget to tip your waiters, yuk yuk yuk.

Critters was released in 1986 as New Line Cinema’s answer to Gremlins. Critters is not Gremlins. If Gremlins is Gremlins, Critters is a weird guy jacking dick in the back of a movie theater to a magazine with Gremlins on the cover. Why did he bring a magazine into the theater? I don’t know, but that’s the kind of bullshit you have to deal with when you’re Critters.

Stephen Herek directed and co-wrote Critters with Dominic Muir and Don Keith Opper, and despite the fact that New Line Cinema advertised Critters as their answer to Gremlins, Herek maintains that’s not the case and that the script for Critters was in existence before Gremlins came out. I believe him, because aside from the titular characters being small creatures with big mouths full of teeth, there’s nothing else about Critters that is even remotely close to Gremlins.

Critters opens up on a prison asteroid; which you can tell because the opening scene is of a big rock in outer space and a title card pops up in front of it that says “Prison Asteroid - sector 17: Maximum Security,” so right away you know we’re dealing with aliens and definitely not Asian demons like in Gremlins.

Taking the approach of telling and not showing, the audience is made aware that 8 “Crites” are ready to be transported to another asteroid or some shit and then BAM an explosion and the “Crites” have sprung themselves from the klink. The leader of the prison asteroid, an alien that looks like he was cobbled together by an angry intern at a community college film school program who was high on airplane glue, hires two animorph like bounty hunters to  chase down the “Crites.” “Fuel is not their problem,” he explains to the bounty hunters, but, because the “Crites” are hungry little assholes, they need to stop at Earth to pick up some take out before hopping off to the next planet. This explanation feels like it was put in in post to give the script something that resembles logic as to why the “Crites” would need to go to Earth if they could, y’know, just escape forever with endless fuel.

While the “Crites” and bounty hunters are speeding to Earth, we’re introduced to the Brown family and their loveable, All-American farm life. There’s Jay, the stern, hardworking farmer with a heart of gold when it comes to his children. There’s Helen, the wife that seems as if she’ll fall apart if she ever takes her apron off or stops looking out of windows. There’s April, the oversexed teenaged daughter that’s dating -wait for it- Billy Fucking Zane with a rat tail. And last, but certainly least there’s the trouble making, ginger haired son, Brad. Oh, Brad you’re such a rapscallion with your fireworks and slingshots!

Brad, being the trickster dufus that he is, hangs out with a loveable town drunk named Charlie that is played by none other than one of the film’s co-writers, Don Keith Opper. I didn’t bother looking up any of the other actor’s names, because once I saw Billy Fucking Zane was in the movie I stopped caring about anybody else.

Anyway, because the plot needed to move forward, Charlie and Brad are up to no good (as usual!) and Charlie accidentally hits April with a pellet from Brad’s slingshot and Brad ends up being grounded. Typical Brad. While Brad is serving out his sentence, he attempts to sneak out of the house and sees what he thinks is a comet, but it’s not a comet! It’s a spaceship full of Critters! Wow!

The spaceship crash lands and causes an earthquake; which startles Jay and Helen out of the kitchen, but what does Jay see when he goes out to inspect the damage? Oh, just Brad sneaking out of the house! “The earthquake through me clear out of my window!” Brad explains, but Jay, knowing his red haired son is less than human, doesn’t buy it for one second and demands his some come along with him to see what happened as further punishment for being such a terrible child.

At the landing site the Critters shrug and say “fuck it” and roll off to eat a cow.

Jay and Brad stumble upon the cow and talk about what could have done such a thing. Brad, being an asshole, says things that his father dismisses and they head back to the farm. The “Crites” watched all of this happen, shrugged, said “fuck it” again and rolled off to kill a police officer; which they totally do.

What about the bounty hunters, you say? Well, on their way to Earth they were quickly schooled on what’s up with our funky planet by being shown a shoddily edited video, and one of them decides to turn itself into the epitome of feathered 80’s hair that is Johnny Steele, singer of the song “Power of the Night” and owner of the laziest fucking name ever scripted outside of “Joe Smith.” The other bounty hunter turns himself into somebody else, but that doesn’t last very long, so after giving up on life he assumes Charlie the town drunk’s form and goes about being a bounty hunter as best as he can.

Charlie, meanwhile, is bugging out about the spaceship at Comedy Relief County Jail and the sheriff and sassy receptionist just aren’t having it, but this time... Charlie is right! I bet he wishes Brad wasn’t grounded so he could hang out with a child that listens to his drunken ramblings, but Brad is Brad and can’t be contained. Charlie, resigned to give into his addiction, drinks from a bottle of whiskey he keeps in his pocket.

Back at All-American Farms, April and Billy Fucking Zane are making out in a loft in the barn and Billy Fucking Zane is into it, or so the sway of his rat tail would have you believe, but when April pushes him into the bone zone, he backs off claiming her father would kill him if he caught them. What Billy Fucking Zane doesn’t know is that a Critter is planning on killing him either way; which it tries to do before Brad shows up and turns the tables on the Critter and feeds it a stick of dynamite. Nobody cares that Brad is troubled enough to have a stick of dynamite, and nobody seems to wonder why he has so many explosives or a detailed map of his school with Xs all over it, but hey, who wants to grapple with Brad? Not me.

After Billy Fucking Zane is almost eaten by a Critter, some stuff happens and the bounty hunters end up at All-American Farms and there’s a bit of a scuffle with the “Crites” and by “scuffle” I mean, not a fucking thing really happens except one of the “Crites” makes itself huge and kidnaps April which really puts a damper on Billy Fucking Zane’s fingering plans for the evening, so now everybody has to rescue April and ugh nobody in the cast is a good enough actor to make caring about April believable, but they go through with it anyway because it’s in the script.

One thing leads to another and Charlie and Brad end up saving the day with a molotov cocktail and more dynamite. The “Crites” blow up The Brown Family home on their way to being blown up themselves and everybody is sad. Even Brad, the soulless golem that he is, seems to be upset that all his stuff got blown up. Ironic, isn’t it, Brad, that such a fan of explosives would have his entire existence destroyed by an explosion? Maybe use this moment as a learning experience, Brad.


The bounty hunter with the hair of the gods gives Brad a remote control looking like thing and Brad pushes a button on it and in less than a few minutes their entire house is rebuilt like nothing ever happened; which taught Brad absolutely nothing. Great.

Just when you thought the movie was over the camera starts to move toward the barn -oh no! is Brad in there?- and slowly it’s revealed that the Critters laid eggs! Laying the groundwork for 3 sequels, one of which includes Leonardo DiCaprio, and none of which include Billy Fucking Zane.

1 comment:

  1. This is fantastic. The '80s really were the Hollywood salad days for trouble making, ginger haired sons, weren't they?