Critters, Critters 2: The Main Course, Critters 3, Critters 4 (1986, 1989, 1991, 1992)
Directed by: Kristine Peterson, Mick Garris, Rupert Harvey, Stephen Herek
Written by: Barry Opper, David J. Schow, David Twohy, Don Keith Opper, Joseph Lyle, Mick Garris, Rupert Harvey
Starring: Aimee Brooks, Dee Wallace-Stone, Don Keith Opper, Leonardo DiCaprio, Scott Grimes, Terrence Mann
Critter 1: They have weapons
Critter 2: So what
[Critter 2 is shot off the porch]
Critter 1: F***!
If you either remember this little ‘classic of a sort’ scene or upon reading it find it funny, than you’ll hopefully enjoy my look back at the Critters franchise!
On a prison asteroid in outer space, a group of unseen creatures known as Crites are set to be transported to another station. When the seemingly intelligent creatures cause an explosion that kills two guards and injures three, hijack a ship away from the station, and escape, the leader of the station hires two transforming bounty hunters to hunt the “Critters” down. On Earth in Kansas, Brad, the trouble-making son of the Brown family, is grounded but sneaks onto the roof. While there, Brad sees what appears to be a comet streaking the sky, falling somewhere in the distance…..
Sometimes nostalgia can be a bad thing: I remember re-watching Top Gun, a film I loved when it came out, a few years ago after over a decade of not having seen it, and thinking it was bloody awful. The Back To The Future movies, on the other hand, are just as thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying as when I first watched them. Critters and Critters 2 were two movies I remembered fondly, though negative opinions helped keep me away from the third and fourth films in what was a mini franchise [an odd thing, considering I often disagree with the majority]. In any case, this is the first HCF Feature on a series I’ve done where I haven’t seen two of the films in it for at least fifteen years, and the other two I haven’t seen at all until now. The Critters films, at least the first two, do seem to have a strong fan base, and at least three films [Feeling Minnesota, A Nightmare On Elm Street: Dream Warriors, and, most memorably, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles] have characters watching it. The Critters [or Crites] are amongst the most memorable creatures from a decade which, with the possible exception of the 50’s, produced more new monsters than any other. They’re highly unusual in design, a bit scary, a bit funny, and have personality, while I bet I’ll go on about how they look far superior to many of today’s CGI monsters. As for the films, I’m guessing brain-dead fun.
Now Critters is often compared with the more well-known Gremlins, also owned by Warner Bros., and it’s easy to see why: they both feature amusing little monsters wrecking havoc, and are often tongue-in-cheek in nature, though to be honest Joe Dante’s films are far wittier, not to mention having far larger budgets. In fact the first draft for Critters, by Domonic Muir, was written long before Gremlins went into production. What happened was that his script was rejected, but then Gremlins became a smash hit on release so the studio suddenly became interested, though they asked for some similarities to Gremlins to be removed. They only gave it a modest budget, enough to get some fairly big names but not leaving much to spend on the technical aspects of the production. The Chiodo brothers, who were in charge of special effects, were newcomers to movie making and so was the director Stephen Herek, who aided Muir with the rewriting of his first script. The original ending was slightly reshot, basically adding a major occurrence to make the conclusion appear to be more positive. Critters was only a modest success at the box office but it more than made its money back and became very popular on home video.
The film begins with the Critters escaping from a space prison, though we don’t actually see the event. The design and effects are somewhat low-rent, but straight away we’re not being asked to take everything seriously, and actually the first appearance of the two bounty hunters, who have no face, is quite unsettling, while there is one really fine effects scene [done by melting a wax head and playing it backwards as in Raiders Of The Lost Ark] when one of the bounty hunters develops a face, the face being of a rock singer they see on TV. We switch to earth, and spend some time with the family who we know are going to have to face the Critters. The Brown family live on the outskirts of a rural Kansas town on a secluded farm and consist of Jay the father, Helen the mother, April the teenage daughter who keeps sneaking off to make out with her boyfriend in the hay, and the somewhat wayward young son Brad, who often hangs out with dopey mechanic, Charlie McFadden, who has a serious drink problem. The film is very leisurely for a while as we get to know these people, its laid-back feel perhaps too slow for some modern viewers but sometimes I feel that people, especially children and teenagers, had more patience back in the 80’s, life not being as frantic as it is now. It also feels very Spielbergian in a film which often evokes some of his early work, right down to Thomas Newman’s score which, while it lacks decent themes, sounds much ike what John Williams would have done if he only had a synthesiser and a very small orchestra.
Of course the Critters soon land, and what we have is an almost perfect example of how to build up a film’s monster or monsters. We hear the Critters talking in their own language and English subtitles on the screen [some think this device is too silly, but it’s not as if the film is devoid of humour and goofiness elsewhere]. We see a gored cow. A cop is shot in the knee and dragged underneath his car by unseen assailants. Helen briefly sees a dark face with red eyes outside her kitchen window in quite a scary little moment. Unseen things move through the grass as we hear more of the rasping, gargling speak of the Critters. Jay shines a torch on one in the garage where the nasty blighters have cut the power and we finally see a Critter properly, a dark ball of fury with long hair and a huge, teeth-filled mouth, though when it attacks Brad, you know that this film is going to rely quite often on the simple device of an actor or actress screaming while holding an immobile model to their body pretending it’s attacking him or her. The rest of the film consists largely, though not entirely, of the family’s home being besieged and, while this is hardly Night Of The Living Dead, it’s all quite suspenseful and contains some very exciting moments. While amusing, and sometimes reduced to doing things like spending time in a toilet and trying to communicate with an E.T. model, the Critters are still mean and dangerous and their small size means they can pop up almost anywhere. The puppets do look reasonably convincing and the Critters even look good when they roll along the ground!
There are two other extra-terrestrial visitors in this film however, and they are the two bounty hunters. There’s Ugg, who quickly takes on the appearance of a rock singer, and there’s the other unnamed one, who briefly becomes a dead policeman before assuming the form of a priest [this guy has a great little bit where he informs his congregation in a most lustful fashion that he’s going to tell them the story of Sodom and Gomorrah]. They behave in a most deadpan manner while blasting away at everything in sight with their guns. These scenes are also very technically proficient in a film whose special effects highlight is of a house rebuilding itself. The design of the spacecraft is quite minimalist but is good enough. Outside of the bounty hunters, the most memorable character is actually Charlie, the somewhat backward guy who is introduced thinking a police radio is aliens contacting him. Don Keith Opper, best known to science-fiction fans as the title role in Android, plays the part very broadly, but it’s an interesting performance because you don’t know what the character’s going to do next. Dee Wallace Stone does well in another ‘mum’ role. The Critters were actually all voiced by one man, Corey Burton, who does a great job making it sound like the voices of several creatures. The versatile voice actor also voiced some of Reverend Kane’s scenes in Poltergeist 2: The Other Side when Julian Beck died before all the dubbing could be completed.
Though falling short of being a classic, Critters is great fun, managing to balance its serious and silly elements quite well, perhaps leaning more towards silly than serious, but piling on the sense of danger when it needs to. It’s constantly entertaining and in some ways evokes the 80’s, and is as good a representation of a good family movie from the era, as many of the more better known examples. It doesn’t feel like a studio production: it feels like a movie made by a bunch of people who just wanted to have a good time making a movie which would give audiences a good time. Echoes of other films like Starman and The Terminator don’t dissipate its sometimes freewheeling sense of fun. It has immense charm and I can say that I enjoyed it now as much as I did when I first hired it out of the video shop!
Charlie McFadden is now an inter-galactic bounty hunter, aiding Ugg and his un-named companion in exterminating unwanted life forms. After their latest mission, they receive a new assignment: to go back to earth because some Crites still live. Brad Brown is visiting his grandmother in the town of Grover’s Bend. Due to his ‘Boy who cried Critter’ reputation, he’s met with a less than positive response by the locals. However, a crook discovers a batch of eggs in the old Brown farmhouse, and sells them to an antique dealer, who in turns sells them to the local nanny, who buys half of them under the impression that they are ‘European’ Easter Eggs. Its Easter, and to celebrate, Grovers Bend is having a huge Easter-Egg hunt for the local kids…..
I vaguely remember enjoying Critters 2: The Main Course more than Critters, though after viewing it now, I think it’s slightly inferior. They obviously tried to go for the ‘bigger and better’ approach, though budgetary restrictions hold it back from succeeding in that manner. It doesn’t quite have the charm of the original, and the laughs are fewer [though there are still quite a few], but it has more of the Critters, more action, and more blood. It also feels far more similar to Gremlins. The first movie isn’t that similar really, but this one’s small town setting, scenes of its creatures getting up to mischief and increased film references, amongst other things, really do make it seem as if the script was an early draft for Gremlins 2 that was discarded when they decided to go down more original pathways for that craziest of sequels. It also shows that, while the Critters are unusual and memorable monsters, there isn’t really very much you can do with them.
The original script for Critters 2 by David Twohy was considerably different than what eventually ended up on screen. There was much more detail about the bounty hunters, such as them being able to regenerate their body parts, and the fate of Don Keith Opper’s character altered when Opper asked for it to be changed. Some downsizing of the budget also necessitated some changes, though it was still the most expensive Critters film to make. Stephen Herek turned down the offer to return as director, being more interested in a project entitled Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure, so another newcomer was asked, Mick Garris, soon to make his name with Stephen King adaptation, who rewrote Twohy’s script. Only Scott Grimes, Dan Opper and Terence Mann returned from the first movie. Apparently there is a ton of behind the scenes footage that was filmed by Garris that has yet to make it onto DVD or Blu-ray and is still sitting in his house on video tapes. There also exists a TV version of the film which has ten extra minutes in it. The cinema edit was shortened just before release and lost some nice character moments, one tense one of a girl being stalked by Critters, and a funnier end to the scene where the un-named of the two bounty hunters becomes a woman. Critters 2 was something of a flop though like the first one became popular on video.
As with Critters, this film doesn’t begin on earth. It begins on another planet where we see a worm-like creature being wasted. The head is placed in a fridge amongst loads of other alien heads that the bounty hunters have obviously killed over the years. Their boss asks them to return to earth, and he looks a bit more alien and less human-like here [unless it’s a different boss]. Switching to earth, we catch up with Brad, who has temporarily re-located, a good way to get around missing cast members. He stands up against a bully who is harassing Megan, a local girl who looks like a young Sandra Bullock, and who is the only one of the locals who shows some liking for him. We get to meet some of the townsfolk, notably a nanny who provides the kids in her care to eat meet, a cop who may have encountered the Critters before, and a reporter. These characters are enjoyable to watch, while the film is nicer to look at than the original, Russell Carpenter’s photography making some of the outdoor scenes almost beautiful to look at. This film is also noticeably faster paced, scenes tending to run shorter and with more urgency early on as we just know that all these eggs, which have been prettily painted by the town’s children, will hatch into furious fur-balls who have a ravenous appetite.
In fact we see some of them early on, and in their baby form as they claim their first victim. He thinks that by standing on a chair the infant Critters can’t get him, but they just chew through the legs. They also waste a man dressed up in a rabbit costume, seemingly attacking his balls and his body falling through a church window in a funny scene partly paralleling one in Critters. The sense of menace starts to go when we get quite a creepy scene in a little girl’s room with an egg hatching and some Critters POV shots [later on we are allowed to see the point of view of a rolling Critter] which end when the father comes in and accidently squishes the Critter underfoot. In fact, you see far more Critters bloodily [though the blood if green] and amusingly dispatched. One makes the mistake of hanging on to the wheel of a moving car. The Critters don’t always seem too bright in this movie and are even more up for silly antics like sliding along a telegraph wire. The film loses some of its pace in the second half as it becomes more of a siege movie and, though there is some solid action, the promise of a big battle between the townsfolk and the Critters isn’t entirely realised. We do, though, get to see a large Critter Ball. The scene doesn’t quite fulfil its potential and the effect not great, though it’s better than a lot of CGI stuff now. One has to remember that Critters 2 was still a low budget movie by Hollywood standards, and overall the special effects are fine, though the puppetry is more obvious, with more scenes of the Critters [who again have a few subtitled lines] lined up along the edges of tables and other flat surfaces so that unseen puppeteers can operate them.
Though certainly not a gruesome movie, we do see some gory aftermaths of some of the kill scenes, including chewed-through limbs and a great falling body with half his face missing. The money shot is probably when the Critter Ball rolls over a guy and leaves a bloody, quivering skeleton. The laughs tend to be along the level of lines like: “Who you gonna call, Critter busters”? and a bounty hunter trying to stop himself turning into Freddy Krueger. Said un-named alien still has trouble finding a human form which fits him, though he amusingly transforms into a Playboy centrefold for quite a long time. Unfortunately the shots of him and Ugg with no faces don’t work quite as well as before because they have more obvious facial features. The heart of the film isn’t really Brad. We don’t get enough sense of him having to face his enemies again, in fact he never once seems scared. The centre of the film is Charlie, who was a ‘nobody’ on earth and is now a ‘somebody’ in space. Dan Keith Opper’s careful performance retains the mannerisms of the slightly mentally challenged character from Critters but slightly tempers them, showing how Charlie has found some stability. His final scene in the story doesn’t make too much sense considering the character though: it just seems inconsistent.
Critters 2 has a decent score by Nicholas Pike, a bit lighter than the score to Critters but more varied and melodic. It seems to quote the scores to Patton and The Magnificent Seven, and definitely quotes the score to Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, but it all seems quite appropriate to what is occurring on screen. Critters 2 could have benefitted from some new ideas, a few moments are almost thrown away, and it just doesn’t quite have the likeability of Critters, but it’s still a most enjoyable sequel that I can’t imagine any fan of the first film actively disliking, because it’s basically more of the same, and also has loads more Critters!
Clifford and his two kids Annie and Johnny are travelling back home from vacation when a blown tire forces them to pull over at a nearby rest stop. The kids meet up with Josh, whose family is also parked there, then encounter Charlie, Grover’s Bend’s town drunk-turned-alien bounty hunter, who tells them about the Crites and gives Johnny a crystal which will turn green if trouble is near. As this happens, a Crite lays eggs under the family’s car and the family leaves, unknowingly taking the eggs with them back to their rundown apartment building where the landlord is trying to evict them….
Critters 3 is widely considered to be some serious notches down from the first two films, and I suppose it is really, but having expected the worst, and having actually been put off by talk about its poor quality so much that I never checked it out until now, I still rather enjoyed it. The major criticism seems to be that it’s very cheap but that in itself isn’t automatically a flaw. Quite often, a film which stretches a meagre budget as far as they can is more admirable than a mega budget feature which is able to liberally throw money around and therefore should have fewer flaws. Critters 3 is restrictive in scale and a bit repetitive, while they’ve all but given up trying to make the Critters scary as well as funny, but it also seems like one of those films where everyone was aware of what they were making and decided to have fun with it. Of course this film is best known as Leonardo DiCaprio’s film debut, and the back of the DVD says that he leads the fight against the aliens, but actually he’s off screen a lot of the time and contributes little to the effort except bashing a Critter to near-death with a torch.
You see there wasn’t really anywhere else the franchise could have gone. Critters 2: The Main Course had flopped to the point that I’m surprised they didn’t end the series there and then. But the critters clearly had some fans at New Line, so the creatures were allowed to return, except that it wouldn’t be to cinema screens but to TV screens, and on a far lower budget. Much money was actually saved by filming Critters 4 at the same time as Critters 3, a practice which is certainly not restricted to the cheaper end of filmdom. The director was Kristine Peterson who had assisted on several decent horror movies, while the writer David J. Schow was a respected ‘splatterpunk’ author and scripted The Crow and others, though you wouldn’t really know it from his unimaginative screenplay. DiCaprio’s role was actually one that Cary Elwes had turned down and he character of Johnny was played by two twin brothers, Joseph and Christian Cousins. I can’t tell you much else in the way of interesting facts about Critters 3, because it’s one of those movies that there isn’t much information about. For a few years now, some critters fans have been trying to make a documentary about the franchise, but it keeps stalling due to lack of funds. I’m sure some nuggets will be revealed if and when it’s finished. Critters 3‘s straight to DVD release was reasonably successful.
The first few scenes of Critters 3 take place outdoors near a rest stop. Charlie pops up out of the ground from the shelter he’s presumable been living in to tell the three main youthful protagonists some background history and give us some footage from the first two Critters films. We get the usual POV critter shots with the usual noises, then shots of some eggs under the truck, after which we switch to the apartment building where the rest of the film will take place. The stepdad of DiCaprio’s character, Josh, is the landlord and trying to drive everyone out by things like cutting off the electricity. He has a highly amusing helper in Frank, a sleazy maintenance man who puts a sign which reads OUTA ORDER and whose accent alternates from Brooklyn to cornetto man-style Italian. Unfortunately, he soon becomes the first person to be killed in the film’s only really bloody scene, though even here the red stuff is mostly seen just dripping on to the floor. There’s some inconsistency with previous occurrences, such as critter eggs now being able to hatch within a few hours, and could the script not have told us things like why Charlie is no longer the sheriff which he became at the end of Critters 2? It seems like Schow constructed the script from somewhat hazy memories of the other two films.
The film soon settles into a series of escapes from perilous situations, not always caused by the critters, by our heroic group which consists of Clifford, Annie, Johnny, Josh and our other residents, finally finishing up on the roof. There’s little real edge from a film which doesn’t kill off any of the characters that we like – in fact only two deaths occur in total – and not enough is really made from the setting, which can be a great one for horror but is rarely used as well as it could be. There are some genuine laughs though, like when one person tries to escape down a power line and is caught upside down with her foot in a loop inches from the pavement trying to swing to get into a phone booth saying: “Yes! Yes! No! No!”, or when some critters are knocked down like bowling pins. There’s another great critters kitchen scene, in fact funnier than the first one, with much silliness involving sugar, washing up liquid and, yes, farts, while one critter answers a phone, another attacks the furry slippers someone is wearing rather than the actual person, and another lets out a yell for help which never seems to end. Finally, Charlie turns up to save the day, and we finish with a lead-in into Critters 4 which takes place during the end credits. It’s funny how Terrence Mann is credited with playing Ugg but the credit appears on screen before the actual character does. The scene actually makes little sense and just raises a load of questions involving Ugg, Charlie and their boss. You cannot help but like a film which still has ‘TO BE CONTINUED’ appear on screen though!
Only four critters ever appear on screen together, and the far greater use of close-ups in the mostly TV-style direction, camerawork and editing for the monsters actually allow them to convey some emotion. They also look a little different, less brown and furry and more slimy. Overall the critters are the best they’ve ever been – of course they’re still obviously puppets but if they were CGI creations they probably wouldn’t look entirely real either – it’s just a shame that they don’t register very much as deadly perils and cause the film, despite being quite action-filled, to stop far short of becoming truly exciting. Also disappointingly handled is Charlie. It’s not just that he’s sidelined in favour of everyone else, but also that Don Keith Opper, who up to now portrayed the character in a very nuanced way, just seems happy to be as goofy as possible. And Leo…well, aside from the 17 year old looking about 10 [which makes his scenes with Annie look rather ‘questionable’], you certainly wouldn’t see either future stardom or future great acting ability when watching his awkward performance even though he was only two years away from his fantastic part in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. The acting is extremely variable throughout. Diana Bellamy probably fares best as the dappy Rosalie.
The score by David C. Williams does as good a job as it can in matching the action despite sounding like it’s played on the cheapest synthesiser they could find. Such things are part of the charm of films like this. Even if you find Critters 3 utter crap, and many people do, it’s one of those films that is almost impossible to actually hate. It’s lacking in many ways, makes some major mistakes such as not doing much with the main character of the franchise, and even allowing for the small budget it’s obvious that they didn’t try very hard in some areas, but despite all this it has a cheesy innocence about it which should leave most viewers smiling.
1992. Charlie is about to kill the last two Critter eggs until a hologram of Ug appears to tell him to place them in inside the preservation capsule which is soon to arrive. Charlie is somehow also locked inside and sent into space, where he remains in hibernation until a salvage ship finds the pod in the year 2045. The crew reluctantly report the discovery to the Terracorp Council, upon discovering their old logo on the side of the pod. They then go to an abandoned Terracorp station to await the arrival of the council. The station, controlled by a computer, is on its last legs and will blow up within a month or so. However, silly Rick decides to open the pod early, not only freeing Charlie but also letting loose two young Critters…..
So the series hits rock bottom with Critters 4, or that’s what is generally believed, and I would agree that is quite a dreary affair for the most part, though not quite as bad a movie as some say. At the very least, they managed to shoot a fourth sequel back to back with the third that was very different in many ways, and in terms of some of its plot details it’s a bit more original and imaginative than Critters 3, but a critters film which doesn’t actually have much critter footage must reside at the bottom of the franchise for that very reason, and for much of the time it’s just plain dull, though oddly it somewhat wakes up and has quite a good final fifteen or twenty minutes. Throughout the majority of the running time, there just isn’t very much that is memorable, though this entry does, for the most part, have a rather darker tone then all three previous films which is certainly praise-worthy even if they didn’t really pull it off. Yep, it’s certainly the weakest critters film, and doesn’t even possess much of the charm that helped Critters 3, though for easy-going viewing you could do a lot worse.
This time Rupert Harvey, who produced all four critters films, opted to direct, and he also co-wrote the story with Barry Opper which Joseph Lyle and the returning David J. Schow expanded into a screenplay. Setting Critters 4 in space gave the film-makers a great idea to save a whole lot of money – to use sets and footage from another space-set film, Android, which also happened to star Don Keith Opper. The 1982 film, in which Opper plays an android in a world where androids are outlawed, isn’t too well known, but is an enjoyably quirky yet intelligent endeavour which I highly recommend to science-fiction fans. Given as it was using some of the same sets and shots, they decided to tie in Critters 4 with Android, so both films existed in the same universe, by re-using the sinister Terracorps organisation from Android. It does kind of work because you can’t tell that some of what you see in Critters 4 is from another film except for some spaceship shots from Critters 2 towards the end. The reception to Critters 4 though was poor, though there were plans for another film until New Line gave up. One idea was to have critters loose during a baseball game in Japan, another was to have them menace Grover’s Bend again but this time during Christmas, and another was to remake Critters, but sadly none of these came to fruition.
Critters 4 opens with the same footage that ended Critters 3, and as we’re now talking about film number four rather than film number three, I can mention the main question that was going through my mind whilst watching this scene. If the alien council knew that there were still critters on earth, why did they get Ugg to come back to space and leave Charlie on his own to deal with them? Still, it does lead into the fourth film so well that you really could join the two films together. We relocate to space, via a rather clever pull back from space to hands playing with juggling balls inside a window, and spend a bit of time with our salvage ship crew which include the obligatory teenage boy, Ethan, but also a captain who is clearly on the edge of sanity, plus a pre-stardom Angela Bassett and…yes!….the great Brad Dourif where he yet again takes on the part of an eccentric, even slightly mad, fellow and gives the character detailed shadings. The group is directed to the abandoned space station, whose most interesting feature seems to be that it’s controlled by Angela the computer, who only does what you tell her to if you tell her to do the opposite. In quite a serious film, she provides some amusing moments like when two people are trapped in a garbage compartment and are about to tipped out into space and answers to their cries for help: “If you are not waste material, you would not be in the garbage shoot” , and: “I do not respond to the demands of waste material”.
Said scene is clearly influenced by one in Star Wars, while there’s a distinct whiff of Alien, or rather some of the many low budget imitations that followed in its wake, elsewhere. Sadly, this is one of those films where the large amount of wondering around just gets a little boring rather than building tension, while you don’t even hear, let alone see, any critters until 35 minutes in where, after the complete absence of the usual fun build-up, a guy is attacked by two small critters. The scene is a bit nastier than any of the attack scenes in Critters 3, with some ripped wrist gore and shots from inside the victim’s mouth looking out at the critter on his face, though I still don’t think this film really merits a ‘15’ certificate, as elsewhere there’s hardly any blood or terror at all. There’s not much critter humour either, though one does pop out to say “hello” in English and they do try to fly a ship while singing the tune from The Ride Of The Valkyries. Generally the critters play second fiddle to other elements, most notably the realisation that the Weyland Yutani-like Terracorp is up to no good, though little exciting happens until near the end, where the pace suddenly accelerates and eventually Ugg turns up, only this time he’s not a nice guy. Some fans hate this, others wonder if it’s really Ugg, but it’s great that the film’s true climax is a confrontation between Charlie and Ugg.
The re-used special effects looked, and were, extremely cheap the first time round, but there is a feeling of realism to the design that doesn’t make for a particularly visually pleasing work but is nonetheless quite praise-worthy. The critters are small for most of the time and spend most of their meagre screen time rolling around. They don’t even fire their poison darts, a strange decision considering they now barely register as menaces at all. One does get rather big towards the end, but doesn’t last for long. Of course if other aspects of the film were well done than one could partially forgive the shortage of critter action, but the only thing it really does right is to bring Charlie back to the fore. Opper is given more to work with here and he comes through nicely, even bringing much pathos to certain moments like where he’s told which year he’s in. The perpetually childlike nature of the character is nicely shown in the final scene where he doesn’t heed a warning not to touch everything, having previously stopped the power on the ship by shooting a critter into part of the engine. It’s as good a final scene in the critters series as any, summoning up that these films are meant to be nothing more than fun, and involving its central character, even if it jars with the more serious tone of this film.
The acting is of a higher standard than that in Critters 3 and the cast seem to be enjoying themselves, though for the most part, Critters 4 is, despite its occasional interesting aspects, a lame, half-hearted film overall, and not a good finish for the franchise, though it’s such an odd franchise that it’s almost appropriate. Critters 4 is very poor, yet as I type this, I wish so much that they had made that fifth film. Even the first two films are far from being classics, but there is an unpretentious likeability, and a simple desire to entertain, about them that transcends their flaws, and those critters remain unique, one-of-a-kind monsters. Yeah, I’d like to see a critters reboot, even if they go dark and serious which could work really well with these creatures, but please please don’t make the critters CGI! Which they probably will, given the way they’re going and lazily using CGI to do everything [it’s even beginning to be used for the Muppets], but would be a huge shame.