I recently returned to this series after I was trying to think about movies I saw when I was younger, that I liked then, and needed to re-watch. I definitely did not like this series as much as I remembered, but it’s still okay. I definitely notice more nowadays, when it comes to acting and continuity. I also don’t think the same things are funny. Even with this, I watch this series 15 years after the first viewing and find many things that I like about the films.
First off, it is fun to watch the opening credits of old films and see what has become of some of the actors and filmmakers. This series features well known directors, like Stephen Herek and Mick Garris. You also see familiar faces like Dee Wallace, M. Emmet Walsh, Brad Dourif, Angela Bassett, and the most famous of them all, Leonardo Dicaprio. There are also many similarities between films that you begin to notice. You see some Star Wars, some Gremlins, and even what could be a precursor to Independence Day. Although these are some fun comparisons to make and careers to chart, you also begin to see yet another example of a movie series that falls apart after each and every release.
For instance, I really like the first two films in this series. The “special effects” are funny to watch, but it is cool to see how far films have come. I also like the fact that it plays off of the Gremlins franchise, but creates a scarier and more violent film series. It fits into the horror genre more than its predecessor. The film has some funny moments and some good kills. It also takes place in the middle of nowhere, Kansas; while, many films at the time were taking place in the big cities. The characters in the first film are also a little easier to like than the characters in the final two films. The fact that many of the characters’ stories continue into the sequel also make the first two films make sense as a unit and a series. I also, of course, could not get over the fact that the story of Charlie’s character almost seemed to be lifted for Randy Quaid’s character in Independence Day.
Speaking of Charlie, he is the only character that carries on throughout all four films. He goes from town drunk to intergalactic hero, and he is very easy to cheer for throughout every film. He is a likable guy that finds a purpose in his life. This purpose pulls him out of the grasp of alcoholism and into a role that makes him an underground film favorite. It is because of Charlie and the young male lead in the films that make me appreciate the first two movies. I also like the sequel because a young Mick Garris created a horror film set on Easter. I think that it may be my favorite Easter horror film, and not just because I think it’s the only one I have seen.
Getting into the last two movies, however, can be a little frustrating. They need a sequence in the third film to explain Charlie’s back story because this movie really has nothing to do with the other two. Sure, there’s a young Leonardo DiCaprio, but he’s just a kid playing a kid. It is definitely not a film that makes you think he will be a star someday. (It is funny that his character hated being called sport by his step father, and he recently finished The Great Gatsby where he refers to people as sport so much that it’s annoying.) Of course, there is nothing really wrong with his performance, because you can’t see much star quality in many of today’s biggest stars’ first films. So, I can’t hate on Leo; but I can, however start to hate on unnecessary sequels. In fact, the only person that deserves credit in this film is probably the casting director who found Leo in his first role.
The final film is just bad. It is weird to see Angela Bassett and Brad Dourif in such crap, but everyone has movies they probably aren’t proud of. Shoot, I haven’t even been in one movie, so who am I to talk. This movie only taught me that you probably shouldn’t take a horror franchise into space. This fourth film only foreshadows the disasters that were Hellraiser: Bloodlines and Jason X. If I have to rate the films, I give the first two films a 7 out of 10. I would give Critters 3 a 5 out of 10 and the final film comes in as a 3 because at least it isn’t as bad as any of the Killjoy movies.
Get all four Critters films in one from Amazon.
4 Film Favorites: Critters (Critters, Critters 2, Critters 3, Critters 4)