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Old 08-22-2009, 11:57 PM
Scored: 10
Views: 14,552

Reviewer: Dave
Review Date: August 22, 2009

Released by: New Line
Release date: August 5, 2003
MSRP: $14.97
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes

Dubbed "The House that Freddy built", New Line was doing fairly well in in the mid-80s thanks to the success of the first two Nightmare on Elm Street movies. In 1986 they handled distribution for Sho Films' theatrical release of Critters. With a budget of just two million dollars, Critters scored thirteen million at the box office and managed to generate three sequels before ending its run in 1992 with Critters 4. Often accused as cashing in on the success of Gremlins, a peek over at Wikipedia states that director Stephen Herek refutes that and claims the script to Critters was written long before Gremlins went into production. Whether it's a horror twist on Gremlins or not, Critters remains a favorite amongst 80s horror buffs such as myself.

New Line did right by fans and released all four onto DVD back in 2003, albeit as bare bones releases. Lets take a look at the first Critters DVD and see how it holds up.

The Story

inline Image On a prison asteroid deep in space, eight tiny creatures known as 'Crites' are locked away and slated for termination. The Crites manage to escape from their confines and flee the asteroid on a stolen spaceship. Two shape shifting bounty hunters are called in to track down and destroy the Crites, who are headed straight for Earth. The Crites set down on a farm in Grover's Bend, Kansas that belongs to Helen (Dee Wallace Stone) and Jay Brown (Billy Bush). Charlie (Don Keith Opper), the dimwitted town drunk that works for the Brown family, is a friend to their 10-year old son Brad (Scott Grimes). Charlie has long claimed to receive alien transmissions through the fillings in his teeth. When he sees the Crites' ship fly overhead, he drops his whiskey bottle and rides his bicycle down to the police station. He tries in vain to convince the dispatcher, Sally (Lin Shaye), to alert the Sheriff (M. Emmet Walsh) and call in the army.

inline Image The Crites are hungry and it's not long all hell breaks loose around town. The Crites begin rolling around and mutilating cattle and chickens belonging to the Brown's. They kill the local deputy and trap the Brown family inside their home after one of them shoots Jay with a poisonous quill. The two bounty hunters show up in town and nearly destroy the local bowling alley during their search. It's not until they meet up with Brad that they learn the Crites are at the Brown farm. The three head back to the farm and after a short fire fight ensues, Brad rides off into the field in search of his April (Nadine Van der Velde), who was dragged back to their ship by a giant Crite. Brad and Charlie manage to free April just before the Crites' ship lifts off. Charlies tosses a Molotov cocktail into the ship and it ignites a firecracker that Brad left aboard. The ship blows up, but we soon learn the Crites aren't quite finished, and that they'll soon be back for more.

inline Image Critters is a fun little movie that mixes elements of horror, sci-fi, and comedy. If, like me, you were a child of the 80s, chances are you have already seen Critters and it's near and dear to your heart. It's a straight-up B-movie cheese-fest and you can't help but enjoy yourself as you watch the evil little aliens and the havoc they create. The comedic element to the creatures is really what makes the movie so enjoyable. Watching them chew on a goldfish, attack E.T., and curse aloud - subtitled and all - as the humans start to fight back is a blast. We all remember Gremlins and you can call this a Gremlins copy cat as much as you want, but call it like it is: Gremlins for the horror buff. Sure, gore is minimal but that's really not what Critters is about. You're there for a fun ride and the movie delivers that on that front.

The Chiodo brothers, of Killer Klowns From Outer Space fame, worked on the effects for Critters. While the creature effects are fairly convincing, my main gripe is with the large Critter, which is simply a man in an unconvincing suit. They show few shots of it, however, and as such it doesn't deter too much from the otherwise enjoyable effects. I suppose it was a necessary component to the story but I would have simply preferred the large critter not be included.

inline Image Acting all around is above average for a B movie. Genre favorite Dee Wallace is present for that motherly role she was born to play. Red headed Scott Grimes established quite a career in Hollywood, but Critters marks one of his first movies and he does an admirable job as the pint sized hero. Even the minor roles are worthy of praise, such as Lin Shaye as the panicky police dispatcher, and Don Opper as Charlie, the unlikely co-hero. Everyone fits into their respective roles and portrays their characters convincingly enough that it helps add a bit of realism to an otherwise silly premise.

inline Image The runtime is a scant 82 minutes but it's no doubt for the best. Critters works well in small doses and the director / writer Stephen Herek delivers on that front. No time is wasted with a ridiculous back story to the Crites. We are simply given the basic introduction and shown how they get to Earth. Things do move a bit slowly for the first half hour, but move along nicely for the remainder. You are left wanting more and with the three sequels that follow, we got it. If you're a fan of the Puppet Master or Ghoulies, or the countless other mini creature flicks, you are bound to enjoy Critters. Highly recommend.

Image Quality

inline Image New Line presents Critters in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio that is 16x9 enhanced. A P&S transfer is also included on the DVD. There's no doubt Critters has ever looked so good and it's unlikely to ever look better, with perhaps only a hi-def release providing some extra resolution and sharpness being able to top this DVD. The print is clean with only a few blemishes appearing. Colors are vibrant and I saw no noticeable grain, even during the countless nighttime scenes. There is some softness in a few nighttime scenes but the transfer is otherwise consistently sharp. Color me impressed.


Both a Dolby Surround and a new Dolby 5.1 track are included. I listened to the 5.1 track and while it's nothing spectacular, it gets the job done. There were only a few instances of LFE activity - the main being when the ship first enters the atmosphere and lands. Surround activity is minimal as well. Otherwise it's a clear track with no problems.

Supplemental Material

inline Image The only advertised supplements are a theatrical trailer and that the disc is DVD-ROM enabled. An alternate ending is present as as Easter egg that can be accessed by right-clicking from the top menu option and lighting up the Critters' eyes. It's a shame, too, as fans would have welcomed them. Director Stephen Herek is still in the business and we all know of the great contributions the Chiodo Brothers had for their Killer Klowns DVD. It may be the house that Freddy built, but clearly with three sequels the Critters franchise made some money for New Line. Disappointing.

Final Thoughts

New Line delivered with a top notch transfer but fails on the supplements side of the disc. Fans will no doubt add this to their collection and rightly so, but you can't help wishing New Line would treat Critters with the same love and respect they give to Freddy.


Movie - B+

Image Quality - A-

Sound - B

Supplements - D

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 26 minutes
  • Rated PG-13
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
  • Theatrical trailer
  • DVD-ROM Enabled



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Old 08-23-2009, 12:09 AM
The Apocalyptic Kid
I saw this film when it was 1st released.
We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.

- Johann von Goethe
Old 08-23-2009, 05:18 AM
Joe Six-Pack
Love the film, and so does the kids. Also enjoyed 2 and 3, but 4 was a major letdown. A sad way to end the series. I'm really surprised this movie hasn't been remade.
Old 08-23-2009, 07:03 PM

Glad to see this favorite of mine finally reviewed here on the site. I too echo rxfiend in liking the first two sequels and weeping uncontrollably for the dreadful fourth.

It's a shame these don't have extras - I'd have bought them all by now if they did. I remember in our Chiodo chat that the brothers said they had tons of behind the scenes footage that they could contribute to the DVD should New Line ask. Apparently they never did, and with Warner at the helm of the company now, I doubt they ever will...
Can't argue with a confident man.
Old 08-23-2009, 10:19 PM
They stay the same age...
Why doesn't Warner release these in a "4 Film Favorites" set so I can finally get my Critters fix? It's hard to believe that I've never seen a flick from this franchise. I want them, but I just know the second I drop $40 for them all, the 4 pack or box set will come for $15.

... Been saying that since release date now.
Oh, the Horror! Reviews - Theatrical, DVD and VHS horror reviews, interviews and lists! Now on Twitter!
B.A.L.L.S. Academy - Your Alma mater for teen films, raunchy, low-brow comedies, sexploitation & coming of age dramas.
Old 08-24-2009, 02:10 AM
go critters!
Old 08-24-2009, 05:31 AM
I love these. 2 is the best IMO. I used to cut out the newspaper ads for these and keep them in an album.
Old 08-25-2009, 12:57 AM
link to a very good mp3 copy of power of the night if anyone needs their fix:

my dvd's

Last edited by sumo8675309; 08-25-2009 at 01:00 AM..
Old 08-25-2009, 03:10 AM
Where is that song sourced from? I never knew there was an actual complete version available. Back when I bought my first PC in 1996 the first thing I did was rip that song as it appeared in the movie from an RCA-to-mini-plug adapter into my computer. Awesome to have it in all its integrity.

Terrance Mann 4 Eva.
Can't argue with a confident man.
Old 08-25-2009, 05:04 AM
yea i was suprised that it was the full song also, i found the link on youtube .....this guy has a whole page with rare soundtrack mp3's ...too bad he used rapidshare

youtube link:

here's the list:

Planes, Trains, And Automobiles
Savage Streets
Night Of The Comet
Action Jackson
The Gate
Near Dark
A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master
Teen Wolf
Teen Wolf Too
The Wraith
Stone Cold
Prayer Of The Rollerboys
Over The Top
The Crow(Score)
The Hunt For Red October
Crimson Tide
Con Air
Broken Arrow
The Phantom
The Rocketeer
Heavenly Bodies
Up The Creek
Howard The Duck
Once Bitten
The Heavenly Kid
Thief Of Hearts
Hearts Of Fire
Streets Of Fire
The Idolmaker
my dvd's

Last edited by sumo8675309; 08-25-2009 at 05:26 AM..

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