Review Date: August 22, 2009
Released by: New Line
Release date: August 5, 2003
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 the countless other mini creature flicks, you are bound to enjoy Critters
. Highly recommend.
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.
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.
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
- 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