Critters DVD Review

After "Gremlins" pulled in some insane box office numbers, it's no surprise that multiple knock-offs were soon to follow. "Critters" is probably the best, not only giving New Line a nice return on their investment, but also spawning three sequels in the process. Though things may be slow to build, it ends up being a highly enjoyable little creature flick.

After destroying their prison ship, the "Crites" set sights for Earth. Following closely behind are two shape-shifting bounty hunters determined to kill the voracious aliens at any cost. Caught in the middle are a small Kansas town and the Brown family, now at the mercy of both interstellar races.

"Critters" has just about everything you could ask for. Spaceships, bounty hunters, a town drunk, a lead singer to an 80's hair band named "Johnny Steele," chickens, and needle shooting, flesh-eating teeth with fur. Easily the best part of this film is these oddball creatures, far more devilish than those created for Joe Dante's classic. The problem is that it takes too long for them to get any screen time and in the process it bores anyone watching. Viewers get a brief first look around the forty minute mark, though it does allow for a little bit of generic character development. That's not necessarily a good thing when the only characters the audience wants to see are not involved in the process.

Comedy isn't quite the focus here, but it's clear from the start this movie is not about to take itself seriously. The relatively "cute" communication method used by the Crites is subtitled twice and it makes for the funniest moments. Both bounty hunters provide a few laughs as they tear apart a planet they know nothing about and of course the hungry little aliens die in humorous ways. See if you can catch the numerous pop-culture references too.

Ok, so this isn't art house cinema at its finest nor is it original. It's somewhat under whelming in the end too. That doesn't mean it doesn't provide a good time. If you've seen "Gremlins" too many times and liked it but feel the need for something else, this is the best alternative you'll find. It's certainly better than the awful "Munchies" which would star Nadine Van der Velde who stars here as April. (*** out of *****)

New Line provides DVD fans with a surprisingly clean 1.85:1 transfer here. Those who enjoy watching their movies with the sides cut off can watch a pan & scan transfer that is located on the same side. This is a dark movie and without decent black levels, it could have been a disaster. Colors are strong when they have a chance to be and grain is the only real problem. Even with many scenes drenched in light blue tones, compression is never a noticeable concern. This is a fantastic job considering the age. (****)

Both versions of the film feature the same audio options, 5.1 and 2.0 Surround. The best use of sound comes during the creature's first reveal in which you can hear a glass jar make a noise in the left rear speaker. It creates a great "jump" moment. Otherwise, dialogue is a little scratchy, but within acceptable limits for a nearly 20-year old movie. Bass is notably absent, especially when the bounty hunters begin blowing things up. It is somewhat strong in a few scenes, so you'll notice the loss when it isn't there. This remastered mix is both surprising and disappointing. (***)

Since this isn't exactly the worlds most respected film, extras are thin. The only real extra is hidden (check the eyes on the main menu) and that's a somewhat more depressing alternate ending. This one could go either way as the included one is a little cheesy and I'm sure audiences were left a little confused after seeing this new one. All that's left is a trailer for this and the other films in the series. (**)

Director Steven Herek would later go on to do another comedy, "The Mighty Ducks," but probably his best work was a drama, "Mr. Holland's Opus." This was his first Hollywood effort and it's a good one, bringing in over $13,000,000. What's surprising is that he didn't come back for the sequel, or any of the other three films. In fact, different directors helmed all four.


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