Slap together a modestly budgeted horror film with an unmistakable resemblance to a recent hit film (Gremlins) and a notable inversion of another popular film’s ending (Poltergeist), insert just enough Podunk camp to ensure Joe Bob Briggs would catch its scent and you’ll guarantee yourself the birth of a franchise. Critters as a franchise has nothing on the Nightmare on Elm Street films, but it’s proven popular enough with Gen X-ers who forward “You know you’re a child of the ‘80s if…” emails to all their office mates. The uninitiated, however, are only likely to come away with fonder memories of Gremlins, which is not only more knowing than Critters about the genres it plunders for satiric value (‘50s creature features and Spielberg archetypes), it’s also more refreshingly mean-spirited. Though grue is spilt, never once do the filmmakers tap into the malevolent impulses behind horror film audiences. Every character is presented wholesomely (the only utterance of “fuck” springs from the mouth of the antagonistic Critters). Billy Zane, in particular, portrays one of the most insufferably earnest, goody-goody renderings of the “dangerous boyfriend” role ever seen (which is especially disappointing seeing as how he’s become one of Hollywood’s finest hams). It’s hardly surprising that Herek’s career has since steered toward the easy sentimentality of Mr. Holland’s Opus.
- New Line Cinema
- 86 min
- Stephen Herek
- Domonic Muir, Stephen Herek
- Dee Wallace-Stone, M. Emmet Walsh, Billy Green Bush, Scott Grimes, Natine Van Der Velde, Don Opper, Terrence Mann, Billy Zane
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