Critters : A New Binge
Wow. Can I just tell you something? Critters a New Binge is what totally made me into a true critters fan.
I didn’t get around to watching this until a good year after it was made and I’m surprised to find that it wasn’t well received. I’m surprised because it was really everything that I could have asked for in one of these sequels… It’s still had the gore and the violence, but there’s so much comedy and heart to it that it was everything I wanted.
We start off with the weird little beasties making their way back to earth to hunt down a critter that had been left behind the last time they were there… It’s cheap CGI and I could probably even tell you which bitmap they were using to wallpaper the spaceship, but I don’t care – the design is clever and I’m here for the gags.
Back on earth we have a couple of dweebs, one of which is trying to impress the local ingenue. Critters show up with one directive – find a lost crite and don’t eat anybody. This f course, is too difficult of a directive and hilarity ensues. Bounty hunters are close on their trail, and unbeknownst to them there’s already a bounty hunter on earth embedded and waiting for them. However when they all converge with the young man, things take a shocking turn.
I can’t help but compare this so much to the killer tomatoes movies. My great complaint with those was that we never saw enough of the tomatoes, and I wanted more creature effects. By the time we hit part three f the Tomatoes series, we were starting to see more of what I wanted and once we got part four we were suddenly introduced to some very distinct individual personalities among the tomatoes… mostly lifted directly from the cartoon. That’s what A new binge gives us. We’re getting lots of critters, but we’re also getting distinct individuals, each with their own unique character designs. We get characters like the captain with his eyepatch and the pilot in his goggles, not to mention the president in his shirt collar and tie… It’s all ludicrous and hilarious and a delightful extension of what has come before. Mind you, this thing does not stand on it’s own, and it’s not gonna be any sort of terrifying slasher. We get jokes about how things were in the 80s and misdirects about who the lost crite is, not to mention shot of critters catapulting themselves… No I mean really catapult himself with a trebuchet, into the school to attack. It’s loony gory fun with buckets of blood and miles of intestines and I found myself loving every demented minutes of it.
The streaming platform helps, allowing us eight episodes at about 10 minutes each – the series is bite-size and easily digestible, but also just as simple to marathon as a feature if you so desire.
Of all the critters movies, this is the one that I want to come back to, and where, if it’s sitting on my DVD shelf I’d probably be pulling it more often than not. However at the time of this writing we don’t actually have a street date for any sort of DVD release and it’s been a couple years now! Here’s hoping that we get a copy of this on physical media that I can watch over and over again!
Critters attack is the unexpected sequel to the 80s critters movie. When I say unexpected, I mean it’s been 20 years since this franchise went dormant and while it’s got a great cult following, I’m a little surprised at this resurrection. Filmed separately and simultaneously with Critters a New Binge, Critters Attack has a very different tone and approach to the series.
In recent years there’s been a push to take series that had gone too comedic and try and drive them back towards a more sinister and scary atmosphere. The Nightmare on Elm Street remake was certainly going for this and Tom Holland’s New Chucky films we’re also trying to drift in this direction. Critters Attack follows suit, dropping the critters onto earth during a meteor shower and unleashing them to rampage as they will. Their leader is missing an eye, but it’s not the wacky sort of eyepatch gag that Critters a New Binge indulged in, but rather a scarred and hollowed out eyesocket so that you can distinguish them from the rest of the generic in uniform looking critters.
While babysitting kids for one of the local college professors, our heroine finds a fluffy Mogwai like character in the woods, and brings her home just before the critters attack and start to destroy her hometown. Is revealed that this character is the queen, and that this female had come to Earth to try and stop the rest of the male critters from their destruction. The male critters on the other hand are incubating other small critters within human bodies until they burst out like the xenomorphs in Alien. It’s all a fairly radical departure from everything we seen in the previous four movies, and definitely a different continuity from a new bench. I almost wonder if x-Men comic writer Scott Lobdell was interested in anything more than deconstructing the mythos and putting his own stamp on it.
Of great note is the fact that Dee Wallace returns for this film. It’s not a major role, she’s the subplot, an old cat lady turned bounty hunter who spends all but the last 10 minutes or so separate from the main cast, hunting the critters on her own. It’s nice to see Dee back, but she doesn’t really resemble the character that she played in the first movie and this attempt to turn her in the Sarah Connor or Ripley feels shoehorn in.
I don’t necessarily wanna sound like I hate the movie, it hits most of the right beats. Bloodthirsty a little fuzzball‘s that roll from place to place, giant critter ball, bazaar carnage, but it all feels like it’s missing the heart. That’s one thing to play thing straight, it’s another thing to forget just how ludicrous your premise is and I think this movie has done just that. I miss the subtitles on the critters. I miss the attitude and the gags that we get peppered through these movies. A Critters movie should be perhaps a little scary, perhaps a little gory, but overall it should be fun, and this isn’t as fun as I hoped it would be. I’m glad it exists, and I’d hope that it will keep the series going a little bit longer, but I also hope that The next time we see a critters movie, it’ll be somebody striking a balance between the outrageous slapstick of A New Binge and the too serious tone of Critters Attack.
I got to be honest, I’m kind of a sucker for the “in space” entry of any horror genre. Jason X and Leprechaun 4 our among my favorites in those respective franchises. It took Hellraiser two tries, but they did get it right with Event Horizon. More than most franchises though, Critters is uniquely suited for the space episode, considering that the wee little beasties are aliens in of themselves.
The previous film set us up for this, with the critter eggs being loaded onto an escape capsule that would then float around in space undisturbed, kind of like Buck Rogers. It’s found by a group of salvage people and they run it to a Terran space station which is eerily abandoned. The critters hatch and begin to do their thing while the crewmates squabble.
It’s actually an impressive cast, with the ship being captained by Anders Hove, the vampire from Subspecies, engineered by Brad Dourif of Chucky fame, and piloted by Angela Bassett. The computer voice on the space station also just happens to be hammer horror alumni and bond girl Martine Bestwick.
On the space station, where they’ve been conducting illicit experiments, the critters lay eggs while our heroes attempt to contain and require them. The movie manages to infuse the general fun of critters with the sci-fi genre and general Critters franchise feeling. Filmed back to back with part three it’s not surprising that they are able to maintain a consistent tone. It’s notable to see some of these actors in early roles but ultimately becomes disposable and silly entertainment, but definitely get the extra points for me for being in space!
What the heck is Leonardo DiCaprio doing in this movie!?
Outside of our returning bounty Hunter, I don’t actually recognize anybody else in the film, but that’s OK, because they’re set up and ready to go, this time move in the action primarily to a single location. While we start off on a road trip with critters arriving, they eventually infest themselves into a condemned building that the landlord is trying to kick everybody out of. It turns into a long night as the surviving tenants and the landlord’s son try to rid the building of the evil critters.
It’s great to see the bounty hunter back, and it’s fascinating to watch Leo – I was hoping he’d get eaten but no such luck. with a solid cast, it feels very by the numbers but that’s really what you want from such a film. It ends with a twist though. The bounty hunter is not allowed to destroy the last two eggs, as it would be genocide… These are the last two in existence as far as they know. An escape pod is sent for the eggs and he gets trapped in it – setting us up for the fourth film, Which will give us our first real departure from the formula in the series.
The best sequels take the formula of the previous movie and turn it up a notch. Aliens took its source material and cranked it up by adding a ton more aliens and increasing the action 100 fold. Critters amps up the ridiculous instead.
We return to Grover’s bend, with the kid who survived the last critter attack. The bounty hunters are back as well, and so are the bloodthirsty little hairballs. Critter eggs get mixed in with Easter eggs and they begin their free-for-all on the town.
When I really enjoy about critters to though is the way the absurdity gets cranked up.
We have a bounty hunter that needs to find a form to take on, the first thing he sees is a playboy centerfold and morphs into her – a significant departure from what we’ve seen previously…and a bit of surprise to see a topless scene in a PG-13 movie! The critters themselves are more obnoxious and more absurd, with my favorite scene occurring with them in an all you can eat buffet. It’s the first time we get to see the giant critter ball as well, we are all of the little creatures combined together to make one large rolling wrecking ball. This level of ridiculousness and comedy mixed in with violence and gore would continue throughout the rest of the series, and it’s really from the second film that we see a lot of the heart that we would get used to in the series. Sadly the next two entries would end up being direct to video.
I’m not sure why I’ve never tackled the Critters movies before now. I was definitely too young when the first two came out, and even though they were PG-13, my parents simply weren’t about to take me to see a horror movie. When the third and fourth came out I don’t recall much fanfare though, it seems to me that there wasn’t much in the way of advertisement, so even though I would’ve been old enough to rent the movies, I was far more interested in heading out to the theater to see Alien 3 or Hellraiser 4. Ultimately the timing was just off.
It’s long past time to rectify that so I grabbed copies of these films and began at the beginning (*sings* a very good place to start…..). As far as Gremlins rip offs, I have to admit, I prefer Ghoulies, but Critters is surprisingly well done.
It begins with the critters escaping to earth and bountyhunters dispatched to find them. What’s really shocking is the all star cast that we begin to run into here, not just D Wallace, but MM at Walsh as well as The occasional established veteran in their ranks.
As the critters descend upon the town, hilarity and Sue’s. The bounty hunters take various forms, and it’s a clever conceit. One that would be better exploited in the second film. We get to see the little fuzzballs roll around as well as spike people and grin and eat. It bloody and fun, it’s a little more dire than gremlins. It’s easy to see why the steak became a cult classic, and deservedly so. The film attracted enough attention to want to sequel, and that’s really where the ball will get rolling.