I don’t know what was in the water during the ’80s, but I think they have to put it back in. It was a Golden Age for fun films, particularly in the horror and sci-fi genres. One of the sub-genres that came from horror and sci-fi was the little creature feature: films featuring funny, violent creatures that you could hug or run for your life from at the same time, like Gremlins, Munchies, Ghoulies, Troll, The Gate, and Hobgoblins.
But there is one little creature feature franchise that did it the longest, and even had a mini-binge series on the horror streaming service Shudder: Critters: A New Binge. Today we continue our quest to see if this franchise was deserving of that streaming series with Critters 3, aka The Critters Take LA.
Movie: Critters 3 (1991)
Plot: Apparently Charlie has been hunting down the last of the Crites around Grover’s Bend for the past three years. Unfortunately, the Crites are able to lay some eggs in the undercarriage of an RV headed to Los Angeles, where the hatchlings wreck havoc on the tenants of an apartment building.
Killer: Crites. Kill Crites.
Critique: Remember all the sequel praise I poured onto Critters 2? How Critters 2 was able to maneuver its theme and story through a genre road that usually leaves the rotting carcasses of sequels in ditches? How the film doesn’t try to be more than it is, an ’80s creature feature horror comedy featuring space porcupines?
Well, Critters 3 receives none of that praise, except knowing what it is: the obvious final milking of a horror franchise by the producers. Apparently Critters 3 and, to be reviewed later, Critters 4 were both shot in the same 6-month block, which means either:
A) The producers went to New Line Cinema and said, “Hey, we’ve got two more Critters films in the tin!” And then, after Critters 3 was screened, the producers said, “Yeah, I know it’s not great, but it really ties into the next film, Critters 4! Watch that and it’ll make sense. Trust me!”
B) New Line Cinema went to the producers and said, “Let me order up another couple of those hairball horror movies you gave us last. This decade hasn’t started out being kind to the genre, so we need some good, old fashioned space monsters.”
The idea behind Critters 3 is fine: space monsters in the city. Predator 2 did it. Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan did it. Leprechaun 2 did it. King Kong and and Godzilla did it. Unfortunately, Critters 3 follows the film sequels that don’t feature gigantic monsters that could demolish a city, and instead play into the idea that the characters are all alone in a big city, which is a little unbelievable even when dealing with carnivorous hedgehogs from outer-space.
But even that, along with the canned script that you can see is making the cast wince whenever they hiccup a line, could have been forgiven if the film allowed the Crites to do what they do: feed. This film is in Los Angeles, but it has the same body count as the first Critters film, which takes place on a single farm. If you add in the cows and chickens killed in the original, that film has more gore than Critters 3. What were they trying to do, make a classy man-eating space gerbil movie?
Scene of Awesomeness: Seeing Frances Bay slice a Crite in half with a meat cleaver is pretty goddamn awesome. Really, seeing Frances Bay do anything in movies is awesome, but this makes Critters 3 watchable.
Scene of Ridiculousness: Seeing Charlie explode out of the bushes for what seems to be no reason other than giving us a terrible jump-scare is pretty ridiculous. Not in a fun, goofy way, but a, “How the hell did he get in there, and whay did he explode up out of there to give a random group of kids their frisbee back, as well as a warning crystal that glows when Crites are near?” Believe me, there is a lot of cheesy ridiculousness in Critters 3, but this takes the crown.
Body Count: 2 (and 3 via cut-scenes from the previous films that seems like a long movie trailer)
2 people eaten alive (Awesomely Overkill Award for both because both characters are jackasses. And, there aren’t enough kills to give out a real awesomely overkill award.)
Actors/Actresses of Note: Don Keith Opper is back in his only acting role of Charlie the town drunk turned space bounty hunter. I’m pretty sure Don keeps getting this role because his brother, Barry Opper, is a producer for all of these Critters films. We also have William Dennis Hunt of the sexploitation franchise Flesh Gordon, twins Christian and Joseph Cousins from Kindergarten Cop and Knots Landing, Nina Axelrod from Motel Hell, Frances Bay, known for being Grandma opposite Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore, and the star that is plastered on everything to do with Critters 3 marketing because it is his debut film role, Leonardo DiCaprio! The Critters acting blessing continues!
Quote: “Give my regards to Mars.” – Josh