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 4, back in space!
Movie: Critters 4 (1992)
Plot: After decimating the Crites population on Earth, which apparently was the entire Crites population in the universe, Charlie is told by Ug to save the last two eggs due to an intergalactic policy that no living thing should face extermination. A pod is sent down for Charlie to put the eggs in for preservation, but he gets stuck in the pod and is sent into space for 53 years to be picked up by the crew of a spaceship on their way back to Earth. Egos happen, eggs hatch, and the Crites run rampant on a space station while Charlie and the crew fight back.
Killer: Those flesh-eating furballs we’ve come to know and love.
Critique: I hate Critters 4. Not as a film as a whole, but because its minor faults derail what I think is one of the best films of the franchise stylistically. If you told me Ridley Scott got drunk and decided to make an Alien parody involving failed, horrific Muppets, that would be Critters 4, and I mean that in the most endearing way possible.
Like all of the Critters films, Critters 4 borrows heavily from other films. I say borrows, but at this point, we can finally upgrade “borrows/steals” with “parodies.” These films are a little more subtle than Weird Al Yankovic, but they’re parodies of sci-fi horror movies. Critters 4 parodies all of the Alien films that had preceded it: the atmosphere and pacing of Alien; the action and monster parenting of Aliens; the plot twist of a character we’ve come to love being evil from Alien 3. We also get a nice nod to HAL from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Critters 4 also brings us a mostly stellar cast, a plausible plot for a sci-fi creature feature, some great close-ups of the Crites that make them look like aforementioned nightmare Muppets, and a kill scene that more than makes up for the lack of kills in general in Critters 3.
So why is there any hate on Critters 4? It’s not the cheesy space special effects. What annoys me about Critters 4 is that the producers put together a followup film that surpasses the previous sequel, but fail to at least connect 3 and 4‘s continuity without screwing it up. Critters 3 (allegedly) takes place in Los Angeles, but Critters 4 starts out “Somewhere in Kansas.” It’s the same scene in the burnt out apartment building (re-shot, it seems, but the same) but different locations. Supposedly Critters 3 and Critters 4 were shot within the same few months. did someone shelve Critters 4 for editing, and completely forgot the plot of Critters 3 in post?
You had a classic, people, and you got lazy and threw it away.
Scene of Awesomeness: Captain Rick’s death by a Crite burrowing into his mouth is one of the greatest kill scenes in the Critters franchise, second only to the giant Crite-Ball running over someone and leaving a bloody skeleton behind in Critters 2. Anytime there’s a death that doesn’t involve a generic “biting and eating until there is a dead body half off-camera” is automatically awesome. It’s too bad they didn’t push the films into an R-rating and do it more often, even if it would have meant ripping off kills like this from A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (the dinner scene.)
Scene of Ridiculousness: The running joke in Critters 4 is that the space station’s central computer, “Angela”, isn’t running at peak performance and usually does the opposite of what you ask it to do, especially if you don’t have clearance to issue her commands. It’s funny at first, but it gets a bit ridiculous to hear Ethan (played by Paul Whitthorne) repeat this joke over and over again as he has Angela close doors while he’s running away from armed TerraCor guards.
Body Count: 7
1 Crite burrowing into a mouth (Awesomely Overkill Award)
4 eaten alive
1 space-gunshot to the stomach
1 antique gunshot to the head
No breasts. Just some side-boob and a shower silhouette.
Actors/Actresses of Note: Don Keith Opper is back for his grand finale in acting in Critters films… and films in general, it seems. We also have Eric DaRe, better known for his role as Leo Johnson in the Twin Peaks series and Silent Night, Deadly Night 3, Angela Bassett from just about everything, most recently as the Black Panther’s mom, Anders Hove from the Subspecies franchise, and Brad Dourif, who has been in everything from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to Dune to The Exorcist 3 to Alien: Resurrection, to the voice of Chucky in the Child’s Play franchise, to name a few. Say what you will about the Critters franchise, but they sure do get some big names! Makes me wonder if Barry Opper has a lot of dirt on the rest of Hollywood. Either that or New Line Cinema keeps writing in, “mandatory Critters film” in the contracts of actors and actresses.
Quote: ” Congratulations, Charlie, you have just murdered the ship. ” – Al Bert