Critters (film series)
The Critters film series, from New Line Cinema, comprises four movies that combine elements of horror, science fiction and comedy. The first film, called simply Critters, was released in 1986 and received "two thumbs up" from Siskel and Ebert.
Although widely believed to have been made to cash in on the success of the similarly themed Gremlins (which is also owned by Warner Bros.), director Stephen Herek has refuted this in interviews, pointing out that the first Critters script was written by Domonic Muir long before Gremlins went into production and subsequently underwent rewrites to reduce the apparent similarities between the two films. In any case, the basic plotline of the first film - mysterious strangers arrive in small town to repel marauding invaders - is more like a classic Western narrative.
The central focus of the series is upon a group of malevolent carnivorous aliens from outer space, called Krites, that have the ability to roll into balls (cf. hedgehogs) and combine into a pernicious sphere that can roll across the landscape and cause mayhem. In appearance, the individual Krites resemble small furry/spiky animals with large mouths and many sharp teeth. Throughout the movies they attack humans by biting and attempting to eat them, or at least a piece of them. The spikes on their backs can be launched as projectiles (rendering the victim unconscious). The coloration of the Krites varies between black, brown and navy blue. In the original film they were also able to grow to a much larger size, although this ability was dropped for the sequels.
The storyline for the first two films involves bounty hunters from outer space who hunt the extraterrestrial monsters in a small American town. The setting for the third movie is a city whilst in the final film the hunt takes place on a space station.
The Critters (i.e. Krites) are ravenous creatures that exist simply to eat and breed and the main human characters in the films endeavor to protect themselves while trying to think of ways to defeat them. Terrence Mann appears in all four films as an interstellar bounty hunter named Ug, as does Don Keith Opper as Charlie, an alcoholic who rises to the occasion when called upon to defend mankind. Leonardo DiCaprio appeared in Critters 3, and Dee Wallace-Stone and Billy Zane both appeared in the first installment. Scott Grimes starred in the first two films as Bradley Brown.
|Critters (1986)||Stephen Herek||Stephen Herek
Don Keith Opper
|Critters 2: The Main Course (1988)||Mick Garris||David Twohy
|Critters 3 (1991)||Kristine Peterson||David J. Schow
|Critters 4 (1992)||Rupert Harvey||Rupert Harvey
David J. Schow
- Dee Wallace-Stone as Helen Brown
- M. Emmet Walsh as Harv
- Liane Alexandra Curtis as Megan Morgan
- Terrence Mann as Ug/Johnny Steele
- Roxanne Kernohan as Lee
- Billy Green Bush as Jay Brown
- Scott Grimes as Brad Brown
- Nadine Van der Velde as April Brown
- Don Keith Opper as Charlie McFadden
- Billy Zane as Steve Elliot
- Ethan Phillips as Jeff Barnes
- Lin Shaye as Sally
- Michael Lee Gogin as Warden Zanti
- Art Frankel as Ed
- Roger Hampton as Jake
- Angel Casas as Samuel
The central focus of the series is upon a group of malevolent carnivorous alien creatures called Krites which are known as Critters. They have the ability to roll into balls (like hedgehogs) and combine into a sphere that can roll across the landscape causing destruction.
In the first film, the largest Krite took leadership over the others. This is carried over into the second film where, though later turning out to be Ug in disguise, the largest Krite was seen as the leader once more, being able to persuade the immense pack of smaller Krites to continue on to Polar Ice Burger instead of attacking the humans that were following behind them. Although the concept of the biggest Krites being the leader was dropped in Critters 3, the Krite whose face was burned by bleach is shown leading the group throughout most of the film and is the last Krite to be killed. Because the fourth film only has two main Krite characters, it is difficult to determine if a lead Krite is being suggested, although one Krite (the one who had the top of its head shot bald by Charlie when it was a hatchling) is shown as ordering around the other Critters.
The appearances of the Krites varies from film to film. In the first film, they appear to be much smaller than in the sequels (save for the lead Krite) and not as furry. Their stomachs are fully revealed whereas in the sequels they are covered completely by fur. Their fur appears more slicked back instead of wild or spiky like in the sequels, and their teeth appear more needle-like than in future installments. In one scene in the original film, a Krite's eyes appear to be orange instead of the bleeding red seen throughout the rest of the film, but this look is never repeated.
In the second film, the Krites appear larger than in the first film, have larger teeth, with fur (thicker and more haphazard than their predecessors) covering their entire bodies except for their arms and legs.
The third film portrays a larger, more rounded version of the Krites. Their eyes are larger, with a fluorescent, glowing red instead of the dull bleeding red from earlier films. Their fur is thicker and spikier than before, and appears to be blacker than the brownish tint seen in the second film. The skin is also lighter than before.
In the third and fourth films, the Krites look about the same in every aspect, although their eyes appear duller in the later film.
Not much is mentioned regarding the reproduction habits of the Krites, as no information is shown in the films or given in interviews by the creators. They are portrayed with a need to eat before laying eggs, but how they produce eggs in the first place is never revealed. No mating rituals are shown or discussed in the films.
In Critters 4, Charlie tells Fran that it takes six months for Krite eggs to incubate. This is contradicted in the previous installment, however, when the eggs from the beginning of the film hatch in what appears to be a span of just a few hours, and in the second film where eggs laid in the first film appear to have remained dormant for two years before they were found. How many eggs a Krite can produce at one time is not revealed.
It may be that temperature has an effect on Krite eggs, seeing as the eggs in Critters 2 and Critters 3 seemingly hatch in response to close proximity to heat (a heater and the underside of a truck respectively). This also appears to be a factor in Critters 4 and Critters 2 in which the eggs lie dormant when cryogenically frozen or left in a cold drafty barn and hatch almost immediately when exposed to a warmer temperature. Extremely cold temperatures also seem to have a detrimental effect on eggs, as hairless hatchling Krites are shown in Critters 4 when the eggs are laid in a cold incubator.
That Krites are exclusively carnivorous as shown repeatedly in each film. The idea that eating more and more increases the Krite's size, eventually leading to a Krite becoming the alpha or dominant in its group, is suggested only in the first film and may be a sign of Krite maturity, as the Krites in the first film are much older than the Krites in the subsequent films.
Krites are normally seen to hunt and attack in groups in the movies. Rarely has a Krite been shown to attack on its own outside of the few occasions in the first and fourth films. Charlie explains in the fourth film that Krites generally go for a victim's face and neck, although the films show them attacking the chest and gut area of a victim more often than not. Once a victim is caught, usually one Krite initiates the attack and the others quickly follow in one swift barrage.
Krites' only weapons are the natural weapons built into their bodies. One such mechanism is the ability to shoot a poison barb like a projectile at a victim. The barb injects a type of poison into the victim's bloodstream, causing the victim to fall asleep or unconscious for an unspecified amount of time. It is shown that removing the barb awakens the victim. It is not revealed whether these barbs affect other Krites. The fourth film is the only film in which the Krites do not utilize their poison barbs. The size and thickness of the barbs varies from film to film.
Another mechanism is their rather large mouth filled with rows of sharp teeth. A Krite's bite is shown to be extremely effective and difficult to extricate. In most cases, a victim is forced to beat on the Krite's snout like that of a great white shark or crocodile, or stab the Krite with sharp objects enough that it releases its hold.
In the third film, "Blackie" (as designated by another Krite), encounters Annie near the entrance on her way to find help. It opens its mouth and lets out a shrill and deafening scream that has enough power to shatter a jar. Although it serves the purpose of temporarily disarming or stunning the victim, it also serves as a beacon to alert the other Krites. This mechanism is never used or heard of in any other installment.
The second film introduces the giant Critter ball - an enormous ball of Krites all latched onto each other to move as one single unit. Not much is revealed about this mechanism, except that it enables the herd to survive a factory explosion and being rammed by a pickup truck, but not the direct impact of a bounty hunter spaceship. It is only used in the second film.
The Krites in the third film are shown launching themselves straight up into the air, as seen when one of the Krites launches itself up a laundry chute in an attempt to attack Rosalie. A variation is shown at the end of the film, when a Krite tucks itself into a ball and revvs up as a means of attack.
While never shown to be used, Krites also have three sharp claws on their hands and feet.
Throughout the series, Krites are shown to have varying degrees of learning and intelligence. In the first film the Krites escape from a seemingly highly advanced prison asteroid (where they are to be executed) by hijacking a space ship. Although the Krites fall for the trap set for them at Polar Ice Burger in the second film (which could perhaps be attributed to a disguised Ug persuading them to go), they are shown banding together as a giant Critter ball and saving themselves from impending destruction, although this action could be viewed as being based on instinct. In the third film, the Krites formulate a successful plan to infiltrate a room where humans have locked themselves by moving through the ventilation system. In the same film, once the humans moved up to the attic and blockaded the door, the Krites opted to move up the elevator shaft to get to them. Critters 4 shows the Krites being able to easily use a space station's core control computer and change the navigation course from an unknown planet to Earth. The film also shows them being able to use the growth accelerator in one of the labs to genetically enhance their offspring.
- Roger Ebert (11 April 1986). "Critters". suntimes.com.
- Chris McCarron (10 December 2015). "Critters 1-4 Review". atthamovies.com.
- "DVD Stalk: Asylum, Masters of Horror, Critters, and Region Free Horror Highlights". dvdtalk.com.
- Excerpt from interview with Stephen Herek, Critters UK VHS liner notes (Cinema Club edition)
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- "X-Entertainment: Critters 3 Movie Review! Leonardo DiCaprio's film debut?". x-entertainment.com.
- "Huge plot hole.. - IMDb". imdb.com.
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- "X-Entertainment: Movie Review: Critters 2 - The Main Course!". x-entertainment.com.
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- "X-Entertainment - Critters (1986) - Horror/Sci-Fi Movie Review". x-entertainment.com.
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