One of the greatest memories I have in life comes from my weekends in front of the television in the late 90’s. The reason behind this would be mind-boggling to my friends but to me it was one of the happiest times of my youth.
Every Saturday and Sunday the 'Superstations’ as they were called, would each have a series of 80’s film play throughout the day with one of these stations focusing primarily on horror films.
Needless to say, this is where I would first see most of the films we know and love today. Sure, they were edited for language and nudity but you can bet your ass they kept in all the awesome kills.
Besides being introduced to the greatness that is Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, which I all enjoy dearly, I was also acquainted to some of the more ridiculous characters and their series.
These harebrained entries into the genre happened to be my favorite to watch. In place of a spine-chilling musical score, you’d get a silly set of instrumentals the likes of what we would hear on a child's cartoon or better yet, an after-school special. The death scenes were far from grotesque and typically provided little to no blood. These scenes typically came from ‘creature features’ and were usually far fetched from anything realistic but their entertainment value was incredible.
The reason I bring this up is thanks to my recent viewing of Leprechaun II on St. Patrick's Day. Upon viewing the film, I was brought back to that moment in time. The music was perfect, the death scenes were above the top of ridiculous and a character the likes of the Leprechaun thrown into the mix was the combination I needed to feel like I was a ten year old sitting in front of a tube TV in my childhood home.
This all for me thinking, why not revisit all these types of schlocky films and bring you my thoughts, so without any further reminiscing, I present to you the inaugural 'Creature Feature Friday’ and what better film to start with than everyone's favorite killer alien furballs, Critters!
Critters is a 1986 comedy / horror / sci fi film written by Domonic Muir, directed by Stephen Herek and stars Dee Wallace, Billy Green Bush, Scott Grimes, Nadine Van der Velde and Billy Zane.
The film centers around a group of furry yet dangerous aliens known as the 'Crites’ who’ve escaped from a space prison by stealing a high powered spacecraft. As their primary function is seemingly, to eat, they decide to take a pit stop, landing their ship near a farm house in order to indulge in a lovely feast of human flesh. Luckily for the earthlings, two no nonsense bounty hunters track them to the nearby planet and with the help of the Brown family, begin to seek and destroy the creatures before they make a buffet. Are they able to make it on time? Or do the 'Crites’ have more than a single trick up their sleeves to use in order to avoid being recaptured?
This was actually the first time that I've seen the film in roughly twenty years. I recalled that I liked it but didn't remember exactly why that was but would soon be reminded.
To start, the youngest Brown family member, Brad, was what you would call cool at that age. He was smart, funny and had a incredible ability to build homemade explosives, a skill which would come in handy once his home is attacked. These are just a few of the traits I as a unpopular kid wished he could have. Next to this, the fact that the father, Jay, is quickly injured and deemed basically useless throughout most of the film really hit home for me. Having a father who was constantly in and out of the hospital due to his failing health or as he would otherwise typically be away for work, was something that forced me to take a 'Man of the House’ mentally when things would go awry. Not exactly a killer alien invasion per say but for things at a much smaller scale.
As mentioned earlier, the ridiculous kills are a massive factor in the entertainment value with these types of films. Opposed to the creatures or killers having a variety of clever ways to take out their victims as we would typically see, ‘Critters’ offers this same entertainment but flipped upside down, having the 'Crites’ be the ones getting killed off by various means. These include explosions, shotgun blasts and a great Bugs Bunny-esq death scene involving a hungry creature and a high powered firecracker.
The storyline is simplistic but effective for what they are doing with it. Aliens arrive, humans attempt to survive while finding a way to stop them. There's really nothing more to it than that which is perfect for a younger fan or even a drunk to follow!
Another plus is how the animatronics used for the 'Crites’ was almost flawless! Call it movie magic, camera tricks or whatever other fancy term you want to use, those creatures looked like they could have been real. This obviously aided in giving the film the charm and uniqueness that it has although some people will still claim that it's a lame knock off of 'Gremlins’, but I say they're each their own thing and live then both.
If this is something you've never seen and enjoy these type of films, I would suggest you jump right in with a bag of popcorn and a six pack to enjoy.
Have you listened to the newest episode of Beyond The Void Horror Podcast? They talk about “Altered States” & “Demon Seed”. One story about a guy who is researching the effects of the brain on hallucinogens in sensory deprivation tank and one scientist who creates the smartest Artificial Intelligence with a healthy appetite for makin babies. Listen here or on iTunes Here!