Published on July 20, 2019
July 23, 2019
During a babysitting job 20-year-old Drea accidentally attracts the attention of the man-eating hairballs from outer space after taking in one of their injured exiled royals. Soon Drea’s small Midwest town is overrun by the mischievous carnivores, who love nothing more than to be destructive and eat everything in sight.
“Critters Attack!” is the latest sequel and equally a reboot of the much loved 1986 cult classic “Critters” and picks up the series’ timeline shortly after the events of “Critters 3”, erasing the space-bound fourth movie and the diabolically bad “Critters: A New Binge” entirely from its canon. Directed by Bobby Miller (“The Cleanse”) and written by Scott Lobdell (“Happy Death Day”) the revamped fifth entry in the franchise employs the reinvention of several historic Critter laws, expanding on other themes including the Krites’ breeding habits, while remaining faithful to the source material and excelling when it comes to the various Krite designs.
This time around the film follows 20-year-old sushi delivery driver Drea (Tashiana Washington) and her younger brother Phillip (Jaeden Noel), who first witnesses the arrival of the man-eating hairballs while stargazing through his telescope. With the furry Krite pods officially crash-landing in Drea and Phillip’s isolated town’s backyard the Krites get straight down to business, chomping down on a minor character (Vash Singh). With the first official kill in the bag, we learn more about our protagonist Drea, who hasn’t had much luck in life and has again been rejected from the prestigious Leroy College, which she so desperately wants to attend. The details of our heroine’s heritage never truly amount to much in the later narrative, existing primarily to chew the fat during moments of Krite downtime.
After we are introduced to a few more bit players with little urgency to develop them, including Chef Loong (Ho Chow), Uncle Lewis (Stephen Jennings) and Gregory Sax (Tristan De Beer) the plot slowly but surely moves from A to B with Mandy (Alex Jeaven), Drea’s former best friend, offering Drea a babysitting job for one of the faculty members of the college admissions council (Tanya Van Groan). After a fleeting hesitation Drea agrees to look after the brats, which puts her (and by extension Phillip) in charge of Trissy (Ava Preston) and Jake (Jack Fulton) for the rest of the film’s running time. With the uncomfortable intro out of the way, where we discover Jake will only communicate by text and the ham-fisted Trissy has a harpoon up her derrière, Drea takes her brother, Trissy and Jake on a time-killing hike, where they stumble upon the latest addition to the hungry intergalactic beasts’ family, who has been left injured from her pod’s entry into the earth’s atmosphere. Unaware that their newly-named pet is part of a species that loves nothing more than to devour every living creature they encounter, Drea stupidly agrees to let ‘Miss Litterbug’ (Trissy) take Bianca home to nurse the space creature back to health. Quickly the foursome regret their actions when they are attacked by a stowaway male Krite, Bubbles, a ferocious little mite with red eyes and extremely sharp teeth! The rest of the mischievous carnivores soon follow in pursuit, wreaking havoc and destruction along the way and leaving the cookie cutter suburban dream in ruins as they attack one unsuspecting halfwit after another until Aunt Dee (Dee Wallace) emerges from the mayhem with a mock-heroic posture and an arsenal of weapons to save the day: “Come with me if you want to live!”
One of the strongest elements of “Critters Attack!” is that it boasts some pretty impressive 80s puppetry. Hardcore practical effects lovers will relish the visually distinctive Krites, which allows several of them to stand out from the crowd as they cackle with bloodied teeth and chow down on human body parts."
“Critters Attack!” has very little in common with the tone of the first two movies. The bleak claustrophobia present in the 1986 cult classic and the tightly-choreographed village attacks of the second are gone and have been replaced by tongue-in-cheek humour. The fifth instalment takes much of its influence from the third and fourth movies in the ever-populating series and just like the third movie, “Critters Attack!” balances comedic timing and grubby, low-budget kills with a sense of corny surrealism and denouement silliness. The pop-up humour and smirkiness of “Critters 3” isn’t the only borrowed material here. It’s apparent where “Critters Attack!” director’s loyalty lies even when it comes to the film’s score, written by Russ Howard III (“Surf’s Up”), who borrows heavily from Peter Manning Robinson’s (“Sometimes They Come Back...Again”) composition heard in “Critters 4”. One of the strongest elements of “Critters Attack!” is that it boasts some pretty impressive 80s puppetry. Hardcore practical effects lovers will relish the visually distinctive Krites, which allows several of them to stand out from the crowd as they cackle with bloodied teeth and chow down on human body parts. The simple sight of the creatures speeding by like accelerated tumbleweeds is pleasurable and even when the film reaches the 115-minute mark and turns into a re-tread of “Critters 2: The Main Course”, featuring the iconic Critterball, the film still manages to avoid the dreaded ditch between parody and predictable rehash sluggishness.
Helen Brown, played by Dee Wallace (“The Howling”), also returns to the fold as an enigmatic bounty hunter now called Aunt Dee. Aunt Dee, unlike Helen, lives in a picket-fenced community with her nephew and cats and behind the facades of suburban living has her very own man cave, equipped with weapons of mass destruction. It’s a nice touch, bringing the iconic legend home, but the hysteria Wallace brought to the original is absent and Aunt Dee feels more reminiscent of Charlie McFadden (Don Keith Opper), who became the only recurring character from the 1986 original in each of the three sequels. Additionally, Aunt Dee’s sub-plot exists entirely on the cuff until we reach the 3rd act. Another deviation is the hatching seen in “Critters 2: The Main Course”. This time around the Krites feed, lay eggs within the victim’s stomach and a short while later the body convulses before the creatures burst from the victim’s chest and immediately go about their killing spree again. In addition to the Krites’ birth modification the spikes on their back, which can be launched at will as projectiles, now no longer render the victims unconscious. Phillip gets a spike to the neck and after a moment of, “Will he or won’t he pass out?” he continues battling the Krites without any affliction. The last tweak is that loud sounds can eradicate our intergalactic beasts with ease!
Almost all the comments I received before watching “Critters Attack!” highlighted the excessive “gore content” and the kills being particularly “gruesome” when compared to the earlier movies. The cut I saw featured no more butchery than the original. In fact, both “Critters” and “Critters 2” easily win hands down when it comes to the most guts on screen for your money and even “Critters 4” features some gnarly kills including a scene where Capt. Rick (Anders Hove) is eaten inside out by a baby Krite shortly after breaking into the retrieved pod. Another criticism I’ve seen floating around on Twittersphere is that the film lacks a “well-constructed plot” that entertains, and once the Krites arrive the film simply becomes a “series of kills and gags” while the “human characters drain the fun from the film’s proceedings entirely.” I certainly acknowledge there is a pacing issue but Scott Lobdell’s story was well executed by Miller and it’s more an editing (Mike Mendez) problem rather than the story. Had the edits been a little tighter and the overlong chitchat when the Krites are off screen been left on the cutting room floor the film would be right up there with Kristine Peterson’s (“Critters 3”) entry, a slow burner that furthers the Krites’ evolution on screen while the main characters endeavour to protect themselves by moving from one location to the next while trying to think of ways to defeat the little buggers.
“Critters Attack!” is an 80s throwback that hasn’t let the series down. The slapstick gore makes it as good as, if not better than, “Critters 3” and whilst the plot is thin and the pacing askew the Critters are well and truly back in all their glory, and just for that “Critters Attack!” gets my seal of approval. Bring on “Critters 6”!!!!