Critters – “The Ballad of Billy Zane”

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 There were a few things I went into this movie unaware of. One, that it would genuinely scare me. Two, the possibility of gaining a new workout song for the rare gym trip. And best of all, I had no idea Critters would treat me to prime, 80’s Billy Zane. Say one thing about this movie, say it has Billy Zane sporting the “wrap your sweatshirt around the waist” look.

If you want to know my feelings on horror films be sure to read the first few paragraphs from my The Sacrament review (not so subtle plug!). Casper is my favorite “horror” film of all time. I’ve sent the people at TBS letters advocating Casper should be played twenty four hours straight on Halloween. One day, perhaps.

So the idea of tiny furry aliens invading a quiet farm town seemed harmless, and it probably is to anyone over the age of six, but I had to turn the light on half way through the movie. The “crites” steal a spaceship, forcing what I can only describe as a half human/half Jabba the Hutt creature, to hire bounty hunters. These two were the real deal. They had bodacious space guns, the ability to transform into a rock star, and would kill in my weekly bowling league.

As I understand it, this movie was a response to the popularity of Gremlins. The latter is definitely a better movie, but Critters I found to be much creepier. Just looking at the theatrical poster gives me the willies. The crites are balls of fur with a smile full of razors. It’s what I imagine the design would be if they were to ever make a Cheshire Cat horror flick. They attack like the spiders in Arachnophobia. Seemingly shot out of cannons, these little guys can end your existence in the blink of an eye. Zane took a flesh eating Furby to the stomach! It’s horrifying. At least Gremlins had the decency to give us Gizmo. There was a good mix of both comic relief and cuteness relief.

The acting was surprisingly good for what the movie was. When I watch actors in scary films all I’m really looking for is if they look frightened. That’s it. Especially with all the CGI we use today I understand it might be difficult to get worked up over a green screen. Just put in the effort. Don’t pull a Tara Reid like in Sharknado 2: The Second One. I mean come on Tara, it’s a sharknado for goodness sake.

You could do worse when staying in on a Saturday night. This coming fall I suggest giving Critters a try. You’ll scream, you’ll sigh. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (E.T. fans will). The plot moves fast. They know we want the fur and they give them to us quick. Okay, not really. But the twenty minutes it takes for them arrive goes fast. There’s that 80’s vibe that stays with every movie from the decade. It’s like driving down to the shore, smelling that sea salt air. Not only is the ending satisfying, but it sets up for a sequel. Oh, just one sequel you ask? One sequel may be enough for that hack movie Gremlins. Critters consists of three sequels, four movies in all. Double its supposed better half! That counts for something, right?