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Non-Review Review: Critters 3

I have a confession to make. I have never seen a Critters film before. They were always sitting there on the lower shelves of the horror section in the shop where I used to rent DVDs, but I just never picked one up. I can’t quite explain why – that sort of trashy horror-comedy would probably have seemed right up my street, but I guess I was probably more fascinated with the more iconic horror monsters and menaces. Anyway, my better half has always had a bit of affection for Leonardo DiCaprio, and when we discovered that his first big screen role was as a kid in Critters 3, I suggested that we could watch both watch it. And, I’m surprised to admit, it was nowhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be.

Laugh it up, fuzzball…

Now, I know I shouldn’t pre-judge films, but there’s a reason people are inherently skeptical of the third film in any cycle, let alone the third film in a horror trilogy. Spider-Man III and X-Men III derailed two existing franchises so thoroughly that a fourth film became impossible. Return of the Jedi is seen as the weakest of George Lucas’ original trilogy. Batman Forever took everything interesting about Batman and Batman Returns and flushed it down the toilet. Godfather III is universally seen as a massive disappointment. Sure, there are good three-quels (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, for example), but there is reason to be wary.

That is especially true in the horror genre, where sequels tend to devolve rather rapidly, with classic horrors like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween being almost completely drained of their energy and wit by the third installment. Given that I’d rarely heard the original Critters spoken of at all, I was bracing myself for the worst. And, to be fair, the movie isn’t exceptional – but it is by no means terrible.

Don’t leave her hanging…

It would seem, from the flashback material provided here, that the Critters films have always leaned a little bit more towards comedy than horror, sort of like Gremlins with a bit more bloodlust (and maybe a little less charm). It’s telling that the only recognisable face in the cast, beyond a young Leonardo DiCaprio, is Frances Bay who is perhaps best known from her role in Happy Gilmore. The comedy itself is fairly generic, the horror is non-existent and there’s little real plot.

What to the monsters in question want? Apparently to eat, but there’s nothing beyond that. The movie spends far too much time with the creatures getting up to all sorts of inane activities that are probably intended to be funny. Sure, cutting back to them in a kitchen is a bit of a relief when compared to spending time with the generic human cast, but what’s the point? It’s just a variation on the “monsters have fun with mundane utilities” scene that we’ve seen countless times before, and not necessarily an inventive one. I don’t need little monsters to make burp and fart jokes.

Egging ’em on…

That said, the little creatures in question do have more personality than the collection of archetypes they are hunting. Using a rather cliché plotting device, we’re told that the apartment building is empty save for the primary cast – what a coincidence. Apparently some evil property director is driving them out so he can demolish it and make a tonne of money. So we have all the standard types of characters one expects in a film like this – there’s the hyper-competent kid with the neglectful father, the sweet elderly couple, the chubby middle-aged woman, a potential love interest for the father and an obnoxious New York building superintendent. Soon the developer and his son are on the ground, to help make this a party.

I can’t help but feel like locking these monsters up in a tenement building is just a bit of a waste of an opportunity. The cover to the DVD makes a big deal about the monsters coming to the big city, and there’s a whole big deal made about the creatures hitchhiking back to civilisation from the wilderness, so it just seems anticlimactic to have them take on a bunch of forgettable characters inside an empty building. Still, I suppose, life is full of disappointments.

Nasty lookin’ critters…

So, to be honest, it’s all a bit banal. Indeed, the eponymous space monsters seem remarkably well-behaved. Even for a horror comedy, the cast isn’t thinned out too much – which wouldn’t be a problem, except that none of them are developed any further than “horror movie fodder.” It’s somewhat disappointing that the two characters with the most distinguished (if more than a tad clichéd) personalities are among the first to go.

None of the performances really stand out, although I did quite like Geoffrey Blake as the obnoxious building supervisor. Sure, he’s a giant walking cliché (an obnoxious New Yorker dressed in the finest eighties clothing available), but at least Blake seems to be making a bit of an effort, while the rest of the cast sleepwalks through the film. In fairness to DiCaprio, he isn’t weak, he’s just not given a lot to work with. He does a decent job with the one-or-two emotional lines he is given, but he doesn’t have an opportunity to stand out. (Despite the fact the box makes a point to include him on the cover art given his subsequent success.)

Oh, chute!

Still, it’s not actively terrible. It’s just not good. It’s bland, and it’s inoffensive, which is probably just as damning. It’s tired and it lacks energy, but it never does anything especially unforgivable. Still, I am not rushing out to buy the Critters boxset, so I guess that it wasn’t as good as it should have been.

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2 Responses

  1. I have all four movies with Critters. Cool films, but the first movie is the best.

    http://knuteinar.wordpress.com/2010/12/30/endelig-fikk-jeg-tak-i-alle-fire/

  2. Check out part 2. They do some amazing stuff in it. CRITTER BALL.

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