Blu-ray Review: The Critters Collection

Low budget exploitation films have done their best over the decades to rip off a box office hit. But it takes a unique film to braid three cultural sensations into one concept. What happens when you take endow a creature with the evil mischievous behavior of Gremlins, wrap them in the fur of the Tribbles from Star Trek and drop them on the earth like E.T.? You get Critters! The cool part is film that should be seen as derivative comes off as original and fresh. The movie was able to spawn three sequels. Critters was a major hit at most Mom and Pop videostores in the VHS era and now all four films have been collected and upgraded for The Critters Collection.

Critters (1986 – 85 minutes) opens deep on an asteroid planet as preparations are being made for the transfer of creatures that are extremely dangerous and deadly. The Crites are so dangerous and deadly and they escape with a direction towards Earth. While they land in an unsuspecting Kansas farming community, they are not alone. Two bounty hunters are on their tail. The duo are shapeshifters so as they arrive on the planet Ug (Cats‘ Terrance Mann) takes on the appearance of rock star Johnny Steele. The other remains faceless as they touch down to save the Earth from the Crites. What are the Crites? They are fuzzy roly poly creatures with huge teeth and a desire to kill anything that moves. The one person in Kansas that isn’t unsuspecting about evil aliens is Charlie (City Limits‘ Don Keith Opper). Trouble is he’s the town drunk and troublemaker. Brad (ER‘s Scott Grimes) believes him especially after Billy Zane (Titanic) gets eaten during a romantic moment. Can the town drunk, a teen and two bounty hunters stop the infestation of the Crites? Director Stephen Herek and crew do a fine job of making a low budget film juggle the critters made by Chiodo brothers (Killer Clowns from Outer Space). Herek would go on to an amazing career that includes Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Mighty Ducks and Mr. Holland’s Opus.

Critters 2: The Main Course (1988 – 85 minutes) proves that the Crites didn’t get completely wiped out. Let’s not spoil the end of the last film, but the monsters return involves a major religious holiday. Brad (Grimes) visits his grandma in Grover’s Bend to enjoy the holiday. The locals know who he is and aren’t happy when it appears the Crites are now attacking their town. They fear Brad is in cahoots with them. Ug and Charlie show up to kill more of the critters with their pal Lee who initially shapeshifts into a Playboy Playmate (Scream Queen Hot Tub Party‘s Roxanne Kernohan). The film looks great thanks to the hiring of future Oscar-winner Russell Carpenter (Titanic) and Mick Garris (The Stand). The film also is blessed by the cinematic magic known as Eddie Deezen (Grease and Assault of the Killer Bimbos).

Critters 3 (1991 – 85 minutes) marked the movie debut of Leonardo DiCaprio. That’s right, the King of the World got his career kicked off fighting Crites. Charlie is tracking down the critters when he warns a family about the little monsters. They think it’s a joke and go back home to the city. Little do they know that the Crites have hitched a ride and are now infesting their apartment building. There’s a blood bath in the basement. Director Kristine Peterson made a film that didn’t belong sent straight to VHS by New Line Cinema. But the films did have an amazing following at Video Bar so they went straight to the audience. What’s amazing about the series so far is that all three films have serious Titanic connections. Sadly James Cameron didn’t make the final installment although it featured a spaceship set that looks like something he would have made during his time working for Roger Corman.

Critters 4 (1992 – 105 minutes) took the series out of this world. A pod containing Charlie and the Crites is discovered floating in space 50 years after Critters 3. Charlie tries to warn the crew to not mess with the pod, but curiosity and greed is too much. Things immediately go bad on the spaceship and Charlie is once more battling the critters. The salvage crew is made up of a remarkable cast including Angela Bassett (American Horror Story), Brad Dourif (Alien Resurrection), Anne Ramsay (Mad About You), Eric DaRe (Twin Peaks) and Martine Beswick (Thunderball). Director Rupert Harvey had been the producer of the last film. The final episode is a shift in tone from the previous four. This does bring a fitting end to Charlie and the Crites.

The Critters Collection remains addictive. It’s so easy to marathon all four films on a weekend thanks to their rather short running times. While the Crites are a bit derivative from the three influences, the puppets made by the Chiodo brothers make them a hoot to watch when they go on a bloody and fuzzy rampage. The films will take you back to the glory days of tape rental that after they finish, you’ll want to rewind the Blu-ray discs.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfers bring out the details in the Crites. Even the two films that were released straight to video look better framed up. The audio is DTS-HD MA stereo. The action sounds fine when Ug is blasting away at the Crites. The movies are subtitled.

Disc One: Critters (1986)

Audio Commentary With Producer Barry Opper And star Don Opper

Audio Commentary With Critter Designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo, And Stephen Chiodo

They Bite!: The Making Of Critters (71:05) features interviews With actors Dee Wallace, Don Opper, Terrence Mann, and Lin Shaye, producer Barry Opper, writer Brian Muir, Critters Designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo, and Stephen Chiodo, Make-Up Artist R. Christopher Biggs, Special Prop Supervisor Anthony Doublin, Composer David Newman, Second Unit Director Mark Helfrich, Critter Voice Actor Corey Burton, And Miniature Effects Supervisor Gene Warren Jr. Does it’s best to defend Critters as more than a rip off as Gremlins. They talk of how the script was done years before Gremlins. He talks about the Western element in his original script. They originally made a deal to get the film produced by Roger Corman, but New Line made an offer that had a higher (although not that high) budget. All elements of the film gets reviewed.

For Brian: A Tribute To Screenwriter Brian Domonic Muir (21:57) talks about his life. He passed away in 2010. Among his other scripts were Evil Bong and Gingerdead Man.

Behind-The-Scenes Footage (11:52) includes motion test of the Critters monsters.

Alternate Ending (4:23) has big bangs.

Theatrical Trailer (1:30) reminds us that of all the planets of the galaxy, they chose ours.

TV Spots (2:05) shows a lot of teeth and firepower.

Still Gallery (5:49) has promotional art and behind the scenes photos.

Disc Two: Critters 2: The Main Course (1988)

Audio Commentary With Director Mick Garris

Audio Commentary With Critters Designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo, And Stephen Chiodo

The Main Course: The Making Of Critters 2 (63:00) features interviews With Director Mick Garris, Actors Liane Curtis, Don Opper, Terrence Mann, And Lin Shaye, Producer Barry Opper, Critter Designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo, And Stephen Chiodo, And Make-Up Artist R. Christopher Biggs. Garris talks about how he accepted this as his debut feature when New Line pictures told him it was fully funded with a budget twice the size of the original. Garris says that it’s a rip-off of Gremlins.

Behind-The-Scenes Footage (23:39) shows what it takes for the critters to attack the town that was made for the film.

Additional TV Scenes (13:09) includes a bus trip, characters riding in a pick up truck and more Easter egg hunting.

Theatrical Trailer (1:40) promises a sweet town is going to get unexpected guests for Easter this year.

TV Spot (0:32) promises a second helping of horror and a visit from Critter Busters.

Still Gallery (3:05) shows how the giant critter ball was made.

Disc Three: Critters 3 (1991)

Audio Commentary With Producer Barry Opper and Star Don Opper gets deep into the action and tales from inside the supermarket studio.

You Are What They Eat: The Making Of Critters 3 (26:27) interviews Producer Barry Opper, Screenwriter David J. Schow, Stars Don Opper And Terrence Mann, Director Of Photography Thomas J. Callaway, and Critters Designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo, and Stephen Chiodo. Sadly no Leonardo DiCaprio. In fact it’s revealed that Leo hates it when a reporter tries to bring up the film. The producers decided that instead of doing another sequel, they would make two films as one to save on the budget. There’s great stories of how the puppets caught fire.

Trailer (1:39) shows how the Critters rolled to the big city.

Promo (1:46) is the video promo from New Line Home Video. They show off the VHS boxes.

Still Gallery (2:16) has plenty of dreamy Leo pics.

Disc Four: Critters 4 (1992)

Audio Commentary With Producer/Director Rupert Harvey

Space Madness: The Making Of Critters 4 (22:39) features interviews With Producer Barry Opper, Screenwriter David J. Schow, Stars Don Opper And Terrence Mann, Director Of Photography Thomas J. Callaway, And Critters Designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo, and Stephen Chiodo. Picks up from Critters 3. When that film went to out to shoot on location, the production crew built the spaceship sets in the supermarket studio. The film is a bit more darker than the first three. Chiodo brothers discuss how the script changed and there wasn’t a budget to completely adjust the critter puppets. Mann has high praise for Angela Bassett. Mann wants to perform as Johnny Steel. Both films went straight to video, but did well.

Trailer (2:10) gives us the characters in space.

Still Gallery (3:05) are more pics from the creature shop and the supermarket studio.

Shout Factory presents The Critter Collection. Directed by Stephen Herek, Mick Garris, Kristine Peterson & Rupert Harvey. Starring: Terrence Mann, Scott Grimes, Don Keith Opper, Angela Bassett and Leonardo DiCaprio. Rated: PG-13. Boxset Contents: 4 films on 4 Blu-ray discs. Released: November 27, 2018.

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