Say what you will about the devilish, extra-terrestrial creatures known as the Krites, but even though the carnivorous little bastards are usually written off as nothing more than fuzzy Gremlin wannabes, they still managed to bag a surprisingly polished sequel years before Joe Dante’s big eared little motherfuckers made it to the Big Apple.
Featuring a bigger budget, better effects and a script co-written by David Twohy who went on to give us the Riddick trilogy, Critters 2 is one of those curious 80’s sequels that combines goofy jokes and Spielberg-ian family adventure with surprising scenes of graphic gore and boobs in order to ensure that future historians will never have a fucking clue as to who exactly it’s target audience was supposed to be – but with that being said, this second morsel of the Critters franchise is arguably it’s best.
A couple of years after an invasion by an outlaw group of intensely carnivorous furballs known as the Krites, the town of Grover’s Bend has gotten back to it’s sleepy brand of normality after besieged Brown family moved away – but coming back to town to visit his grandma for Easter is Bradley Brown who because known around these here parts as “the boy who cried Critter”. People aren’t exactly pleased to see him back except for young reporter Megan who sees there’s something to the kid beyond a fantastical tale of flesh eating alien porcupine – but people are going to be even less enthused when an unhatched batch of Krite eggs left over from the last movie are mistakened for ornate Easter eggs (easily done, I suppose) and promptly sold to a nursery for their Easter egg hunt.
Meanwhile, in space, Ug and Lee (get it?) the two shape changing bounty hunters who nearly leveled Grover’s Bend the first time round, get news that scans have revealed this new generation of toothy meat gulpers and that payment will be withheld until they finish the job. This puts their third member, ex-town drunk and current bounty hunter in training, Charle in two minds of whether he wants to revisit his home planet after helping his blank-faced chums shoot alien creatures all across the galaxy.
Soon the Krites hatch at start immediately doing what they do best and get down to the business of sinking their multiple rows of shark-like teeth into as many screaming meat sacks as they possibly can and Bradley does what he can to warn the townsfolk – but will previous experience and the return of the bounty hunter’s enormously destructive firepower even be enough to halt this far bigger, second wave of a deadly species that strongly resembles Sonic The Hedgehog with severe lycanthopy?
Arguably the best of a series that went impressively downhill from here on in, twinning an already established universe with a noticably expanded budget does wonders for this sequel’s confidence, which displays some impressive production values and effects. Building of the sci-fi 50’s throwback feel that gave the original much more personality than it’s peers, director and modern day horror podcast machine Mick Garris decides to give the people what they want and – in a movie that predates Tremors by a couple of years – interestingly drenches the lions share of the carnage in bright sunshine. This of course mean that any scares that may have lingered in the material is instantly nullified but Critters 2 does contain a nice line in “oh shit” moments where you absolutely know that some serious chewage is about to go down and all the daylight helps sell the action and comedy far better than shrouding everything in darkness for the odd jump scare…
The real draw here are (obviously) the Krites themselves and their admittedly slightly awkward pratfalling from the first film has been beefed up this time around (with actual beef during some points) with much improved slapstick comedy for their many, gooey death scenes – which is usually the best thing you can do for a movie about short, spiteful monsters. One Krite tries to take a bite out of the tyre of an escaping truck only to blow up like a balloon, while another (and my personal favorite) is reduced to a hairless, pink, shrieking blob after falling into a deep fat fryer, oh and let’s not forget the low hanging fruit of having someone unknowingly step on a baby Critter to leave a little green puddle of the carpet.
But hurling virtual non-stop abuse on these fuzzy little buggers is just gonna be mean if the aliens in question fail to earn their many, varied demises, so we’re treated to some well staged, if cheekily graphic deaths for the unlucky citizens of Grover’s Bend who find themselves served up for brunch. One guy who hops on a stool for salvation has a third of his foot bitten off before finally tumbling to his chewy doom while another has his Easter Bunny costume packed full of the bitey fuckers as he crashes through a church window right in the middle of a sermon, Christ may have risen in this day but this guy is deader than dog shit…
While we’re on the subject of gore, Critter 2 is just the latest in a long line of movies I’ve reviews on this site that utterly defies description when you try to figure out who exactly it was made for, with the broad chuckles of having a Critter with a bald spot check himself out in the mirror and exclaim “bitchin'” the film is obviously targeted at the adolescently minded (as true of me now as it was back in the late 80’s), and yet a running joke of Lee still struggling to find a form that fits takes an incredibly strange turn when he turns into a model seen on the front of a copy of Playboy. Jokes about a shapely, amazonian alien killer and inflating boobs are to be expected – it was the 80’s, deal with it – but when the joke actually has Lee’s massive new tits rip through the front of his tunic to have them predominantly on show in an impressively gratuitous topless scene, it muddies the waters a little. However it gets even weirder when, later on, the literally gender fluid Lee changes them/their form once again and we get to see those prominent boobs deflate to the sound of escaping air, which confuses and fascinates me even more.
Slick, and genuinely good for a few yuks, this self described Main Course stands as one of the better instalments the tiny monster sub-genre has to offer and although it lacks the sheer insanity and fourth wall shattering unpredictability of Gremlins 2, it’s still a rock solid, enjoyable 80’s sequel that catches you unawares in other ways. If nothing else, it’s not like the Gremlins have the ability to all join together to make a giant, super-ball of gnashing Critter teeth that bestows a lawnmower back massage to anyone who isn’t fast enough to get out of it’s path.
Sweet and fun, Critters 2: The Main Course is a franchise best and a good, old fashioned romp and chomp…