Hoping to conclusively prove to a world (that wasn’t exactly asking) that the Critters franchise is the premier series that features tiny creatures biting people, the powers that be determined that the next installment would actually film it’s third and fourth entries back to back. Now while this would certainly put one over on the the Ghoulies movies (not exactly hard), the filmmakers seemed to be blissfully unaware that it’s quality, not quantity that keeps the cameras rolling and maybe if they’d sunk the accumulated budget into one movie and not two, them maybe we would’ve got a flick that might have kept up the goofy but sweet standards of the original two movies.
However, a simple fact remains: if your film requires articulated hand puppets to perform continued acts of silly slapstick then you’re better off with more money with less; and this is the main lesson taught to us by Critters 3. That, and even Oscar winners have to start somewhere.
After the death of their mother, teen Annie and little brother Johnny are enduring an trip to the country with their increasingly more emotionally distant father when they happen across another more well off family who’s patriarch, unbeknownst to everyone, is the slum lord trying to get everyone in their bullshit block to leave so he can sell the site. The stepson, a floppy haired Chad in training named Josh, Annie and a bunch of other kids happen across Charlie MacFadden, the survivor of the previous two Krite attacks on the town of Grover’s Bend who now is hunting the last remnants of the little toothy threat while living like a dusty tramp. It’s obvious Charlie still needs a refresher in the finer points of Krite hunting as one of the fuzzy shark-toothed fuckers has managed to sneak onto Annie’s RV and gets busy laying some eggs as they get an all expensives payed trip to the big city.
Upon arriving, the infant Krites infiltrate the building and grab themselves an after travel snack by chowing down on the building’s piece-of-crap Super and then start working their way up the numerous floors snapping their teeth and shooting their quills at anyone they come across with mostly comedic fails as a result. However, the stakes are raised, lowered and then raised yet again by firstly the building catching on fire, secondly the shitty landlord and Josh turn up to expedite the tenants leaving, and thirdly, Charlie shows up to try and eradicate the Critter threat once and for all. While the survivors fight for their very lives and the Krites seem content to practice their vaudevillian comedy in the kitchen, the fire rages steadily upward, meaninng that if everyone doesn’t move their asses, the Critters will be enjoying BBQ for the very first time.
To to give the intergalactic Tasmanian Devils their due, the filmmakers really tried to make something out of this and you can feel the movie straining against it’s budget at every turn, but despite the odd decent running joke and some clumsy attempts to humanize the characters into loveable quirk-lords, Critters 3 simply falls flatter than a freshly squashed Krite.
Hyping up the fact that the Krites have finally made to the big city after two films of having them run rampant around a small country town is sort of defused by the fact that once the movie finally gets under way, we barely leave the dingy, poorly lit tenement building for the duration of the movie as the filmmakers simply don’t have enough money to have the Critters paint the town with an undercoat let alone paint it red and it amusing brings back memories of the 8th Friday The 13th having Jason spend most of his New York adventure killing teens on a ship on the way there…
The Critters themselves, still supplied by the fabulous Chiodo Brothers, look pretty good by low budget standards with articulated brows and lips and even a waggling uvula when one of the over eating little shits screams for help and even though their little comedy skits seem to have been made up on the day (They have a pie fight and then get covered in flour? Comedy genius!), some actually manage to raise a chuckle or two when they manage to pay off – like the Krite who glugs an entire bottle of washing up liquid only for the bubbles he hiccups to give him away to a cleaver wielding biddy. However, most just fall flat and, worse yet, aren’t even followed up on; why would you go through the effort of singling out a Krite as the leader by having half his hair dyed white by bleach and then have him do absolutely nothing as a threat?
The human characters all seem to to have wandered out of a community theater production of *Batteries Not Included but unfortunately have barely a third of the charm and while the other residents of the building are goofy enough (eccentric pensioners, man hungry spinster), Annie’s main plot line stalls mainly because her grieving father is a dismissive asswipe who only sees the error of his ways after his loved ones are nearly eaten by giggling aliens.
This of course brings us to the only real reason most people would ever really seek this out and that’s because Critters 3 feature the debut of an embryonic Leonardo DiCaprio who was a mere 16 years old when he was enlisted to fight off vicious creatures who wanted to eat him long before a gigantic grizzly tried to do the same in The Revenant and he’s as good as you’d expect a kid to be in a low budget sci-fi, comedy, horror that takes place on earth and isn’t that funny or scary…
As the movie ends on a cliffhanger that threatens us with the fact that Critters 4 was already in the can and just waiting to be released, the movie pulls out it’s one truly good idea and that after nearly being hunted to extinction, the surviving Krite eggs suddenly go from a galactic threat to a protected species, but as this takes place literally during the closing credits of this film, it’s not worth getting too worked up about.
After two solidly decent and entertaining, opening chapters of sci-fi fueled Gremlins- lite action, the Critters franchise finally starts to decline fast with a murky trip to the city that goes nowhere fast.
It seems that the Critters have finally bitten off more than they can chew…