Reviews

The Main Course

Mick Garris

USA, 1988

Credits

Review by Katherine Follett

Posted on 06 October 2009

Source New Line Home Video DVD

Categories 31 Days of Horror VI

At the end of Critters, when the residents Grover’s Bend, Kansas, think they’re finally rid of the man-hungry monsters, there’s one last shot of some alien-looking eggs tucked away in the barn. Dun-dun-duuuuuuuuun! This kind of “there-will-be-a-sequel” bravado has become a groan-inducing cliché, but when the movie is as fun as Critters, and the sequel is as delightfully successful as Critters 2, you can’t help but get a little excited.

You can sense that Critters 2 might be pretty decent right from the credits, because unlike some cheap horror films, a good chunk of the cast of the original decided to show up for the sequel. The young Brad Brown, now a teenager, returns to his old hometown of Grover’s Bend (nestled in Kansas’ spectacular Santa Monicas) to see his health-nut grandma and, possibly, revisit the scene of the now-notorious attack of the Krites. Unfortunately, the incidents of Critters have become an infamous local myth supposedly made up by an attention-starved Brad, so he’s ostracized and treated with suspicion, even when a batch of lizardy “Easter eggs” shows up in a local antique store. But once a few citizens get devoured and some oddly familiar gun-toting ’80s rock stars show up wanting to hunt down “Krites,” Brad starts to sound more believable, once again taking on the role of the plucky underdog hero.

Critters 2 does just about everything you want from a horror-movie sequel: the body count is higher, the comedy is more broad (but still pretty good), the gore is grosser, the explosions are explosiony-er, there’s gratuitous nudity, and the monsters are faster and more numerous. It also doesn’t sacrifice the quick, effective writing and attention to detail that made the first Critters worth watching. Though the tone of the entire film is a bit lighter, with slightly thinner, goofier characters, it still uses the sneaky technique of making just about everybody in the film likable – or at least identifiable – so that when they get chomped, it’s a shock, rather than just a startle or a gore-splatter.

There is more gore in this film, though mostly at the expense of the critters themselves, who apparently are composed of fur, teeth, and melted green-tea ice cream. Overall, the filmmakers markedly improved the monsters, so while they don’t “grow,” as in the original (an effect that really did more to expose the rubbery cheapness of the creatures, rather than inspire terror), they move much more quickly and naturally, and feel a lot more threatening. But the effects aren’t foolproof; it occasionally gets a little difficult to remain terrified of what looks like a pack of tumbleweeds or, after the monsters assemble themselves into a single sphere, some sort of Midwestern roadside attraction—a “World’s Largest Ball of Dryer Lint,” albeit one that reduces people to bloody skeletons in one turn.

As in the original, the (intentionally) overwrought bounty hunters show up to save the day, only to blow up a lot of crap with their (intentionally) ridiculously phallic guns. They bring along Charlie, the stumbling Kramer of Critters, and he manages to save the day in a moment of unforced poignancy. There’s also an ornery sheriff, a wholesome teenage love interest, a bully who makes good in the end, and a host of other minor townsfolk who give flavor to the pitchfork-wielding mob that eventually assembles to send the Krites packing. The plot is spare, taking place mostly over the course of a single day (as in the original), and the momentum keeps rolling throughout. In short, it’s a totally enjoyable, well-made little horror flick that never asks to be anything more. While the Critters franchise did continue for another two films, the makers of Critters 2 don’t leave any tantalizing “hints” at the end of this movie. Perhaps they knew that Critters 2 was just about the best you could ever want from ’80s small-creature horror-comedies.

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