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Tale of the Teeth
BY G. NOEL GROSS  |  July 25, 2003

It took SIX YEARS before genre auteur Joe Dante got around to crafting Gremlins 2: The New Batch. In the potentially lucrative meantime, various diminutive and highly unruly coattailers eagerly saddled up to the 1984 box-office phenom's meal wagon. The toilet mugging Ghoulies was first into theaters, trailed the following year by the slightly more overt, yet oddly beloved knockoff Critters. It began as the story of eight alien escapees known as "Crites" who lamb it to Earth when an asteroid prison fails to suit their tastes. These toothy creature creations of the Chiodo Brothers then proceed to FEED on hayseeds, lay slimy sequel-friendly EGGS and generally behave badly through four dang-near IDENTICAL flicks. Through the prodding of absolutely no one, New Line's seen fit to usher these dubious classics into the digital domain with both widescreen (1.85:1 anam) and fullframe transfers alongside fresh Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes that may lead sufficiently imbibed CineSchlockers to swear the rolling balls o' death are skittering right through their living rooms. Let the Critter crawl begin ...

(1986, 86 mins)


Video: 3.5 Audio: 4
Extras: .5 Replay: 2
Advice: Recommended
Critters 2
(1988, 85 mins)


Video: 3.5 Audio: 4
Extras: .5 Replay: 1
Advice: Recommended
Critters 3
(1991, 84 mins)


Video: 3 Audio: 3
Extras: .5 Replay: 0
Advice: Rent It
Critters 4
(1991, 94 mins)


Video: 3 Audio: 3
Extras: .5 Replay: 0
Advice: Rent It
Marketing mayhem: Poster art taglines and official subtitles
"When you've got Critters... you need all the help you can get." Sometimes subtitled "They Bite" "Get ready for seconds... they're back!" Subtitle: "The Main Course" "You are what they eat" Another Alien steal: "In space, they love to hear you scream!" Subtitle: "They're invading your space"

Advantage: Critters 3. Corny appropriation of "You are what you eat." Get it!?!

Under seige: Locale for the thunderous Crittoral climax
The Browns sleepy farm house outside Grovers Bend, Kansas. Tiny downtown Grovers Bend and its tasty citizenry. Flea-bag apartment building in bustling Topeka, Kansas. Not in Kansas anymore: Aboard a Saturn-quadrant space station in 2045.

Advantage: Critters 2. The little guys really thrive on a wider menu.

Boy wonders: Wily young heros who kick Critter keister
Danger Will Robinson! Scott Grimes's Brad Brown builds bombs. How Columbine.
Our Bill Mumy lookalike returns -- with a stylish single-stud earring.
Budding trim magnet Leonardo DiCaprio makes his squeaky screen debut.
Unlike Leo, Paul Whitthorne's career never achieved orbit.

Advantage: Critters. Gotta go with the kid with the most firepower.

Fashionably late: How long til guests of honor show their mugs
36:23 23:30 27:25 37:00!!!

Advantage: Critters 4. The shear AUDACITY of this sequel. Even the prologue is sans furballs.

To serve man: Who made the most memorable din-din
Horny teen slips his fingers where he shouldn't.
Guy in an Easter Bunny getup piles through stained glass window.
Slum lord devoured as Julia Child debones poultry on TV.
Space cadet struggles to clear throat of one righteous hairball.

Advantage: Critters 2. Remember kiddos, the Easter Bunny did NOT die for your sins.

What the @#$%: How witnesses attempt to classify the varmints
"These ... CRITTERS!" "Space porcupine things!" and "Man-eating dust mops!" "They're little animals. Nasty things with sharp teeth! Things from outer space!!!" "Man-eating hairballs!"

Advantage: Critters 2. Two for two! Even better? "Man-eating space porcupine dust mops!"

Franchise fodder: Charlie's rise from bit player to unlikely hero
Drunk whose "they're coming" ravings finally prove correct.
Trades booze and bicycle for interstellar bounty hunter gear.
Ferrets among terrestrial shrubs frightening youngsters.
Don Keith Opper's new Charlie ... Charlie BRONSON!

Advantage: Critters 2. More pleasant surprise than doofus nuisance.

Funny business: How the off-brand gremlins entertain themselves
Accost Brad's E.T. doll while busting up the house.
Food fight at the Hungry Heifer all-you-can-eat buffet.
Guzzling soap and beans yields bubbling flatulence.
Hacking into the space station computer system.

Advantage: Critters 2. The franchise's most unapologetic (and gooey) steal from Gremlins.

Galactic geeks: Overt references to Star Wars or Star Trek
Brad's cat is named Chewie. Mr. Spock births child in tabloid headline. Charlie: "I've gotta go where no man has gone before!" Message delivered via "Help me Obi Wan"-esque projection. Heros tumble into icky trash compactor. Captain orders: "Make it so."

Advantage: Critters 4. Shameless right down to Charlie and Ethan's pleas for computer aid.

Crite killers: Saga of shape-shifting alien bounty hunters
Ug adopts look of "Power of the Night" rocker Johnny Steele.
Lee morphs into Playboy centerfold. Complete with staple.
Terrence Mann continues to belie his Broadway pedigree.
Ug commands sinister corporate "storm troopers."

Advantage: Critters 2. Buxom Ms. Roxanne Kernohan made Playboy in '89 -- as a B-girl.

Critter casualties: Best fond farewells of our fuzzy friends
Squashed by shotgun felled ceiling fan.
Chicken-fried Critter tops menu at Hungry Heifer.
Excessive, wall-to-wall bludgeoning on mop handle.
Instant Crittercicle.

Advantage: Critters 4. Ethan is at his most lifelike when he snarls: "CHILL OUT, [email protected]#$%!!!"

Critter chatter: Subtitled extraterrestrial bonmots
Upon arrival: "Food!" Facing artillery: "[email protected]#%!!!" Surprise menu addition: "Live food!" After the feast: "Dessert!" Nothing remarkable.

Advantage: Critters. Note to Critters 5 producers: Cursing beasties are effing hilarious!

CineSchlocker idols: Luminaries who grace the proceedings
M. Emmet Walsh as the ever-annoyed sheriff.
Barry Corbin subs as cranky ol' Harv.
Frances Bay is the perennial scrappy biddy.
Brad Dourif chews about 800,000 packs of gum.

Advantage: Critters 4. If only it'd been scripted as Small Fries: Chucky vs. Critters.

No breasts. Four corpses. One prison break. Slingshot to the hiney. Gutted bovine. Toilet diving. Insta-home repair. Reckless driving. Two breasts. Five corpses. Alien slug beast. "BM" talk. Exploding meat packing plant. Gratuitous Krueger cameo. Paste eating. No breasts. Two corpses. Franchise flashbacks. Excessive goo. Fuzzy rabbit slippers. Ash can bowling. Kiddo dangling. One Critter kabob. No breasts. Seven corpses. Gratuitous Angela Bassett shower footage. Mexican standoff. Conveniently spacious duct system. Planet juggling.

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G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.