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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Critters Collection (Blu-ray)
The Critters Collection (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // PG-13 // November 27, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $69.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Oktay Ege Kozak | posted December 17, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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The Movies:

Calling the Critters series a Gremlins rip-off is an easy choice, but we shouldn't complicate things by pretending the premise of rascally, violent creatures wreaking havoc on small town Americana is anything fresh, especially considering the series came to prominence during the late ‘80s, the breeding ground for such material. What makes these creatures stand out is how singular their motivations are: They're always hungry, and they will eat anything that comes in their way, the end. At least the Gremlins were given different characteristics, especially when it came to Joe Dante's gloriously bonkers sequel. This incredibly simplistic idea can flourish into unabashed schlock in the right hands. Unfortunately, I think only one installment fulfills on that over the top promise. Let's get into each film:

Critters: The one that started the franchise is inventive in the way that it makes the creatures intergalactic termites that eat people. This allows for colorful sci-fi to be inserted into a convenient creature feature, giving it some distance from Gremlins. Yes, I'm aware Critters was written before Gremlins, but the production was clearly aware of that hit while the production went on. Director Stephen Herek's vision skews a bit too Spielbergian, spending a bit too much time trying to get us to sympathize with the generic rural American family at the center of the story, which leads to a languid first half. However, the third act is a blast as a duo of intergalactic bounty hunters go Critter huntin'. 3/5

Critters 2: Director Mick Garris fully delivers the schlocky premise of the original with a rethread of the first film, only with appropriate over-the-top violence and humor that fits the franchise like a glove. The gore and the irreverent humor are amplified, there are some very inventive kills, and the bounty hunters, the best part of the first movie are given the front-and-center treatment. The pacing is also better this time around, getting to Critters action much sooner. The insanity of the final big bad monster alone is worth a watch. 3.5/5

Critters 3: Unfortunately, the franchise takes a deep dive into irrelevance from this point on. Known mainly for being the movie that started Leonardo DiCaprio's career (He's not very good in it), the obviously smaller production takes the Critters mayhem into an apartment building. The kills are repetitive, the structure is episodic, and the creature effects are clearly less impressive. Not much more than an unnecessary slog. 1.5/5

Critters 4: Well, at least 3 is not as convoluted and wrongheaded as 4. It must be in the contract of every horror franchise with an iconic monster at its center to eventually make a "(Creature name) in Space" episode when all other ideas are exhausted. Yes, this is the Critters in Space flick that ended the franchise on a down note. It's sixty years into the future and two cryogenically frozen Critters eggs conveniently hatch inside a space ship where the sets look more like the producer's apartment than anything else. The hapless bounty hunter Charlie (Don Opper), who's a delightful addition in the other films as the comic relief, is unadvisedly turned into the badass action hero here. Pretty much every decision, including the seemingly endless 95-minute runtime, contribute to this disaster. 1/5

The Blu-rays:

Video:

The 1080p transfers on each disc should satisfy fans of the series. They hold a nice amount of ‘80s grain, capturing that look perfectly on HD home video. There are occasional scratches but they are few and far between. Critters 3 and 4 looking as good as they do is to their detriment, since it makes it easy to notice the shoddy productions.

Audio:

The first film gets a fairly vibrant DTS-HD 5.1 track that shows a surprising amount of surround presence for an ‘80s flick. The rest of the movies are DTS-HD 2.0, which are fine as far as the audio range and clarity are concerned, but the panning of the first film is a bit missed, especially since the second movie cranks up the action.

Extras:

Critters:

Commentary by Barry and Dan Opper: The producer and the actor who played Charlie have a fun time discussing the inception of the project and their experiences during production.

Commentary by The Chiodo Brothers: The creators of the Critters effects dive into the details of the practical effects.

They Bite: A feature-length making-of documentary with interviews from the cast and crew. This is great for fans.

For Brian: A tribute to screenwriter Brian Muir, using the interview subjects from the making-of documentary to get into his career. This is sweet and introspective.

Behind the Scenes Footage: Video footage of the effects team working on the Critter puppets. Perfect for those interested in ‘80s practical effects.

Alternate Ending: Only one detail is different than the theatrical ending, otherwise it's the same.

We also get a Stills Gallery, TV Spots, and a Trailer.

Critters 2:

Commentary by Mick Garris: The director goes into exhaustive detail about the production.

Commentary by the Chiodo Brothers: The Critters effects are front-and-center here, so the brothers have a lot more to say compared to the commentary from the first disc.

The Main Course: Another great almost feature-length making of documentary where the cast and crew reminisce about the superior sequel.

Cut Scenes: Deleted material that's only for hardcore fans. Nothing much of interest here.

Behind the Scenes: Video footage of the production. Longer, but not as focused as the one found in the disc for the first film.

We also get a Stills Gallery, a TV Spot, and a Trailer.

Critters 3:

Commentary by Barry and Don Opper: Pretty much a repeat of the commentary from the first disc, as far as the overall energy and tone is concerned.

You are What You Eat: This time, the Shout Factory standard making-of documentary is only 30 minutes. Even at that length, it overstays its welcome since the movie in question is so dull.

We also get a Stills Gallery, a Trailer, and a VHS Promo.

Critters 4:

Commentary by Rupert Harvey: This is a bit sad, since the director clearly has a higher opinion of his work than the final product deserves.

Space Madness: This is the shortest of the making-of docs. It's more interesting than the one in 3, since it dives into some of the bizarre decisions that led to the production.

We also get a Stills Gallery and a Trailer.

Final Thoughts:

Even though the series overall is uneven at best, this box set should more than satisfy fans of the franchise. For those uninitiated, I'd watch parts 1 and 2 and then ignore the rest.

Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com

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