Editor’s Note: Warner Bros Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this entry. The opinions I share are my own.

The Movie:

Can we call this the Year of the Critters? With a television series on Shudder (which really amounts to a feature-length film cut into bite-sized chunks – bite-sized! Get it?) and now a feature film release financed by Warner Bros., Syfy, and Blue Ribbon Content, the alien balls of fur and teeth last seen, but probably best forgotten, in 1992’s Critters 4 are back in the public eye and ready to traumatize a new generation of children who probably shouldn’t be watching this sort of thing.

Critters Attack! is written by controversial comics writer Scott Lobdell and directed by Bobby Miller and before you ask, yes, the Crites are actually puppets – no CG Crites are anywhere in sight. And that, in itself, is cause for celebration. I mean, nobody wants to see CG Critters. The real question becomes does anybody want to see Critters at all?

An entire generation has grown up without a Critters film, and while they were always low-budget, those first two films went all out to throw as much craziness as they could into the mix. I mean, shape-shifting alien bounty hunters and enough pyrotechnics to blow up a house were par for the course. And while the third and fourth films lost their way, particularly the fourth film, there was still an adherence to the overall Critters mythology. They were alien criminals on the run, hunted by bounty hunters, and they loved to eat anything and everything in their path.

They were also smart and spoke to each other in subtitled dialogue that helped to make them something special in the late-eighties glut of Gremlins rip-off puppet monster movies.

So now, nearly thirty years since the last installment, Syfy and Warner Bros. have decided that the Critters are an IP that can be farmed for more low-budget, hopefully high-reward, fun. Unfortunately, Critters Attack! doesn’t fully pay off in the end, but it’s not the disaster that it could have been.

The biggest disappointment is the almost total lack of sci-fi goofiness that made the originals so much fun. Instead we are saddled with a storyline that is actually kind of bleak and depressing. The main protagonist is a sushi delivery girl named Drea (Tashiana Washington) who has been rejected yet again by her deceased mother’s alma mater. Stuck in a dead-end job, in a dead-end town and still mourning the loss of her mother in a car crash, her prospects aren’t looking good. So in a bout of desperation, she agrees to babysit the children of one of the college’s board members in the hopes of getting to know somebody on the inside who might help approve her admission next year.

As luck would have it, however, this the very same night that the Crites return to earth in pursuit of their renegade Queen. This leads, of course, to a night of bloody violence and puppet mayhem. And while there are no alien bounty hunters to be seen this time around, we do have the incomparable Dee Wallace showing up as Aunt Dee, a human bounty hunter carting around a big gun and knowledge about the Crites that only somebody with a history of battling the little bastards should have.

For those Critters aficionados out there, you’ll recall that Dee Wallace starred in the original Critters back in 1986 and while she played put-upon housewife Helen Brown back then, we have it on good authority (both the producers and Wallace herself have confirmed this in interviews and at SDCC 2019) that Aunt Dee is the same character. The Crites have killed her entire family and now she lives alone with a horde of cats and a secret bunker full of Crite-killing weaponry.

And when Wallace is on screen, the film picks up dramatically. However, she’s not on screen that much, and the rest of the film has serious issues with its pacing. And while there’s humor here and there, a large chunk of the film seems directionless and overly grounded in Drea’s depressing situation. On the plus side, Washington does effective work with what Lobdell’s script gives her.

The appearance of the Crite Queen – a ridiculously cute and cuddly version of the Critters, until you piss her off, anyway – helps to add a little variety to the film’s by-the-numbers narrative, but ultimately doesn’t really bring a lot to the table.

The puppets are the real stars of Critters Attack! and thankfully we get a heaping helping of them. Lead puppeteer Keith Arbuthnot shines and Steve Blum terrorizes as the voice of the Critters (even though we get no subtitles this time around). And we even get a return of the fabled Critter Ball first seen in Critters 2. The more Crites that the film throws at us, the better the film becomes, and hopefully if Syfy and Warner Bros. move forward with more Critters films that lesson will have been learned.

Critters films don’t need to be grounded in real-world problems. And if they are, there needs to be a more immediate dive into the chaos of a Crite invasion. And hopefully, more alien bounty hunters. While it’s a nice nod to have Dee Wallace as a bounty hunter, I’m not sure who she’s really collecting a bounty from. She seems to be more on a straight-up Crite-Kill spree, and that’s okay with me.

The Extras:

There are three featurettes included on the Blu-ray release, and all three are a lot of fun. In fact, they’re more fun than the most of the film is.

Engineering Gore: Designing Critters – The cast and crew discuss the puppeteering and practical gore effects in the film. The behind-the-scenes footage here really makes it seem like this was a fun shoot.

Critters: An Out-of-this-World Experience – This is the pre-packaged press kit version of a featurette, but it does have some fun interviews about the film and the franchise overall.

The Critter Ball – This is short one, but for old-school fans it was nice to see the return of the Critter Ball. And we also get some behind-the-scenes info on some of those critter heads we see snarling and snapping as the ball rolls around killing people!

Scene Specific Commentary with Director Bobby Miller and a Critter – Continuing the theme of just how much fun this shoot seemed to be, Miller and a Critter (I’m assuming this was an uncredited Steve Blum) banter back and forth over some key scenes of Critter mayhem.

All in all, if you’re a Critters fan, you could do worse than checking this out. However, if this is your first time experiencing the puppet monsters, you might find yourself wondering what all the fuss is about.

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