Critters film franchise

Critters is a science-fiction horror comedy directed by Stephen Herek (Bill & Ted’s Excellent AdventureDon’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead) and starring Scott Grimes, Dee Wallace-Stone, Don Opper, Billy Zane, Billy Green Bush and Terence Mann.

A Kansas farm is attacked by a hoard of hungry flesh-eating monsters from outer-space. The family who inhabit the farm must seek the help of a local drunk and his critter-fighting bounty hunter pals before the creatures destroy everything in sight.

Critters was a modest hit for New Line Cinema. Following on from the success of A Nightmare on Elm Street, company director Robert Shaye proved he had a keen eye for the horror genre by releasing films that may not of had the biggest of budgets but could more than deliver the goods and guarantee a show worth turning out for.

Starting out with releasing films like Reefer Madness and continuing with many of the early works from director John Waters, New Line literally started small and ended up becoming one of the biggest film production companies in the world. They did this by knowing their product and target audience well.

After Alone in the DarkXtro (a regular in most video rental shops, especially in the UK where it was later caught up in the video nasties debacle) and the aforementioned A Nightmare on Elm Street, Shaye and Co. released Critters in theatres across America.

After the success of Joe Dante’s Gremlins, it was obvious that not enough time had lapsed for people to accept that Critters wasn’t a cheap ‘knock-off’ that was purely made for a quick buck, but a standalone movie in its own right. Of course, with less than a two-year age gap between both pictures, the concept of small creatures attacking an unsuspecting community look like mirror-images of each other. Upon closer inspection, though, the comparison pretty much ends there. Critters carries a much darker tone than Gremlins.

Although both have the ability to scare and make light of a given situation, Dante’s film still has a somewhat ‘cutesy’ feel to it that is not present (or indeed needed) when dealing with alien invaders with the sole purpose of our demise on their minds. Although Gremlins was a breath of fresh air compared to many 80’s blockbusters, it still followed the tried-and-tested formula of ‘good vs. evil’, giving its audience clear directions on who we should be rooting for and who we don’t mind being pinged out of a window via stair-lift.

Critters, on the other hand, went in a slightly more oddball direction. Here we have characters you would normally expect to be the hero (Billy Zane) being taken out almost as soon as he appears on screen, shape-shifting bounty hunters, animal mutilation, heroic alcoholics and a few nudges and winks to certain pop-culture icons of the time.

Aside from Zane, perhaps the most successful members of the cast of Critters were it’s two prize ‘catches’ during the casting of the movie. Already decent players with a wide range of work behind them, Dee Wallace-Stone and M. Emmet Walsh have continued effortlessly since their battle with the intergalactic fuzz-balls. Having made a name for herself before playing Ellen Brown in Critters, Wallace (Stone) had starred in Cujo based on the novel by Stephen King, appeared in Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes and starred in numerous TV shows.

She is perhaps most well known to horror fans for playing the lead role in The Howling. Wallace continued to work her way through various genres whilst still dipping back into the field of horror in such movies as PopcornAlligator 2: The MutationAbominableThe Frighteners and more recently in the Rob Zombie remake of Halloween and Ti West’s House of the Devil.

Although back in ’86 it may not have been so apparent, the real backbone of the Critters franchise, for better or worse, was Don Opper (previously in the Roger Corman produced Galaxy of Terror. Not only portraying the friendly, downtrodden alcoholic-turned hero Charlie McFadden, he also contributed to Dominic Muir’s screenplay enough to warrant a small writing credit on the picture. Opper returned to Bounty Hunting duties and continued to rid the world of unwanted extra-terrestrials in the three sequels that followed.

New Line in-house director Robert Shaye’s younger sister, Lin, has a brief but memorable cameo as Sally, the police headquarters secretary. Lin Shaye has gone on to star in many horror movies since and boasts an impressive amount of titles under her belt including: A Nightmare on Street, My Demon Lover, The Hidden, Amityville: A New Generation, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, Dead End, The Hillside Strangler, 2001 Maniacs and more recently, the Insidious franchise.

Of course, the real stars of the movie are the Critters themselves. Created by The Chiodo Brothers, comprised of family members Charles, Edward, Stephen and Linda, who contributed to the design and execution of the alien invaders. The Brothers returned for Critters 2 but were sadly absent from parts 3 and 4. This could explain why the Crites seem to have a different appearance from the two previous outings with some of them sporting more fur and in some cases have a more reptilian look to them. Stephen Chiodo went on to write and direct Killer Klowns from Outer Space in 1988.

Time has served the original Critters movie well. A fairly regular staple of the VHS era market, the film was successful enough to ensure that Critters 2: The Main Course was released just two years after the original. Although the sequel has it’s own merits and it’s nice to see various survivors from the original returning to once again battle the intergalactic pests, it relies heavily on corny gags and a sweeter-than-sweet tone. Director Mick Garris created some memorable scenes that will stay with you viewers after the films run-time but the darker tone of the original is shamefully lacking here which is a shame.


Critters 3
and 4 were shot back-to-back and released in 1991 and 1992. With clear budget limitations, a muddled script and overall lack of interest, these sequels were pitiful showings and both have a set-up that feels like a simple, made-for-profit motive is behind them. This is epitomized by the DVD release of Critters 3 boasting that the main star is a prepubescent Leonardo DiCaprio!

Critters 4 managed to attract some fairly well-known stars such as Brad Dourif (Child’s Play, Chain Letter), Angela Bassett and Anders Hove (Subspecies 1 to 4) but with the absolute minimum of monster action, 4 simply whimpers out like a broken foghorn. None of the sequels managed to accomplish the handling of the horror versus the humour as well as the original did.

With even the notoriously hard-to-please Siskel and Ebert giving the original Critters a ‘Two Thumbs Up’ upon its release, it’s relatively unsurprising that the first in the series is still a joy to watch to this day. For first timers to 80’s monster movies, it’s an absolute must. 

Martin Langford, MOVIES and MANIA

NB. The Critters Collection box set is released on Blu-ray on November 27, 2018

Buy Blu-ray box set:

Special Features:


  • NEW 2K scan from the original film elements
  • NEW Audio Commentary with producer Barry Opper and star Don Opper
  • NEW Audio Commentary with Critter designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo and Stephen Chiodo
  • NEW They Bite!: The Making of CRITTERS featuring interviews with actors Dee Wallace, Don Opper, Terrence Mann and Lin Shaye, producer Barry Opper, writer Brian Muir, Critters designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo and Stephen Chiodo, make-up artist R. Christopher Biggs, special prop supervisor Anthony Doublin, composer David Newman and second unit director Mark Helfrich, Critter Voice actor Corey Burton and Miniature Effects Supervisor Gene Warren Jr.
  • NEW For Brian: A Tribute to Screenwriter Brian Domonic Muir
  • Behind-the-Scenes Footage
  • Alternate Ending
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery

Critters 2: The Main Course

  • NEW 2K scan from the original film elements
  • NEW Audio Commentary with director Mick Garris
  • NEW Audio Commentary with Critters designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo and Stephen Chiodo
  • NEW The Main Course: The Making of CRITTERS 2 featuring interviews with director Mick Garris, actors Liane Curtis, Don Opper, Terrence Mann and Lin Shaye, producer Barry Opper, Critter designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo and Stephen Chiodo and make-up artist R. Christopher Biggs
  • Behind the Scenes Footage
  • Additional TV Scenes
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery

Critters 3

  • NEW Audio Commentary with producer Barry Opper and star Don Opper
  • NEW You Are What They Eat: The Making of CRITTERS 3 featuring interviews with producer Barry Opper, screenwriter David J. Schow, stars Don Opper and Terrence Mann, director of photography Thomas J. Callaway and Critters designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo and Stephen Chiodo
  • Trailer
  • Still Gallery

Critters 4

  • NEW Audio Commentary with producer/director Rupert Harvey
  • NEW Space Madness: The Making of CRITTERS 4 featuring interviews with producer Barry Opper, screenwriter David J. Schow, stars Don Opper and Terrence Mann, director of photography Thomas J. Callaway, Critters designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo and Stephen Chiodo
  • Trailer
  • Still Gallery


Buy: |


2 Comments on “Critters film franchise”

  1. Slick fan film there! As for the critters franchise I always thought there was more potential for exploration with the crites than there was with gremlins but I think we all know what the better film is. Don’t get me wrong I love Critters and the second was a good ole goofy blast where as Gremlins 2 was just not up to scratch and lost most of its horror, mischievous, edge (for me at least). I Just think Critters could have done with an upping on the monetary front – as well as in the gore and humour department.

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