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Film / Critters

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"Yeeuch. Where do they come up with this stuff?"
Raphael, after having watched the first Critters movie. note 

Critters is a film series featuring a group of deadly little furry aliens with several rows of teeth known as "Crites". The first film, directed by Stephen Herek, was released in 1986. In it, the title creatures terrorize a farm, with a pair of alien bounty hunters on their trail. It Starred a young Scott Grimes; also starring: Dee Wallace, M. Emmet Walsh, Ethan Phillips, Billy Zane, Don Keith Opper, and Terrence Mann. The latter two would appear in all of the films.

The second film was released in 1988, featuring the return of Scott Grimes as Bradley Brown (the main character from the first film). The terror starts when the creature's eggs are mistaken for Easter eggs; they quickly multiply after they hatch.

The third film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio in his film debut, begins when a family who has recently lost their mother move into an apartment, followed by the title creatures after hitching a ride in their truck.

The fourth film, starring Angela Bassett and Brad Dourif, takes place many years later in space, where they try to wipe out the remaining species of Crites.

The series is often compared to the Gremlins series, despite the script having been written before that film was released.

A short Fan Film, Critters: Bounty Hunter, was released in 2014. It's available on YouTube.

On October 2018, Syfy announced they plan to reboot the series by adding sequels on their network as part of their acquisition of multiple properties such as Killer Klowns from Outer Space and Leprechaun. In 2019, an eight-episode web series titled Critters: A New Binge was made and distributed on Shudder. Later that same year, a direct-to-DVD sequel Critters Attack! was released and follows a more similar plot to Gremlins than the original films by involving a cuter Crite who turns out to be good and helps the heroes in wiping out the other Crites.

This film series provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Alien Blood: The Crites have green blood.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The computer system on board the fourth film's space base leaves much to be desired. It does the opposite of what it is ordered and generally isn't very helpful.
  • Answer Cut: In the first film, one Critter tells another that humans have weapons. The second Critter asks, "So what?" before getting blown away by Helen with her 12 Gauge Double Barrel Shotgun. The remaining Critter remarks, "FUCK!" and runs off to send in reinforcements.
  • Antagonist Title: The Critters are alien furballs that devour everything.
  • Ascended Fanboy: The first film ends with village idiot Charlie following the alien bounty hunters as they prepare to leave. By the second film he has become a bounty hunter himself.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Any humans killed by the bounty hunters tend to be unsympathetic enough to deserve it.
    • The landlord and the janitor in Critters 3 also deserve their deaths. The former had no qualms with screwing over his clients and the latter was hired by the former to kill a tenant by unleashing rats on him in addition to being generally repulsive.
    • Captain Rick Buttram in the fourth film is a total scumbag who was willing to cheat TerraCor out of property they had a claim to and attempts to peep on Fran while she's showering, which makes it impossible to feel sorry for him when he becomes the first victim of the Crites.
  • Bizarre Alien Locomotion: Crites curl up and roll like balls when they need to move quickly. In the second film, a whole pack of Crites form a single giant, rolling, biting ball that rolls over people.
  • The Blank: Ug and Lee's default forms are glowing green faces that lack features.
  • Bounty Hunter: Space bounty hunters are dispatched to kill the Crites in the original film, and feature to some extent in all the sequels.
  • The Can Kicked Him: In the original a Crite tries to escape via the toilet, which is then blown up.
  • Company Cross References: The second film has a scene featuring a cardboard cut-out of Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street, another film series by New Line Cinema.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Charlie throughout the four films is shown to be pretty idiotic, naive, awkward, goofy, and sometimes doesn't think things through. Yet he demonstrates good aim at times (blows up several Crites in the third movie), bravery (end of the second film), willpower (end of the fourth film), adaption of future tech minutes after unfreezing (figured out how to fire a laser gun but his aim was a little off), and improvising when it counts (1st film).
  • Cryptically Unhelpful Answer: In the fourth movie, when Ethan is helping Charlie find the critters, he asks what they look like. Charlie asks if he knows what a piranha is, he says yes, so Charlie says that they don't look anything like piranhas but are hungry like them (which doesn't really answer his question, as he was asking what they looked like, not how they behave.)
  • Darker and Edgier: The first two films had their grim moments but weren't so bad, there were no super terrifying deaths. The second was a bit darker with Lee's death. The third one was a bit lighter once we got past the jerk ass landlord's very gory death. The fourth is the darkest with the highest amount of the cast dying and Ug becoming an asshole and getting killed by Charlie.
  • Destructive Savior: The bounty hunters in the first film cause a lot of damage while hunting down the Crites.
  • Earth Is a Battlefield: Humans are stuck in the middle of a destructive battle between the bounty hunters and Crites.
  • Evil Is Petty: During their attempted escape in their stolen ship at the climax of the original film, the Crites stop to blow up the farmhouse out of spite.
  • Face–Heel Turn: At some point in the years between films three and four, formerly heroic Ug becomes a corporate asshole.
  • Fingore: In the first film, April's boyfriend Steve (Billy Zane) gets the fingers on his right hand bitten off by one of the Crites as he reaches to change the radio station.
  • Fun with Subtitles: "Critterese" gets translated into English with subtitles.
  • Giant Mook: A larger Crite appears in each of the first two films. Though, the one in the second movie turned out to be Ug in disguise.
  • Groin Attack: The unfortunate Easter bunny in Critters 2 has Critters attack his crotch.
  • Happy Ending Override: The Brown family farm is rebuilt at the end of the first film after being destroyed by the Crites. The second film subsequently reveals that they were soon driven out of town because the bounty hunters had trashed much of the local area and their stories of alien invasion were causing strife in the community.
  • Heroic BSoD: Ug completely loses it when his partner is killed in Critters 2, reverting to his "nothing face" form and only snapping out of it to save the day towards the end of the film.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Second film happens at Easter.
  • Human Popsicle: Charlie and two Crite eggs get cryogenically frozen at the end of the third film, setting up the events of part 4.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: It was noted by Siskel & Ebert that the charm of the first film was that the humans were caught in the middle of a fight between aliens, rather than fighting the aliens themselves.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: After transforming, Lee stomps off to kill the Crites wearing nothing but gloves, boots and an ammo belt, unaware of the effect her curvaceous new body has. Charlie has to run after her to get her to put so e clothes on.
  • Large and in Charge: The larger Crites usually lead the other Crites in a group. This is shown when Ug disguises himself as a larger one.
  • Last Day of Normalcy: Even as we're shown that the titular alien monsters have escaped their interstellar prison ship, we're introduced to the Brown Family in the almost pastoral setting of their farmhouse, including young son Brad's mischevious streak, which served him well against the alien menace.
  • Literally Shattered Lives: The fourth film has a scene where Ethan kills a Crite by breaking it into pieces after letting it suck on a tube of liquid nitrogen.
  • Magic Countdown: Subverted, because the ship's AI is too stupid to realize that talking is not a free action.
  • Man, I Feel Like a Woman : When Lee takes on the form of a gorgeous Playmate in the second film, his/her first reaction is to give the new girls a squeeze. It's played for laughs as she looks more bemused than aroused.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Ms. Mendes in Critters 3, even if she only gets to show it once.
    Mrs. Mendes: How about a meat cleaver, dear?
    *holds up gigantic meat cleaver*
  • No Animals Were Harmed: The second, third and fourth films have the phrase "No critters were harmed in the making of this movie" turn up in the credits.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • In the first film, it is brought up that Ug and Lee did something that nearly destroyed a space colony on their last mission.
    • Critters 4 never gives an explanation for why Ug turned evil in the 53 years between then and part 3, other than a cryptic "people change, Charlie".
  • Numbered Sequels: The series makes use of these rather than odd titles.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Quite a few, but the father's reaction in the first film when one of the Crites' poison spines slams into the wood an inch from his eyes is probably the strongest example.
    • One of the Critters even has a moment of this; see below under Tempting Fate.
  • One-Word Title: The film is titled just Critters.
  • Power-Up Food: In the first film the Crites get progressively bigger the more they eat. One of them is roughly the size of an adult human by the conclusion. This is largely abandoned in the later films, particularly the third and fourth.
  • Precision F-Strike: A Krite utters "fuck" (it's subtitled) in the original after witnessing another of its kind get shot.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: Though the Crites are canonically aliens, the first movies take place mostly on Earth. The fourth film shifts things to a sci-fi setting, and Alien and Star Wars rip-offs abound. It's even called Critters 4: Critters in Space in some releases.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Not so much, though there is an element of Ugly Cute to them.
  • Sequel Escalation: After a handful of Crites terrorize a farmhouse and the surrounding area in the first film, their far more numerous offspring take on the entire neighbouring town in part 2.
    • Averted in the third (despite the video cover talking a good game), where the action shifts to the big city but is confined almost entirely to a single apartment building, with a Crite count much closer to the original film.
  • Sequel Hook: The first film ends with a shot of Crite eggs in the farm's barn, while the third film ends with a space pod showing up to get the last Crite eggs from Charlie and a "To be continued" cliffhanger.
    • The first sequel hook is retconned somewhat - the closing shot of the film is a handful of eggs beginning to hatch, while the second picks up two years later with dozens of eggs that have dubiously lain dormant due to cold conditions in the barn.
  • Sex Signals Death: Steve's attempt to get it on with April in the barn only scores him first place on the Crites' menu.
  • Shapeshifter Default Form: The bounty hunters start as Type A blank faces. Through the sequels Ug is Type B, allowing Terrance Mann to continue playing him.
  • Shoot the Television: In the original movie, Ug fires his weapon at a TV set in a bowling alley, which causes a ruckus with several of the town locals.
  • Shower Scene: Fran is shown showering in Critters 4, with one shot panning up to show her rear and back.
  • Spike Shooter: The Crites can shoot venomous quills that render victims unconscious.
  • Spiritual Successor: Lilo & Stitch took some inspiration from the film, though of course far Lighter and Softer.
  • Stock Footage: The exterior shots in Critters 4 are cobbled together from the previous films in the series, and an earlier Don Opper sci-fi film called Android. The bounty hunters use fast forwarded stock footage to learn about 1980s era Earth (aka American pop culture) to assimilate. One of the bounty hunters takes on the form of the fictional rock musician Johnny Steele.
  • Straw Vegetarian: Brad's grandmother in the second film has shades of this, given her incessant preaching on how vegetables are far healthier for you than meat is and inferring at one point that humans were never meant to digest meat.
  • Stripped to the Bone: A victim of the Krite Ball in Critters 2. This rare example shows the bones in a small amount of bloody "meat".
  • Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome: Ug in the fourth movie becomes an uncaring asshole willing to kill anyone who tries to keep him from dealing with the Crites on his terms.
  • Suddenly Speaking: Jake refuses to communicate in any way besides texting for most of Critters Attack, but eventually talks when he tries to point out something about Bianca to Drea.
  • Take That!: One Crite munches an ET The Extraterrestrial doll.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Played for Laughs and averted in the fourth film's climax, where the ship's computer starts a countdown for its self-destruct while the heroes escape and stops the countdown to thank one of them for calling it the dumbest computer ever. Once the computer resumes the countdown, the ship explodes before the countdown is finished, much to the heroes' amusement.
  • Tempting Fate: "They have weapons." "So what?" BLAM. "Fuck!"
  • Toilet Teleportation: Subverted when one of the Crites attempts to escape from the bounty hunters via the toilet bowl. It's a bit too fat to fit, and can't squeeze down the hole before one of the hunters blows it (and the toilet itself) away.
  • Token Heroic Orc: Bianca in Critters Attack is a good Crite who even helps the heroes in wiping out the rest of her kind.
  • Viler New Villain: Post Face–Heel Turn Ug in the fourth movie is this, as, while the Crites at least have to eat meat to survive, Ug is just a greedy asshole who chooses to be the way he is.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The bounty hunters can change their appearance to blend in on alien planets. The rules of how it works seem to vary between the first and second films.
  • Walking Disaster Area: The bounty hunters don't give a shit about property damage. There's a There Was a Door moment in the first film in which rather than walking through an unlocked door — he just rips it off the hinges.
  • Who Will Bell the Cat?: In the second film, Charlie suggests a luring the critters to a determined spot and blow them up, which seems lime a good plan, until someone asks who's going to lure them them. After thinking about it, Charlie volunteers, since it was his idea.
  • The Worm That Walks: More like the ever-hungry ball that rolls.

Alternative Title(s): Critters 2 The Main Course, Critters 3, Critters 4