(aka, Critters 2: The Main Course)
It’s been a long time since I saw this one — almost thirty years — and I find that I like it better than when I first saw it.
Actually, revisiting the first two Critters films has changed my perspective on both of them: I no longer think Critters is as good as it seemed back in Eighties, while the sequel seemed at the time little more than an okay sequel which really didn’t add much to the original.
To be honest, my opinion of the second film hasn’t changed too much: I still see it as a film that exists solely to be a sequel to a popular film. But I did enjoy it more this time around.
The Krite eggs left behind in the first film finally hatch and a new horde of Critters descends upon the tiny town of Grover’s Bend (despite the thanks given in the credits to the town of Grover’s Bend I seriously doubt that it is a real town).
While in the first film, our few glimpses of the town are not a happy, Spielberg-esque sort of place, and the Brown family have far more flaws than Spielberg would have allowed, the second wave of Critters hits a very heartwarming little town just in time for the annual Easter Egg hunt at the local parish. Yes, there is (one) town bully, people are biased against Bradley Brown because of the stories he told about the Critters, and his grandmother is just a little too obsessive on the subject of natural foods, but otherwise we are talking an idyllic place. Except for those Piranha-like space hedgehog things, of course.
While the original film tried not to be too much like Gremlins, this one is far more like Joe Dante’s film, largely because the number of Critters has increased drastically. Hundreds of the nasty little monsters attack the town, and there is a considerably higher body count than in any of the other films in the series. Curiously, the main characters do not end up all bitten up and bloody as in the first film. I suppose with this many people getting eaten they didn’t feel the need to work as hard at convincing us that the tiny monsters represent a real threat (although none of the other films in the series left the heroes as bloody as the first one, even though both 3 and 4 have extremely low body counts!).
Another surprise is a brief (but funny!) moment of nudity, which came as a surprise because I saw it on TV back in the day. I believe it is the only nudity in the entire series, and, I should note, this one is also by far the goriest outing, with discarded limbs, bodies stripped to skeletons and other similar bits of grue. It’s amazing that it got a PG-13 rating. They must have known someone in the MPAA, that’s all I can say.
It also leaves me wondering what exactly they were trying for with the series — one tends to see it as aimed at children more than adults. But then, I suppose that’s why they avoided that “R”, no matter how much they might have deserved it.
One thing I realized about the Critters films, is that part of what makes them work is that the Critters are not bulletproof, bomb-proof, or almost invulnerable, like their rival monsters, the Xenomorphs, Predators and John Carpenter’s The Thing. Not only does this mean that average people have a chance to fight back but they can also be killed in a lot of creative — and usually splattery –ways, like falling in a deep fryer, or being stepped on when newly hatched.
Which is where most of the fun lies with these films.
So don’t watch this one expecting a great SF horror film, or anything but a fun and somewhat silly horror comedy, and you probably won’t be too disappointed. It’s just for fun.
And there’s a lot to be said for that.
(If you watch the end credits carefully, no only will you learn that no Critters were hurt in the making of this film but you’ll also discover that the Critter translation was provided by the Karl P Anno institute of intergalactic semantic research!)
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