AW Kautzer's Home Video/VOD reviews Home Video/VOD

Blu-Ray Review: Scream Factory’s Critters Collection (Box Set)

Scream Factory's Critters Collection

Adam feasts on the ‘I can’t believe they’re all PG-13 rated’ Critters via the new Scream Factory Box Set collects the four films into a new Blu-Ray box set filled with extras.

The Films

So, I’ve never seen Critters or any of the Critters series for that matter.  I thought I had but realized 10-minutes into first it was Ghoulies I had seen and thought was Critters.  This must be mentioned as color me surprised that I loved these Low-Budget Horror “comedies”.

Critters

Stephen Herrick could make a great low-budget B-Movie romp.  Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, The Disney’s 90’s spin on The Three Musketeers, Don’t Tell Mom the Baby Sitter’s Dead, The Mighty Ducks are all classics in one shape or another.  It was delightful to realize that Critters though not on the level of those films, is a fun lower budget riff on Gremlins.  Herek with screenwriter Domonic Muir has concocted a riff on the alien invader film complete with alien bounty hunters and those devilish little Critters wreaking havoc over a small town.  With supporting work by M. Emmet Walsh, Billy Zane, Lynn Shaye and a host of others make this a sneakily elevated piece of genre filmmaking.  It’s no mistake that New Line released this in their heyday. No other studio was making genre films with the sort of care and respect than they were in the 1980s.

Critters 2: The Main Course

Without Herek, at the helm, you’re left with a sequel that works but is more fun as a strange bit of nostalgia that shows the worst of the 80’s fashion and hairstyles.  Everyone but M. Emmet Walsh (who between filming realized he was in Fucking Coen Brothers movies) returns for the sequel.  Taking a more western motif this time, complete with David Newman western twinged score, the film still sticks to the formula of the previous film not deviated in any way.  So much so the only thing that’s really changed about Brad Brown (Scott Grimes) is his hair and earring.  Which possibly signifies he’s a … rebel?  Add in a Morphing into a Playmate joke, critters being herding like cows, and a few choice explosions and you’ve got a fun, albeit retreated, sequel.

Critters 3

The second sequel is the one that everyone is curious about.  Why? Two words; Leonardo DiCaprio. Rest easy as DiCaprio is in all of twenty minutes of the film.  As Josh, DiCaprio is in the first five minutes and the last fifteen is quite the emoting thespian.  The sequel turns away from Grover falls to a dumpy apartment in the midst of a Sleazebag Landlord pushing everyone out of the structure in lieu of a new strip mall-bound to make said Scumlord oodles of money.  The setup is right out of the Larry Cohen playbook and you know what??? It works, like a well-oiled machine. So much so, that this reviewer had to double check to make sure that this wasn’t a Cohen joint (you never can tell with Cohen).  Many will find comedy in yelling at the worse dad in the world Clifford (John Calvin) as he continually ignores, rejects, and shows abject hatred towards his daughter Annie (Aimee Brooks).  Director Kristine Peterson references everything from Raiders of the Lost Ark to the original Cape Fear to Cohen’s It’s Alive series, to Aliens and does so quickly you’ll blink and you’ll miss it.  The film ends with a call for another sequel that one had to wonder; if you spent no money on this one, why would you think you could get away with setting the sequel in space???

Critters 4

The answer to the previous cliffhanger question is simple; ballsy.  You have to be very ballsy to after giving no money to the third Critters film, to hope you could set the fourth in space.  Taking a cue from Roger Corman, Critters 4 is a sci-fi entry that takes so many plot points and characters from the Alien franchise they should pay residuals to Fox.  No worry, the Alien Franchise, specifically Joss Whedon took so much from Critters 4 for his Alien Resurrection Script and FireFly, it appears to have evened out itself out. The film taking place about 60 years in the future (specifically 2045) finds Charlie (Don Keith Opper) our main character through the series into space with a band of Mercenaries that include the likes of Angela Bassett, Brad Dourif, and Eric DaRe (he was the iconic Leo from Twin Peaks).  Said Mercenaries find Charlie’s ship adrift in space ala Aliensand tow it in for fortune and glory.  We know that there ain’t no fortune, nor glory in that spaceship.  The film is your standard Alien style film instead of the Xenomorphs, we have those darn lovable Critters.  And it works!!!  It works very like a well-oiled machine designed for Z-Grade fun.  Many will enjoy seeing Douriff and Bassett share screen time and kick a little bit of ass.  One had wished they could have gone on one more with Bassett, Douriff in the leads.

The Transfers

Critters

The first and second films look arguably the best as they both come with a new 2K Scan From The Original Film Elements. The first film looks great with considerations to the low budget nature of the production.  The films VFX moments actually are enhanced by this new transfer giving a bit more definition and clarity to the work that the Chiodo brothers did for the film.

Critters 2: The Main Course

The first and second films look arguably the best as they both come with a new 2K Scan From The Original Film Elements. Comparatively, the second film has the best transfer but that may have to do with the film’s cinematographer was Russell Carpenter.  From the opening moments set in the underground catacombs of an alien planet to the final face-off between Charlie and the Critters the film’s visuals and by default the image is more stylish and refined.  The film’s image clarity is also a bit better with less grain than the original.  It’s the high water mark for the series.

Critters 3

This and the final film are taken from earlier hi-def transfers and the results are surprisingly good.  The image still has a sheen of digital noise (not grain) during darker scenes.  The contrast levels are nowhere near as good as the first two films giving a bit of a flatter image.  Though the uptick in the definition does make the transfer look pleasing.

Critters 4

The final film is taken, like the third, form earlier hi-def transfers and the results are surprisingly good. The transfer is much better than the third, fewer issues with Digital noise leading a much more pleasing image.  Much of the film is brightly lit which does help.

The Extras

They include the following:

Disc One: Critters (1986)

  • Audio Commentary With Producer Barry Opper And Star Don Opper
  • Audio Commentary With Critter Designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo, And Stephen Chiodo
  • They Bite!: The Making Of Critters
  • NEW For Brian: A Tribute To Screenwriter Brian Domonic Muir
  • Behind-The-Scenes Footage
  • Alternate Ending
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery

The Two newly recorded Commentary tracks are excellent. The first with producer Barry Opper and Don Opper who played Charlie. The brothers are in fine form and discuss everything from their beginnings to the production and so much more.  The Best of the two of the Commentary tracks is definitely the one with the Chiodo brothers as they discuss their contribution to Critters.  Both tracks are relaxed conversational.

They Bite!: The Making Of Critters is a 71-minute making-of Documentary with interviews with everyone but Stephen Herek.  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, Second Unit Director Mark Helfrich, Critter Voice Actor Corey Burton, And Miniature Effects Supervisor Gene Warren Jr. all contribute discussing for their part of the production. Some of the tidbits gone over during the making of where they initially thought they were doing with Roger Corman production but Bob Shaye and New Line swooped in to offer more money for the production. They initially wanted Billy Idol for the role of Ug which went to Terrance Mann. Lots of b-roll footage shot on VHS. How they did the transformation of the bounty hunters or what they call an analog version of a morph. And fun facts like Terrance Mann wrote the Johnny Steele song.  It’s an amazingly detailed and thorough behind the scenes documentary.

For Brian: A Tribute To Screenwriter Brian Domonic Muiris a 20-minute look at the original screenwriter of the film.  Those expecting a normal “everything is great” look back at Muir will be shocked to see they do not sugar coat his struggles after looking the directing gig to Critters to Herek and also being pushed out as the writer of the series.

Scream Factory continues its tradition of featuring vintage B-Roll footage from the production much to the delight of this reviewer.  The footage amounts to 12-minutes of behind the scenes look at the Critters puppets and many of the on-set special effects.

The Alternate ending is basically the same ending without the reconstruction of the farmhouse at the end.

Rounding out the extra features include a Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots, and a Still Gallery.  Of course, any fiend for Trailers and TV Spots from the ’80s are going to love the additional of these rare spots.

Disc Two: Critters 2: The Main Course (1988)

  • Audio Commentary With Director Mick Garris
  • Audio Commentary With Critters Designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo, And Stephen Chiodo
  • The Main Course: The Making Of Critters 2
  • Behind-The-Scenes Footage
  • Additional TV Scenes
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery

The two newly recorded Commentaries are actually better than the first discs.  The first is from director Mick Garris.  If you have heard Garris fantastic podcast Post Mortem will know that the director is a no-nonsense commentator.  Garris is relaxed and conversational dispensing production anecdotes and the speed of the production.  Just as good is the Chiodo brothers who recorded another commentary for the sequel.  The brothers are great bantering back and forth and discussing their contribution (which was a lot) to the production.

The Main Course: The Making Of Critters 2is a 63-minute continuation of the first behind the scenes documentary on the first disc.  This documentary features comments by 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.  The biggest shock from this documentary is how even the success of the film in theaters did not produce a sequel right away.  It was only after it did blockbuster business on home video did New Line Cinema begin the production.  Much of the time is spent on Garris’ addition to the production and why he was specifically chosen.

Again, Scream Factory has included the B-Roll Footage which amounts to 24-minute of fly-on-the-wall footage of the various effects work.  The best part of the footage is even the most ardent of cinephiles will find the work the production took to bring the Critters to live impressive and ridiculously funny.

The Additional TV Scenes is about 13-minutes of scenes that were to be included on the TV version of the film.  Nothing much is added that couldn’t have been cut (and was rightfully) just small character moments.

Rounding out the special features is the Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots, and a Still Gallery.

Disc Three: Critters 3 (1991)

  • Audio Commentary With Producer Barry Opper And Star Don Opper
  • You Are What They Eat: The Making Of Critters 3
  • Trailer
  • Still Gallery

Only a single Commentary is included on the third entry. This time Barry and Don Opper return to discuss the third entry.  As one imagines there is quite a bit of time spent talking about a very famous soon-to-be movie star.  Though they do manage to discuss the story, productin, and effects work in the oddest of the series.

You Are What They Eat: The Making Of Critters 3 is a 27-minute behind the scenes documentary that is the continuation of the first two making-of’s.  The documentary features comments by 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. The most interesting part of this documentary is how New Line Cinema decided to make cheaper DTV sequels to milk the series for everything it was worth.  The documentary does not sugarcoat the issues the even lower budget caused to not only the production but specifically to the Chiodo brothers wonderful effects work.

Rounding out the special features are a Trailer and Still Gallery.

Disc Four: Critters 4 (1992)

  • Audio Commentary With Producer/Director Rupert Harvey
  • Space Madness: The Making Of Critters 4
  • Trailer
  • Still Gallery

The final discs a single commentary by director Rupert Harvey.

Space Madness: The Making Of Critters 4is a 23-minute behind the scenes documentary concludes the making-of series. This documentary features comments by 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.  You will not see anyone happy to be talking about Critters 4which is a shame because of its honestly a fun, deadly serious, goofy film.  Most of the blame of the reception and it seems like all the production issues falls on the director Harvey.  Much of the end of the series seems to be New Line’s just not wanting to continue on.  It’s a good summary of what exactly happened to the Critters series.

Rounding out the extras on this disc are a Trailer and a Still Gallery.

The Final Thought

Scream Factory hits it out of the park.  The Critters series is an entirely entertaining cult romps that they’ve gone overboard with special features and solid transfers.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!

Scream Factory’s Critter Collection Blu-Ray Box Set is out now

0 comments on “Blu-Ray Review: Scream Factory’s Critters Collection (Box Set)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: