Written by: Mick Garris and David Twohy
Produced by: Robert Shaye
Directed by: Mick Garris
Reviewed by: Brett G.
Two years after the release of Critters, the inevitable sequel graced theaters across America. Featuring a bigger budget than its predecessor, it set out to be bloodier, funnier, and generally more ambitious than the first film, which is usually the case with sequels. However, there is inevitably a stigma attached to sequels as well, as they generally fall short of these goals. Does Critters 2 follow suit, or does it manage to be even more entertaining than its predecessor?
For the most part, Critters 2 is a worthy follow-up and is definitely more ambitious than the original. Whereas the first film involved the title characters terrorizing the Brown family farm, Critters 2 brings the Crites to the city of Groverís Bend. Taking place two years after the original, this film opens with the former town drunk, Charlie, on a mission with the two bounty hunters from the original film (here referred to by Charlie as ďUgĒ and ďLeeĒ). After taking out some space monsters, the bounty hunters are informed that one mission has been left unfinished: the Krite invasion from two years ago. It turns out that these critters werenít completely annihilated in the first film (as evidenced by the tease at the end).
Back on earth (specifically Groverís Bend), we find a couple of guys knocking about the abandoned Brown farm. One of the guys here, Quigley, is a collector of antiques that he pawns off to the locals at his local store in town. It turns out that the other guy, Wesley, has stumbled upon some weird looking eggs in the barn. Wesley then proceeds to exchange the eggs for two cases of Schlitz and a stack of Playboys. Of course, these arenít normal eggs, as they house our favorite extraterrestrial carnivores. Even worse, itís the day before Easter and Quigley sells the eggs to the local church for its annual Easter Egg hunt. Meanwhile, Brad Brown, our protagonist from the first film is back in town to visit for the holiday. Of course, all hell breaks loose on Easter Sunday (not even the Easter Bunny is spared), and the town is left to fend off the massive Krite invasion with the help of the intergalactic bounty hunters (and Charlie).
The setup here is basically the same as the original film, albeit on a slightly grander scale. The film basically fulfills all the expectations of a horror sequel: itís bloodier, bigger, and contains more humor than the original. Iíve seen a lot of criticism for the latter element here, but it seems to me that the original also had its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. Though they arenít horror-comedies in the vein of Ghoulies, each of the first two Critters films has plenty of laughs; Critters 2 just amps up this element and it seems a bit more campier than the original, which isnít as bad as it seems because it makes for an undeniably entertaining film. How many films feature a Playboy centerfold as an intergalactic bounty hunter with a thirst for Krite-killing? Exactly.
Furthermore, the sequel amps up the Krite-related carnage, as there are now hundreds of the carnivorous creatures terrorizing the town. Though theyíre obviously puppets, the Krites generally look better (thanks in part to the larger budget) and seem to get more screen time than they did in the original. As such, the film isnít as character driven as the first film (not that it was a model for that by any means). Still, there are a lot of fun characters here: Charlie is still a loveable goof, Ug is still a reticent badass, and Sheriff Harv (here portrayed by Barry Corbin) is your typical likeable loudmouth sheriff type. Brad also gets a love interest in the form of Meghan, but this subplot isnít exactly vital to the plot. It does manage to raise the stakes a bit, but there isnít exactly an immediate sense of peril or suspense in a film like this, as itís a typical creature feature that delights more than it scares because it's all about the Krites here. We see them terrorize a burger joint, slide along power lines, and terrorize the easter bunny. As is the case in most horror series, the villains begin to become the stars here, and the Krites generally deliver as they devour everything (especially human flesh) in their path.
In terms of direction, Mick Garrisís film here is much brighter and colorful than the original film. I prefer the original filmís dark, grittier look, but this new direction fits with the tone of the film. The actual direction is also well done, and the film looks much more expensive than its modest budget. There is a particularly thrilling scene involving the Crites forming into a massive, unstoppable ball of flesh-eating mayhem. The score isnít particularly memorable aside from the ďHungry HeiferĒ theme song that plays throughout the film and even serves as the music for the closing credits. Iíll just say this: it doesnít hold a candle to ďPower of the Night,Ē Johnny Steeleís power ballad from the original film. In terms of gore, Critters 2 is slightly gorier than its predecessor; while it doesnít spread the red stuff constantly, there are some nice bloody moments dispersed throughout.
All told, Critters 2 is a fun little film. Itís not quite as good as the original, but itís not nearly the letdown that many sequels are. In fact, I would be hard-pressed to criticize it too harshly in this respect because the films are so alike. Critters 2 just turns up the volume a little bit, and it still manages to be an entertaining film in its own right. New Lineís DVD treatment is adequate enough. If youíre familiar with the first filmís DVD, then expect the same here: a nice anamorphic transfer that admittedly shows its age and both 5.1 and stereo soundtracks. The surround track is adequate enough and actually gives the LFE channel a nice workout; for the most part though, the film is dialogue driven so donít expect a whole lot of activity in the soundtrack. The only extra is the filmís theatrical trailer, so fans might be disappointed in that respect. Still, for the price this retails for these days, itís worth a buy if youíre a fan of the original. However, if youíre just a casual fan, one viewing will probably satisfy you. Rent it!
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