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Review: ‘Critters 2: The Main Course’: A Perfect Sequel

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Review: 'Critters 2: The Main Course': A Perfect Sequel

Critters 2: The Main Course had no business being a great movie. But, hey! The first Critters racked up a couple million at the box office, why not try for another? And if you haven’t seen the original, you’re in luck. You can either have the pleasure of revisiting the charming, innovative horror/comedy from ‘86, or, you can barrel right past it and pick up with Critters 2.

That’s one of many things this flick gets right. It knows you might not be a diehard Critters fanboy. So it does a great job of greeting a new audience by guiding everybody through the lore. There’s rumors all over Grover’s Bend, gossip spreading like wildfire. Turns out, depending on who you ask, a family from this town was visited by some sort of alien creature. Or, maybe they were just a gang of crocks! Either way, the dust has settled, and the family’s gone. That is, until a bus rolls in, and the family’s now-teenaged son hops off. Bradl Brown is back in town. Sooner than you can say “shape-shifting intergalactic bounty hunter,” everything is in turmoil. Is it just Brad, as the former sheriff suspects? Or is there really something else turning Grover’s Bend upside down.

Now, let’s be honest folks, you turned this movie on for the creatures. They’re little aliens called Crites in this franchise. Crites are these furry little alien Sonic the Hedgehogs who can roll around in groups, and they’re the best. It’s hard not to compare them to the other pint-sized menaces of the day. For whatever reason, the ‘80s loved having horror comedies where there were many small villains. There was Gremlins, a huge blockbuster and a house-hold name. And then there were the rest of them! This latter batch of maybe-ripoffs included Ghoulies and of course Critters. But don’t count them out for coming later! Just because Gremlins made tiny bad guys a mini-craze, doesn’t mean Critters is any less fun or wild or worthwhile.

Critters 2 The Main Course Movie Image

So, the creature effects are really the star of the show here. The Crites are brought to life by the magnificent work of the Chiodo Brothers. They designed the special critter effects in the first movie, and in this one they return, creating over 50 puppets for the story. You can tell that the Chiodos were given more to do this time around. The powers-that-be rightly put their money on the critters for this one, and the gamble pays off. That’s exactly what the audience for a movie like this wants. So we get everything bigger and better. There’s more Crites, they’re more articulate, and they do some spectacularly violent stuff.

The Crites may be the star, but what really makes this sequel work is the director, Mick Garris. Mick’s the man, he has been for decades now. Back in 1988, he was more established as a writer (and a rocker… hell yeah!).  Some of Mick’s earlier credits are due to some very important people who liked his writing. In particular, Steven Spielberg hired Mick to write for his Amazing Stories and pen the story for the movie *batteries not included. It’s no surprise, then, that Mick Garris’ directorial debut (made-for-TV Fuzzbucket from Disney, notwithstanding) with Critters 2 a movie that feels a lot like an Amblin picture. Mick knocks this thing outta the park, taking what could’ve been a throwaway cash-in on a middling Gremlins also-ran, and elevating it to respectable genre fare.

Mick could’ve turned the focus towards explaining more about the Crites. What does their planet look like? Do they have any natural enemies? Are they the top of the food chain? But instead of explaining it all away, Garris does something that would later make him a perfect fit for Stephen King adaptations. Critters 2, in a stroke of brilliance, is all about the people. This town, Grover’s Bend, is alive, and the people in all feel real, and have wants and needs and fears. He could’ve made this movie about the monsters, but instead Mick Garris knew that this thing had to be grounded in the human. And so, when Brad is running and screaming and scared for his life, we feel for him, because we’ve spent time getting to know what kind of guy he is. Further on in his career, Mick Garris would direct the made-for-television version of The Shining, where he’d reign in Jack Torrance, portraying him as a human man, rather than the from-the-start monster that Stanley Kubrick made him.

The movie’s got boobs in it, but it’s just the two, and if you can get past that, it’s a great time for the whole family. A dog gets killed by the Crites, but come on, you weren’t too emotionally-invested in that dog, were you? Critters 2 is available on HBO Max, and I am available on Twitter @billreick, where I eagerly await all your hottest takes about Critters 2: The Main Course!

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