Critters (1986)

critters poster 1986 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 6/10

Nice cast, fun monsters

Pretty bad special effects, too Gremlin related

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Critters

Studio:  New Line Cinema

Genre(s):  Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Comedy/B-Movies

Release Date(s):  April 11, 1986

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

critters crite monster

Holy Crap…little monsters invading and multiplying! Where have I heard of that?

When aliens known as Krites escape a space prison and land on Earth, bounty hunters are sent to stop the murderous aliens.  Unfortunately for the Kansas town of Grover’s Bend, they are about to get caught in the middle of a deadly alien invasion.  Brad Brown (Scott Grimes), his sister April (Nadine van der Velde), his father Jay (Billy “Green” Bush), and his mother Helen (Dee Wallace) find their farm overrun with the “Critters” and they are hungry.  As the Browns fend off the monsters, town drunk Charlie (Don Keith Opper) tries to convince Harv (M. Emmet Walsh) that his fantasies about alien invaders are finally coming true!

Directed by Stephen Herek (who also help wrote the screenplay), Critters is a science-fiction action horror comedy.  The film received modest reviews and a relatively strong box office return.

Critters came out after Gremlins, and for many, it felt like a Gremlins rip-off (though the script existed in some form before Gremlins was made).  For me, it didn’t matter if Critters was ripping off Gremlins since it was horror and aimed at younger audiences…I had to see it.

critters scott grimes don keith opper terrence mann

We’re trapped in a Gremlins’ rip-off guys…but I’m ok with it!

Despite seeming derivative of Gremlins, Critters actually feels kind of like its own film.  The film kind of falters in that it has so much going on in it.  There are a lot of characters (the family, the bounty hunters, the sheriff) to establish and they are all vying for screentime…I kind of wanted more Critters.  The story also ends a little too “neat” with the house and then the obligatory “it’s not over ending”.

The cast is very ’80s with Scott Grimes making his screen debut as the semi-lead of the film.  He’s joined by Don Keith Opper (who appears in all the Critters films) and who seems to be doing his own version of UHF’s Michael Richards pre-Kramer character…with alcohol.  Billy Zane makes an early appearance as the sacrificial Critter victim and horror vet Lin Shaye plays Sally.  Terrence Mann is fun as the Ug/Johnny Steele bounty hunter character and Dee Wallace continues her scream queen roles as the mother.  M. Emmet Walsh has also mastered the M. Emmet Walsh character that he always seems to play.

critters crite et doll

Ok…they literally did this in Gremlins…I don’t know that it is an homage…

Critters is pretty low budget, and it shows in the film.  I like the design of the Crites, but they are obviously puppets.  The giant Critter is barely shown except his hands, feet, and occasional face.  The UFO and space scenes also look rather cheesy (but I suppose it is better that they went practical instead of some incredibly cheap early CGI).

I find Critters pretty entertaining, and the film rises slightly above the standard monster movie.  It doesn’t feel as much like Gremlins as some other films (other than there are small creatures), but the movie feels more comedic in its darkness and less dangerous than Gremlins which is pretty ruthless.  Critters was followed by a direct sequel Critters 2:  The Main Course in 1988 with Scott Grimes and others returning.

Related Links:

Critters 2:  The Main Course (1988)

Critters 3 (1991)

Critters 4 (1992)

Critters Attack! (2019)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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