Critters Attack!, 2019.
Directed by Bobby Miller.
Starring Tashiana Washington and Dee Wallace.
While babysitting two teenagers, college student Drea discovers that the alien Krites have landed in the nearby forest. They soon receive help from the mysterious Aunt Dee, who might have a history with the hungry intergalactic beasts.
Some 27 years after the Critters franchise last graced audiences with its presence, the cult sci-fi horror series is back with its fifth entry, a wildly belated revival of dubious necessity and, as is quite apparent after watching, utility.
Like so many after-the-fact sequels desperate to rejuvenate flagging franchises, Critters Attack! attempts to meld new blood with shameless nostalgia fodder – and the end result is resoundingly flat. The A-plot revolves around beleaguered sushi delivery girl and budding college student Drea (Tashiana Washington), who in the hopes of increasing her likelihood of admission, agrees to babysit a faculty member’s two kids.
But when the bulbous, hairy, toothed alien monsters known as the Krites once again arrive on Earth, her job becomes decidedly tougher than expected, unaided by the presence of her alien-obsessed brother, Phillip (Jaeden Noel).
Through and through, this is a shamelessly generic STV creature flick hampered at almost all times by a fatal lack of personality. The central characters are all thoroughly tedious stock archetypes, and the film touts not a shred of self-awareness to this end.
The appealing Washington at least makes an enthusiastic effort in the lead role, trying to wade her way through the exposition-heavy sentimental family drama she’s saddled with as gracefully as possible. Because of course, in addition to trying to get into college, Drea’s got the obligatory dead mother woes to deal with. It’s arbitrary dramatic dead-weight in a movie that, at 89 minutes in length, really should feel spry and lean.
The obvious allure for long-suffering fans of the franchise, however, will be the return of original Critters star Dee Wallace, whose Helen Brown is reinvented as a Crite-hunting badass with a secret base of operations hidden behind her bookcase. Yup. Sadly, Wallace’s screen time is cynically minimal, doing absolutely nothing of interest until the late stages of the film, and even then, it can’t help but feel like a desperate attempt to win the attention of those few still flying a flag for the original movie.
What does work, surprisingly enough, is the genuinely robust special effects. There are some terrifically convincing shots of the creatures rolling around, not to forget some fantastic goo-letting when the Crites inevitably start exploding. While these gonzo effects invite the opportunity for the film to go the wacky Gremlins route with its kills, ultimately either a lack of interesting ideas or budgetary constraints ensure that most of the deaths, whether human or Crite, aren’t much creative – or gory enough, for that matter.
Outside of the solid craftsmanship, Critters Attack! coasts along listlessly for the majority, and even in its more outlandish third act, can’t do much to rouse anything beyond passing flecks of amusement. It’s not good, because of course it isn’t, but worst of all, Critters Attack! is depressingly low on charm.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.