15th Jul2019

Fantasia 2019: ‘Critters Attack!’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jack Fulton, Jaeden Noel, Ava Preston, Dee Wallace, Tashiana Washington | Written by Scott Lobdell | Directed by Bobby Miller

critters-attack-poster

All Drea (Tashiana Washington) wants is to get into a good college, but for now, she’s stuck making deliveries for a local sushi restaurant. One night, after her little brother Phillip (Jaeden Noel) witnesses meteors plummeting to Earth, one of her co-workers is attacked by hungry alien furballs with sharp teeth and big appetites. Yes, the rolling, ravenous critters are back, and soon Drea, Phillip, and two kids she’s babysitting (Ava Preston and Jack Fulton) are running for their lives. They’re also trying to protect an injured friendly alien they come across along the way, but every place they flee to becomes the site of a critter massacre.

I’m not going to lie, I went into Critters Attack! with a mix of trepidation and excitement. On the one hand this is a reboot of a long-dead franchise that, honestly and despite how much I enjoy the sequels, peaked with the second film (in fact is it even a reboot? Apart from the lack of a number in its title, this could be – for all intents and purposes – a continuation of the series, albeit set years after the last space-faring Critters film). On the other hand, another recent horror reboot, Leprechaun Returns, actually turned out to be better than I expected or hoped for – capturing what made that franchise great whilst honouring what had come before. So which way did Critters Attack! lean? Thankfully more towards the latter.

This is a reboot that works. And works well.

It does so by respecting the creature-feature franchises of the past, going back to the balance between a sense of wonder and danger that marked out the first film in the series, and other such films of the 80s, so well. And by having kids firmly at the centre of its terror tale Critters Attack! really recaptures what made the series so appealing to me as a kid back in 1986. It also doesn’t hurt that the film goes back to puppetry, animatronics and practical effects for its magnificent monsters, again harkening back to the much-loved 80s era (it seems) of monster movie making where monsters and the effects that created them were often the star of the show.

And in Critters Attack! the monsters certainly are the stars. In fact I’d say writer Scott Lobdell and director Bobby Miller have a perfect handle on what made those original films, and critters, so popular: they are at once cute and funny and yet incredibly deadly. Like their original appearance(s) the crites walk a fine line between loveable and detestable and with good reason. These little monsters chew their way through pretty much anyone and anything that stands in their way. Or even accidentally gets in their way! Which means blood, gore and jump scares a-plenty, just like in Critters films of old. We even get a super-crite in Critters Attack!, in a direct nod to the first sequel!

Speaking of creatures, there’s the introduction of a new “cuter” female Crite in Critters Attack!, one that plays more into the family-friendly aspect of the series, in the same way the familial setting in the first film worked so well – and in the same way Gremlins cute “hero” Gizmo appealed to audiences too. Only this new Crite, the apparent Queen of the species, is also a total bad-ass, taking on her own kind when necessary and teaming with the group of kids at the centre of this story to escape the menace of the [presumably] male of the species!

Incidentally, its not only the new female Crite that’s a bad-ass. Dee Wallace returns to the franchise in a role that sees her taking on the crites like a boss: hunting and killing them with no mercy. Meanwhile Tashiana Washington’s Drea, whilst at first is something of a meek mouse, soon comes into her own to kick Critter ass – just like any great monster movie heroine should, even inspiring her young charges! Between our three female leads it seems Critters Attack!, at the same time as recapturing the magic of 80s monster movies, also taps into the current desire for more female led stories… even if one of those females is a sharp-toothed Critter!

A DTV movie done right, Critters Attack! is a most-worthy entry into the Critters franchise and one that, hopefully, will spawn many more films to come!

**** 5/5

Critters Attack! screened at Fantasia International Film Festival on July 13th 2019.

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2 Responses to “Fantasia 2019: ‘Critters Attack!’ Review”

  • Kristen

    This was a horrible movie. I can’t believe you gave it 5/5 . . that rating makes me think you didn’t even watch it. I just finished watching it. . it’s so disapointing.

    • Phil Wheat

      Honestly I really enjoyed it. I thought it perfectly captured what made the original films so great.