Critters 3 (1991)

There's something about movies made in the 90s as sequels to movies from the 80s that I loved–Lethal Weapon 3, Beverly Hills Cop 3, this one…hmm, perhaps it's second sequels then, whichever–that sets them apart. It's not always positive (I feel those two buddy cop movies are the lesser entries in their respective series) but it's the same thing regardless. They're cleaner, slicker, more interested in comedy and less interested in drama, pathos, scares, gore and horror. It's kind of my time period since that's when I was a kid, but I tend to enjoy it anyway, despite the loss of those strong emotional elements that are often surprising in a way coming from movies of the monster movie or buddy cop movie. Oddly, I also feel there is still something for many directors and/or editors to learn from these movies. Are the characters strong and well-defined? No. Is the dialogue brilliant and crackling with wit? No, usually bad jokes and awful puns. But there's some kind of kinetic energy to these movies, that, despite their flaws, makes them come together in just the right way in the end anyway.

They also tend to deviate and add brighter, more colourful elemetnts–Lethal Weapon 3 added a butt-kicking love interest for Riggs, Beverly Hills Cop 3 is set in a theme park. Critters 3 is no exception–this time we finally leave the town of Grovers Bend, and the Brown family behind, now focusing on a tenement building that I believe is in New York City, but it doesn't matter too much. Clifford (John Calvin) is a widower and father of two, Annie (Aimee Brooks) and Johnny (Joseph & Christian Cousins) who is returning from vacation with them to their home in said building, home also to Rosalie (Diana Bellamy, sarcastic overweight comic relief as usual) and the Menges family (Bill Zuckert and Frances Bay–who I know as Mrs. Pickman in the classic Lovecraft-inspired John Carpenter film In the Mouth of Madness, but here is a much more benevolent "nice old lady"–though there's an action she performs which is amusingly similar to her most infamous one in that film, though with an exact opposite intention). Briggs (William Dennis Hunt) is a businessman trying to run the occupants out so that he can gain money from the building, using his lackey Frank (Geoffrey Blake, great fun as a snotty, arrogant punk of a "maintenance man") to try and scare or gross the occupants out. The movie's claim to fame is the actor playing Briggs' stepson Josh–none other than Leonardo DiCaprio in his film debut.

Performances are strong all around for what they are. Comic timing is excellent on all counts, and the emotions are believable, simplistic though they may be. DiCaprio is impressive enough as a rebellious young boy, doing pretty well for his age (though seeing the talent he has now, this IS less impressive). But, as always, the stars of this show are the Chiodo brothers' (their solo, er, trio, claim to fame being Killer Klowns from Outer Space) Critters and Critter effects, now even more complex in design than even the first sequel, with glowing red eyes and very expressive faces and limbs. The one that answers the phone for Frank when Briggs calls is as cute as the Crites can get, dancing and waving madly in amusement and frustration at the victim he cannot reach. Great setpieces like a POV shot of a Crite latched onto a broom and any of them latching onto a victim are what it's all about. They don't quite have any lines as funny as the ones in the original (they do speak, but of course not in English, so they're subtitled). They're hilariously inept as always, despite their clear relative intelligence, suffering massive indignities at the oblivious hands of the tenants until they finally reveal themselves (then only suffering less massive indignities to indulge their appetites).

Don Keith Opper returns–thanks to his brother Barry Opper's script–as Charlie McFadden, the former town drunk turned inter-stellar bounty hunter, who appears early on to warn Annie, Johnny and Josh of the threat they are soon to face, and later to help combat the Crite infestation.

For some reason, this film has a 3.0 on IMDb. I think that's pretty insanely harsh. It's not groundbreaking, it is a second sequel, and it is "just a b-movie," but it's smartly written enough, well-directed, well-edited and well acted. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes monster movies with a strong humorous element and great monster design and effects. I don't know who else there is like that, but that's always been a problem for me. Not a letdown at all–not even, in fact, like the other two movies I referenced a number of times.


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