Monday, July 15, 2019

Fantasia ’19: Critters Attack!

How could a franchise so rich in history go twenty-seven years without a new film? Remember, it was Critters 3 that made a star out of a sickly-looking teen named Leonardo DiCaprio—and his career has been going down hill ever since. Happily, the Krites (a.k.a. Critters) are still going strong, having roared back first with a Shudder reboot series and now a new installment in the original film series. The alien fur balls return to chow down on earthlings in Bobby Miller’s Critters Attack!, which had its world premiere at the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Alas, poor Drea has had a hard time of it. Ever since her mother died in a traffic accident, she and her little brother Phillip (an alien invasion-conspiracy theory monger) have had to live with their uncle Lewis Haines, a well-meaning but often drunken sheriff. She pines to matriculate at nearby Leroy College, the elite school her late mom briefly attended, but she lacks the necessary connections. Reluctantly, she agrees to baby sit for a natural history professor, hoping she can call in the favor next time she applies. Of course, she will take the neurotic Lacy siblings, Trissy  and Jake, to the park just when the Critters start attacking.

Since Phillip had long carried a torch for Trissy Lacy, he happily came along with Drea. Maybe it is just as well, because he is better able to recognize an alien invasion when one happens, even if it is conducted by round balls of hair and teeth, greatly resembling Animal from The Muppet Show. However, his judgement is somewhat clouded by Trissy’s presence, especially when the precocious pre-teen insists on taking home an injured white Krite, whom she dubs “Bianca.”

Have no fear franchise followers—the Krites attack early and often. Although the latest Critters movie is set in our day and age, it definitely has a late-1980s-early-1990s vibe going on. It is definitely true to the spirit of the original, especially given Dee Wallace’s return the franchise, as “Aunt Dee,” for the first time since starring in Critters Numero Uno.

For fans, it will be great fun watching Wallace in an Ellen Ripley-esque role. However, it is rather surprising how earnest and appealing Tashiana Washington, Jaeden Noel, and Stephen Jennings are as Drea, Phillip, and Uncle Lewis, respectively. Their family drama and dynamics actually play out well on-screen.

Of course, the Critters are just a blast of furry madness. Clearly, everyone involved had great affection for the original films, including raising genre talents Miller (who previously directed The Cleanse), screenwriter Scott Lobdell (best known for penning Happy Death Day), and editor Mike Mendez (director of The Last Heist and Don’t Kill It).

Sure, it looks somewhat low budget, but that is part of its charm. This Critters is all very old school and nostalgic, in the right ways. Highly recommended for fans Critters and hirsute creatures in general, Critters Attack! had its world premiere at this year’s Fantasia, ahead of its July 23rd DVD release.