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The Critters Collection (Blu-ray Review)

One of the most anticipated released of the year is undoubtedly Scream Factory’s Complete Collection of the four Critters films. On Blu-ray for the first time ever, you’ll remember this as a Wishlist (2019’s is coming folks, be patient) title from me many moons ago. I have to say I would have settle for bare bones releases, but I’m tickled that these are getting some full on love now! And, I’m really encouraged by the excitement this release has brought. My social media alone was blowing up when I posted a picture of my review copy when it arrived. People from left field were very enthusiastic about it. Needless to say, I hope it translates into some good dollars for the good people at Shout! Factory. I’m LOVING this Warner Bros deal this year. Many many many dreams have come true. Make yours come true by pre-ordering a copy of this impressive set in time for Tuesday’s (November 20th) release date. Act fast as its currently set at a little over $10 a film.

Critters 

When strange fuzzy creatures from outer space arrive on a farm, the Brown family — Jay , Helen, their daughter, April, and their son, Brad — must fend off the malevolent little aliens. Two bounty hunters with superhuman abilities follow the aggressive beasts from beyond, but the warriors aren’t terribly effective, leaving the Brown family to battle the fur balls and rescue April from their clutches all by themselves.

People easily decry Critters a Gremlins knock off like its Ghoulies or something. Truth be told, the film was written before Gremlins went into production. Gremlins’ success very much was responsible for Critters being greenlit though. However, one look at the films and you’ll see that aside from the films being about hordes of small creatures that attack people, they are very very different properties and should be enjoyed on their own right.

One thing I’ve always loved about Critters is how steeped in sci-fi it really is. I enjoy the lower budgeted look of the space outfits, ships and tech. That’s my wheelhouse right there. In terms of the creatures themselves, they anything but super cheap. Its actually really impressive in terms of the animatronic and puppet work.

The cast of the first one really surprisingly brings it here. And its pretty credible, with Dee Wallace really taking the material seriously and delivering enough to ground the film in the right places. Scott Grimes is a nice touch on being a hero that isn’t certainly perfect and you learn to enjoy and get through it with him. You also get a fun little appearance by Billy Zane as Grimes’ sisters super yuppy boyfriend.

Critters is more than a knock off. While the studio may have cared and wanted its own Gremlins, nobody making this film cared about that and just made the film they wanted to make. The film brings dread and terror, but it can also be lighter, fluffier and pulpier in many ways. Heck, its PG-13, so its kinda horror for the whole familiar. It’ll have moments that will make a kid think they are getting away with something and an adult surprised to see how far they are pushing things. It holds up pretty well as a really fun horror teeny creature future.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Critters debuts with a brand new 2K scan from the original film elements. It looks naturally cinematic here, holding on to grain and providing plenty of nifty detail. Textures and clarity come through this solid and sharp image. This really feels true to what Critters should be looking like.

Depth:  Spacing is plentiful here with a pretty solid pushback on the background from the foreground. Characters look free to wander through the frame feeling naturally detached. No real distortion issues present.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and really wonderful in their presence, excelling in the shadows and trying to look as natural as can be. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors look pretty natural but have a good pop and a pastel-like nature when it comes to greens. Reds also have a strong presents when a more bold tint.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. You can see glossy, oily skin, wrinkles, stubble, make-up, lip texture and more with ease in close ups and medium shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Critters has a pretty rock solid 5.1 track here in its debut. While this one lies up front, it does have some cool moments to prove its worth. There is a nice balance here in terms of effects, score and vocals never trampling on one another. The default volume here is set a little lower than normal, so you’ll want to start by dialing up a couple notches.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: The low ends sounds are kind of light here with explosions and destruction going on.

Surround Sound Presentation: While this is a front heavy track, it will surprise you at many turns. Whether it be scampering of a Critter behind you or spaceship flying by, the rear channels aren’t forgotten. And they also help to build ambiance in many moments as well.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Critters 2 

It’s been two years since the fiendish Critters first terrorized the town of Grovers Bend and sent the Brown family packing. But the “boy who called Critter,” Brad Brown, is back … and just in time. Critter eggs have been hatching lethal litters, and the bloodthirsty hairballs are eager to partake in their favorite pastime – eating. In no time, the eggs are popping open everywhere – a field full of livestock becomes a gigantic feeding ground, and local residents are disappearing by the mouthful. Fortunately, three bounty hunters from space, Ug, Lee and Charlie, are flying back to eradicate the problem. But can they wipe out the Critters before Grovers Bend is erased from the map? With outstanding special effects, Critters 2 – The Main Course delivers a fine repast of morbid mayhem! 

With the second film, some new blood is brought in in the form of Mick Garris. And Garris is interesting in giving you want you liked last time, but always in new ways and really making a different film than the last time out. While this is the further adventures of Scott Grimes’ Brad Brown, he’s really it. Everyone else (Sans a side character played by Lin Shaye) are fresh faces. And these folks aren’t name like Dee Wallace, but are pretty strong including the likes of Sam Anderson and Liane Curtis.

The Critters themselves take on a little bit of evolution. A big selling point for the marketing via both trailers and the poster was the big ball formation. Another thing that is surprising is the level of gore and violence they get away with in this PG-13 horror movie. And its pretty rad at that. The same crew from the original with the creatures and such (The Chiodo brothers) all have come back and marvel and baking up some new Critters deaths. While I can’ say whether the film is better than the first or not, its pretty different and the fun and horror is at the very least just as good as the original.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AV

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Critters 2 also features a new 2K scan from the original film elements. It has a picture similar to the first one, but honestly feels a little bit more crisp and spacious than that image. It may help that the sequel has a lot of daytime sequences, but the details and textures are very strong here and it retains a right amount of grain while still looking pretty clean and fresh throughout the film.

Depth:  As mentioned, the depth of field is pretty strong with this one. Characters look free and the backgrounds feel a bit more distant and pushed back. Movements are very natural and cinematic with no issues on distortions due to rapid motions or faster action bits.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and hint strongly at a more natural picture. Details still pick up even in the darkest of depths. No crushing witnessed during this viewing.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty strong here with things like Scott Grimes orange hair and blood make-up/effects really popping off the screen. Color saturation is plenty strong too.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural throughout and features good facial details on stubble, lip texture, make-up, freckles and much more.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Critters 2 features a rock solid stereo track. Its plenty loud and can boom when the time is right and the action calls for it. Effects are pretty well layered with good depth and clarity. The score builds strong too and the vocals are always very prescient and in the right place with good movement and volume. As you can see, this is a pretty well balanced track here and makes for a fun and jumpy (at times) presentation of the film.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are ever-present, clear and crisp with good attention to diction.

Critters 3 

First, they destroyed a farm. Then they destroyed a town. Now they’re ready to do some REAL damage! Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the third and most outrageous installment of the classic cult tale of the infamous Critters. As the fanged, furious furballs viciously invade an L.A. apartment building and sink their teeth into the low-rent tenants, Josh leads the battle to beat back the conniving critters and save the planet. It won’t be an easy job, but he’s the one person the human race must depend on to destroy these terrifying alien hedgehogs once and for all!
Critters 2 bombed pretty hard and its by some sort of miracle that it continued it seems. However, the films went straight to video from this point on. This third one and the fourth one would be shot back to back. And with the low finances for the films (Reportedly 2.5 million dollars for both), you can’t help but be impressed. The screenplay was worked around and thoughtful with the budget in mind to keep things reeled in.
They got the Chiodo brothers back to do the Critters effects, which means A LOT to the film. The hardest part is taken care of. Smartly, they keep the setting to an apartment building and keep things trapped inside. They also are careful with how they approach the Critters, how ferocious they are and how much they show, saving big moments and such, conserving it. If you’re someone who knows things about production of films and stuff you can sort of “get it”, but really its not super obvious and plays very well. And oddly enough, this is the first time in the series where it feels in the vein of the Gremlins movies it gets accused of being a rip off of.
Critters 3 might be one of the most known in the entire franchise because it carries a gigantic trivia tag. It marks the feature film (He’d done plenty of TV already) debut of one Leonardo DiCaprio. And he’s fine in the film, nothing super special, but his presence does make this one pretty fun. The third Critters was supposed to take them out of their element and somewhere bigger but it didn’t work with the budget. Still, this apartment setting gives a real interesting and unique tale to the series that doesn’t feel like another also ran. Honestly, the series has done a great job of not feeling repetitive at all, even with the monsters.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: While the first two films contained details of a 2K scan and restoration, no such information is available for Critters 3 Or 4). So we’ll just have to assume its a standard HD master. No fret though, it looks pretty damn good and doesn’t look at all like its some DVD upconvert. Details and textures are strong and readily apparent in a good crisp picture. Fans should be pretty happy overall with how this straight to video movie looks on Blu-ray.

Depth:  Solid depth work here that looks better than you’d probably imagine. Movements are cinematic and smooth with no serious distortion issues.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and pretty consuming. No real problematic issues occur with losing information. Grain is a little heavier in the nighttime and basement sequences.

Color Reproduction: Colors are strong and give a good bump when strongly represented on articles of clothing. Red blood likes to glow through really well. There is a time where the screen is mainly lit up with a red flare and the image isn’t the prettiest looking but it does sting on the screen.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial details are pretty impressive, showing stubble, scarring, dried blood, dirt, soot, wrinkles and more form any given distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: This third affair also brings a 2.0 track that is pretty rock solid, on par with the second film. It features a nice mix of the score, vocals and sound effect in a good balanced display, layered through the 2 channels. When the film gets deep or pounds in a little more intensity, this isn’t afraid to get loud roaring, also hitting some really good highs (Take for instance, when the one critter screams at the top of its lungs).

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Critters 4 

After killing all the remaining vicious Critter aliens in “Critters 3,” bounty hunter Charlie McFadden is shot into space in a capsule with the last two Critter eggs. In the year 2045, a spaceship commanded by Capt. Rick retrieves the pod and opens it at a defunct space station, which revives Charlie. But while Rick waits for the Terracorps corporation to arrive and take the eggs, they hatch, placing Charlie and the whole crew in mortal danger.

While everyone yammers on about how Leo DiCaprio is in Critters 3, the fourth film has a Leo of its own. Eric DaRe, who played Leo in Twin Peaks, graces us with his presence in the franchise finale. Not only is he here, but horror vet Brad Dourif notches another franchise on his resume in this film. Not had enough? Well this cast proves to be stacked as one Angela Bassett stars in the fourth Critters as well. AND she has a shower scene. Its like they are loading up to go out big. Though, I’m partially joking and at the time I’m sure they also weren’t seeing it that way.

Picking up from the cliffhanger of the third film’s closing credits scene, this last film moves our action to the far reaches of space aboard a ship. Now, we all know the joke about so many entries/”When are they going to go to space” as set into play by the likes of Leprechaun, Pinhead and Jason Voorhees. But, lets note, Critters BEGAN in space. So its just taking it back to its roots for the fourth film. And once again, the setting, the agenda, EVEN THE CRITTERS are different this time around and make for a unique and different experience. No two Critter movies really feel the same. This is a franchise built for a marathon!

I know this and the last one have been two cheapies, but I’m the type of person who becomes impressed with how much people pull off with little to no money. And This fourth Critters film with its costumes and sets, truly has me feeling like we are aboard a spacecraft. Also, the Critter work themselves is still there and going good. There is still some good gore here. This one might feel the most “talkative” of the bunch, missing the critters for long stretches. BUT, I’ll argue that said talking comes from Brad Dourif and Angela Bassett kicking ass and chewing scenery. Overall, not a bad time. Probably the weakest of the series, but still plenty of fun and enjoyment to be had.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio:

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Like the third film, there isn’t much said on the packaging or in the press release regarding the transfer on Critters 4, so we’ll just assume it was a standard HD master (Usually if there’s a K involved its boasted about). The image is pretty solid and up to snuff with that of the third one. It features some good color saturation and the retention of grain allows for some really nifty attention to detail and texture.

Depth:  Depth is above average, its not close to being flat but its not going to light the world on fire either. Movements are cinematic and smooth.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and everpresent here in this inherently dark film. All that they want hidden gets done, but still holds onto strong attention to patterns and detail on clothing and dark surfaces.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty fun here beside the clothing (Orange jumpsuits pop) with the computer monitors and lights/buttons in the background constantly. Natural colors are strong enough and this makes for a pretty glowing affair thanks to being a very dark movie.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and maintain that appearance throughout the duration of the film. Facial features and texture can be made out pretty good in closeups and most all medium shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Critters 4 rounds out a series-wide span of solid 2.0 audio tracks. This more than gets the trick done as it carries the intensity where it needs to and has good volume placement and travel accuracy. The mix itself has a light ambiance on the shit that is a little low but effective. Overall, its Critters 4, its on Blu-ray, this is just fine (And moreso than).

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals once again clear and crisp.

Extras 

The Critters Collection is a 4-Disc set featuring each film in its own separate amaray case with a hard shell to fit all 4 in. Each film comes with a reversible cover featuring alternate poster art. The Shout! Factory pre-orders come with 2 lithographs pictures above (Limited).

Critters

Audio Commentary

  • With Producer Barry Opper and Star Don Opper
  • With Critter Designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo and Stephen Chiodo

They Bite!: The Making Of Critters (HD, 1:11:05) – This is a feature length and super in depth tale of the film (That does include archival interview input from late screenwriter Domonic Muir) that interviews with actors Dee Wallace, Don Opper, Terrence Mann and Lin Shaye, producer Barry Opper, writer Brian Muir, Critters designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo and Stephen Chiodo, make-up artist R. Christopher Biggs, special prop supervisor Anthony Doublin, composer David Newman and second unit director Mark Helfrich, Critter Voice actor Corey Burton and Miniature Effects Supervisor Gene Warren Jr. . Its actually VERY VERY hefty on the special effects and creature work on the film.

For Brian: A Tribute To Screenwriter Domonic Muir (HD, 21:57) – Opening with a clip of himself during a Critters interview, this dives into his life, early works and legacy through the eyes of many of the people who gathered to discuss the film for this release.

Behind-The-Secenes Footage (SD, 11:52) – Primarily creature/puppet/animatronic testing videos.

Alternate Ending (SD, 4:23) 

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:30) – Set to music from A Nightmare on Elm Street.

TV Spots (SD, 2:05)

Still Gallery (HD, 5:49)

Critters 2

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Mick Garris
  • With Critters Designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo and Stephen Chiodo

The Main Course: The Making Of Critters 2 (HD, 1:03:00) – Featuring interviews with director Mick Garris, actors Liane Curtis, Don Opper, Terrence Mann and Lin Shaye, producer Barry Opper, Critter designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo and Stephen Chiodo and make-up artist R. Christopher Biggs. Another big look at making the sequel that is once again very heavy on the effects.

TV Cut Additional Scenes (SD, 13:09)

Behind The Scenes Footage (SD, 23:49) – This footage is edited to be told like a news story and features interviews and test footage for effects and creatures.

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 1:40)

TV Spot (SD, )

Still Gallery (HD, 3:05)

Critters 3

Audio Commentary

  • With Producer Barry Opper and Star Don Opper

You Are What They Eat: The Making Of Critters 3 (HD, 26:27) – This is a pretty fun look back, although much shorter and with less people telling the tale but still has interviews with producer Barry Opper, screenwriter David J. Schow, stars Don Opper and Terrence Mann, director of photography Thomas J. Callaway and Critters designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo and Stephen Chiodo , but still pretty fun and detailed enough to get the idea. They do feature a good focus on the Critters themselves in the film, too.

Trailer (SD, 1:39)

Promo (SD, 1:46) 

Still Gallery (HD, 2:16)

Critters 4

Audio Commentary

  • With Producer/Director Rupert Harvey

Space Madness: The Making Of Critters 4 (HD, 22:39) – The final part of the franchise retrospective features producer Barry Opper, screenwriter David J. Schow, stars Don Opper and Terrence Mann, director of photography Thomas J. Callaway, Critters designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo and Stephen Chiodo. As is uniform they go through the fun and pitfalls of making the film while providing cast anecdotes since they aren’t there.

Trailer (HD, 2:10)

Still Gallery (HD, 3:05)

Summary 

Critters is very sneakily a really good series. Scary? Eh. Incredible science fiction thrillers? No. A lot of damn fun in all the right ways with each sequel? YES! And what’s not to love when the films look and sound the best they could possibly ever. To boot, we now have hours of interviews and honest stories of the film with these awesome new bonus features. This set was gonna be tough to screw up and there really was no worry about it in the first place. This is THE gift for your genre loving friend/spouse/sibling/cousin/dog/niece…whomever!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “The Critters Collection (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Elton Alwine

    Great review, I’m honestly surprised you rated these so highly. I can’t wait to pick mine up from FYE this week. Also, I’m really hoping that we get a The Lost Boys Collector’s Edition from Scream considering this deal with WB and Shout Factory. This is my white whale, my unicorn movie getting the special treatment, whether it be SF, Arrow, Criterion, I don’t care. I just want a special edition!