Friday, December 14, 2018

THE CRITTERS COLLECTION (1986-1992) (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)


THE CRITTERS COLLECTION (1986-1992) 

In Critters, the terrified Brown family are trapped in a deadly nightmare and must fight for their lives against a litter of extraterrestrial, bloodthirsty monsters. But it's a losing battle until two intergalactic bounty hunters arrive, determined to blow the creatures off the planet! In Critters 2: The Main Course, some eggs have survived and are popping open, bringing another horde of the little creatures! Brad Brown (Scott Grimes) returns to fight them along with three bounty hunters. Critters 3 stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Josh, a beleaguered Angelino who must lead the fight against the little monsters as they invade an L.A. apartment building. In the final film, Critters 4, a super strain of genetically engineered monsters are designed to take over the universe. This time, Brad Dourif and Angela Bassett must battle the little bloodthirsty hairballs.

CRITTERS (1986) 


Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 86 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Stephen Herek 
Cast: Dee Wallace, M. Emmet Walsh, Billy Green Bush, Scott Grimes, Nadine Van der Velde, Don Keith Opper, 
Terrence Mann, Billy Zane 


Synopsis: It's no picnic for the Brown family when a lethal litter of carnivorous aliens arrives unannounced at their Kansas farm. Trapped in a deadly nightmare, the terrified Browns fight for their lives against the attacking bloodthirsty monsters. But it's a losing battle until two intergalactic bounty hunters arrive, determined to blow the hellish creatures off the planet! It's an alien adventure, full of action and just crawling with Critters!


When pint-sized alien fur balls land in a rural Kansas farming community, Grover's Bend, the people there must contend with their appetite for human fleash, lucky for the Earthlings a pair of shape shifting alien bounty hunters have followed the comsmic outlaws to Earth and aid them in ridding their small town of the toothy, quill-slinging menaces. Written before Gremlins but not produced till after Joe Dante's film destroyed the box office, I've always found Critters to be a fun pint-sized terror film, the Chiodo Brothers (Killer Klowns from Outer Space) design is so damn cool, the film is wonderful, fun sci-fi romp, with laser blasters, ravenous little creatures and all sort of small town stereotypes, played for humor but also carrying with it a tint bit of menace. What a great cast we have here, with Dee Wallace (The Howling) as the main kid Brad's (Scott Grimes, TVs ER)  mom, M. Emmet Walsh (Blood Simple) as the sheriff, and Bill Zane (Demon Knight) as the yuppie boyfriend, plus Lin Shaye (Insidious) as the sheriff dispatch, she's always fun. Plus we have Don Opper as Charlie the town drunk/fool who turns into a bad-ass alien bounty hunter, and who is the only guy to appear in all three of the sequels! 



It might be as good as Gremlins, but I think this punchy little sci-fi horror is pretty darn great, the Tribbles by way of Gremlins mash-up holds up in my opinio, but it's probably better if you're a fan of it from back in the day like myself, a little nostalgia goes a long way.  

Special Features: 

- NEW 2K scan from the original film elements
- NEW Audio Commentary with producer Barry Opper and star Don Opper
- NEW Audio Commentary with Critter designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo and Stephen Chiodo
- NEW They Bite!: The Making of CRITTERS featuring 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. (61 min) HD 
- NEW For Brian: A Tribute to Screenwriter Brian Domonic Muir (22 min) HD 
- Behind-the-Scenes Footage (12 min) 
- Alternate Ending (4 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 
- TV Spots (2 min) 
- Still Gallery (6 min) 

CRITTERS 2: THE MAIN COURSE (1988) 


Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 86 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Mick Garris
Cast: Scott Grimes, Liane Curtis, Don Keith Opper, Terrence Mann, Barry Corbin


Synopsis: Is it human? Is it a beast? Whatever it is, IT LIVES AGAIN in this second film in the Critters quadrilogy!
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 (Scott Grimes), 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!


After the events of the first film apparently Brad brown (Scott Grimes) and his family were forced to move away from Grover's Bend, but the sequel finds him returning to the place to see his grandmother, and wouldn't you know it, his visit coincides with the hatching of some alien eggs that have been lying dormant in the town ever since the first film! It also coincides with the convenient return of the alien bounty hunters, including the former town drunk Charlie (Don Opper). Directed this time by Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers) the film is more comedic and broad, but also amped up with some even better Critters special effects from the Chiodod, including the debut of the Critter-Ball! Well directed by Garris the film is a humorous slice of sci-fi fun with some much appreciated PG-13 nudity and awesome special FX, a solid sequel and the last good film in the series, and the last one to merit a theatrical release. 


Sadly Dee Wallace and  M. Emmet Walsh do not return but hey, we g
et Herta Ware as Brady's foul-mouthed granny and super-nerd Eddie Deezen (1941) as the manager of a burger joint, which plays heavily into the film, luring the critters into a trap with the scent of burger meat. In place of M. Emmet Walsh we Barry Corbin (TVs Northern Exposure) who is pretty great, and Lin Shaye returns as well. Highlights include the Critter-Ball, a man in an Easter Bunny suit being gnawed on by the Crites, and a third alien bounty hunter who takes on the appearance of a nude woman, gotta love the nudity in 80's PG-13 films. 


Special Features: 

- NEW 2K scan from the original film elements
- NEW Audio Commentary with director Mick Garris
- NEW Audio Commentary with Critters designers Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo and Stephen Chiodo
- NEW The Main Course: The Making of CRITTERS 2 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 (63 min) HD 
- Behind the Scenes Footage (24 min) 
- Additional TV Scenes (13 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 
- TV Spots (1 min) 
- Still Gallery (3 min) 

CRITTERS 3 (1991)

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 86 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Kristine Peterson 
Cast: Aime Brooks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Dan Opper 



Synopsis: 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 fur balls viciously invade an L.A. apartment building and sink their teeth into the low-rent tenants, Josh (DiCaprio) 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!


Apparently Critters 2 tanked at the box office, so the third film is a direct-to-video sequel, but one with a certain amount of notoriety as it was the film debut of future Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio. Set in the budget-limiting confines of an apartment building this one has a different feel that the previous entries, limited in scope but still managing some okay fun, DiCaprio has some good spunk, I wouldn't say you can tell even then that he would go onto mega-stardom, but he's clearly a kid with talent. 


The Critters are kept hidden away for the most part, but again you have the Chiodo's doing the FX work, and it's decent but limited, hamstrung by a much smaller budget, We basically have a small group of people in an apartment building fighting of the tiny terrors, not awful but largely forgettable. Don Opper returns here as the alien bounty hunter, and be on the lookout for  Nina Axelrod of Motel Hell (1980).


Special Features: 

- NEW Audio Commentary with producer Barry Opper and star Don Opper
- NEW You Are What They Eat: The Making of CRITTERS 3 featuring 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 (26 min) HD 
- Trailer (2 min) 
- Still Gallery (2 min) 

CRITTERS 4 (1992) 


Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 86 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0, 5,1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Rupert Harvey 
Cast: Don Opper, Paul Whitthorne, Angela Bassett, Brad Dourid 


Synopsis: They’ve returned home …. to outer space!
The Critters are back in this supercharged sci-fi space adventure! But these are no ordinary Critters – they're a super strain of genetically engineered mutants designed to take over the universe! This time, they're hungry to conquer the galaxy, with an appetite for mankind that's out of this world. Joined by Angela Bassett (Black Panther) and Brad Dourif (Child’s Play), Don Keith Opper and Terrence Mann reprise their popular roles as they battle for survival against the Critters, a nuclear meltdown and the fate of the universe!


The direct-to-video capper to this sci-fi horror series goes where a lot of franchises have gone to die, with the Critters returning to their place of origin - space! Set in the year 2045 we have a rag tag crew of a salvage ship discovering a escape pod floating in space. They take it on board and after awhile crack it open, discovering Charlie the bounty hunter and some recently hatched Critters, which cause mayhem on the ship. 


Here we have an interesting cast assembled for the salvage crew, notably Oscar winner Angela Basset (What's Love Got To Do With It), Brad Dourif (Child's Play), Eric DaRe (Twin Peaks) and Anders Hove (Subspecies), and the ship's A.I. is voiced by Martine Beswick (From Russia With Love). The Chiodo's did not handle the FX on this one themselves and you can tell,  they're absent from the film till about two-thirds of the way through with a lot of the running time being taken up by boring crew melodrama,  


Special Features: 

- NEW Audio Commentary with producer/director Rupert Harvey
- NEW Space Madness: The Making of CRITTERS 3 featuring interviews with 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 (23 min) HD
- Trailer (2 min) 
- Still Gallery (3min)

Audio/Video: At long last, our nerdy HD nightmare is over, all four of the Critters films have arrived on the Blu-ray format at long last! Each film is presented in 1080p HD and framed in 1.85:1 widescreen, the first two film have fresh new 2K scan from original film elements, they look solid, grain looks good and very film-like, a very nice upgrade from my old DVD version. All these films are a bit soft by the the nature of their low-budget constraints, but the first two films benefit very nicely from the new 2K scan with nice depth and clarity, blacks looking deep and inky throughout. The third and fourth films are not advertised as new scans, so I think it's safe to assume these are existing dated masters, but the good news is that they are still good looking, the detail and clarity are lacking but colors are solid, grain is well-managed though not as finely resolved as the first two films. 

Audio on the films comes by way of DTS-HD MA 2.0 with optional English subtitles, the first film also get the option for a 5.1 surround track, it's not the most immersive surround you've ever heard, but occasionally there's some decent atmospherics happening in the surrounds. The stereo track for all three films is solid, with the direct-to-video third and fourth film sounding a bit more bland, but audio is clean and crisp, never hard to decipher.  

Onto the extras we get a satisfactory amount, including a Red Short Pictures produced making-of doc for each film! These are awesome, candid and fun story-filled making-of with the cast and crew, including FX team the Chiodo Brothers, who worked on the first three films, handing the reigns of the fourth film to their team but not doing it themselves. The docs add up to about three hours worth of interviews about the making of the four film, with over two hours dedicated to just the first two films, and rightfully so. It's a warts and all sort of recounting of the film, enjoying the highs of the series and going into detail about why it fell so far. 

We also get a touching tribute to the late screenwriter of Critters, Brian Domonic Muir, who passed o in 2010, plus an alternate ending for the first film, additional TV version scenes for the sequel, behind-the-scenes footage for the first two films, and TV spots, trailers and image galleries, and audio commentaries on all four films. 

All four films come in their own Blu-ray keepcases with a sleeve of reversible artwork, housed within a rigid slipcase with a sweet looking wraparound illustration, this is one of the better looking box set slipcases they've done in my opinion, coming in second only to Nightbreed. The artwork for the first two films is alright, both options, but not a fan of what they have to offer for the last pair of sequels, also I cannot believe they did not use the Critter-ball for the disc art on the second film, that would have been perfect. 

We've been waiting for HD releases of these toothy, pint-sized alien creatures for years, it's finally here, and Scream Factory delivered the goods, a top-notch release. The first two movies still fill me with nostalgic joy, the last couple much less so, but I love this set a bunch, the extras are wonderful, even for the movies I didn't care for. With Christmas just around the corner this would be a awesome gift for your sci-fi and horror loving friends and/or family, at least those worth dropping a cool $60 on.  

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