Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
October 1st, 2019

Critters Attack!

Asylum of the Dead
Directed by Bobby Miller
Written by Scott Lobdell, Domonic Muir
Starring Ava Preston, Jack Fulton, Tashiana Washington
89 mins

This has been a real banner year for unexpected revivals and sequels straight out of nowhere. I thought we'd hit the high-water mark when a new Leprechaun came out. I did not anticipate this would be followed up by a Banana Splits revival turned homicidal and bizarre. And now? Now what do I find? I find the Critters have come back, against all logic and good common sense. So how does this new installment, "Critters Attack!", hold up against its predecessors? Let's find out.

"Critters Attack!" introduces us to Drea, a 20 year old young lady eager to attend college. One college in particular, interestingly enough. Drea therefore takes a job babysitting the children of one of the college's professors. With the kids in tow--and her own little brother on hand--Drea takes the kids on a hike she hopes will keep them sufficiently occupied. That, of course, is when they run into the Crites, a race of violent, cruel eating machines that Earth has seen once or twice--okay, four times--before. Now Drea has to keep her young charges safe in the face of an implacable rolling stomach of an alien race, and take on a couple new twists besides.

I often enjoyed the first two "Critters" installments thanks to their wild sci-fi sensibilities. The bounty hunters, Ug and Lee--and eventually Charlie--were especially fun, packing ultra-powerful weaponry while chasing down occasionally wisecracking spiny carnivorous murder-balls.

But when I saw the title card for "Blue Ribbon Content" appear, I knew I was in for trouble. These are the same people, after all, that turned the Banana Splits into murderous robots. I wasn't holding out hope for them to suddenly develop things like "respect for the source material" or "taste" or even "common sense."

Sadly, this installment falls flat. Very flat. The Critters have been stripped of most of the cruel fun that they had in their earlier installments, and the sci-fi weaponry has been wildly toned down as if on some kind of really, really tight budget. The Crites also seem to have developed an odd new sonic allergy that literally never happened before, as far as I can remember. Worse, when one of the Crites kills a bagpipe player in mid-play, it seems thoroughly unconcerned about the screeching skirling going on around it. So does it have a sonic allergy or not? The movie is riddled with plot holes like this.

Even the overall production is anemic and lifeless. The inevitable arrival of the Crites in town seems almost like an afterthought, with only a few people involved. No one would likely notice if a town this empty was eaten to oblivion. Sadly, even the brief appearance of the legendary Critter Ball can't live up to its original appearance in the eighties, and that's easily the saddest part of the whole thing.

The ending is abrupt and largely lifeless. Though it does give the Critter Ball a little more room to run, it still concludes so quickly that it's as though the title ran out of time, or possibly budget, or maybe even both rather than reach a proper conclusion.

Special features include your choice of English, Portuguese or Spanish audio tracks, your choice of English, Spanish, Portuguese or French subtitles, two different making-of featurettes, a special feature on the Critter Ball, an audio commentary track and trailers for "It: Chapter 2", "Batman: Hush", "Annabelle Comes Home," and "Joker."

"Critters Attack!" represents a tragic new entry in the series. It's easily the worst of the lot, and given the overall nature of the series, that's a really bad sign. The movie tries, and it doesn't constantly fail, but it fails with sufficient force and frequency to make this a truly terrible shame.