I grew up in in the 80s, so I have always loved the shlocky creature features the decade was known for. Before the age of CGI, movie monsters were done with real-world effects, often just puppets.
This gives the films a fun, often ridiculous look, but if you grew up with that, there is something magical watching them. Premiering at the Fantasia Festival, Critters Attack! is a direct sequel to the series of films born of the 80s, and it wears that heritage on its sleeve—for better or worse.
Drea (Tashiana Washington) is a down on her luck young woman who recently got rejected from her ideal college and is struggling to make her way through life. Making deliveries for the local Sushi restaurant, she fantasizes about eventually getting into the school of her dreams. Drea and her little brother Phillip (Jaeden Noel) an alien obsessed teenager, get wrangled into babysitting (Ava Preston and Jack Fulton) for a college professor in an attempt to make her college dreams a reality. After an outing to the park, things get messy quickly when they come across a friendly alien—that the rest of the critter species is after.
As the rag-tag group try to flee for safety, the titular critters are not far behind, spreading mayhem and multiplying in the process. As the town and everyone in it starts to succumb to the overwhelming force of the critter onslaught, it is up to our young heroes to take a stand and try to fight back against the aliens.
The cast delivers a fun if not campy performance that suits the tone of the film. Tashiana Washington fits her role well and ensures that even the most ludicrous of lines are delivered with enough fun to make them all work. The rest of the cast, including Dee Wallace from the original series of films, take to their roles well and make for an enjoyable if not silly watch.
With Bobby Miller directing and effects by artist Werner Pretorius, Critters Attack! is a throwback to everything that makes the original series so memorable. The carnivorous aliens are back in all their fuzzy rolling fury. And despite some technology seen in the movie, this movie feels like it was born out of decades past. The practical work on the creatures, blood, and effects all set a specifically 80’s tone that sits firmly in the world of camp.
While Critters has never been a “good” series, it is one I have always enjoyed, and after sitting through Critters Attack! it is clear that everyone who worked on this movie had fun doing so. It never takes itself seriously even in the most intense moments of the movie. Bobby Miller has done a good job of bringing back the lunacy of the series, and although it is at times over the top in terms of what is shown, it works to capture the madness of the onscreen antics.
It is hard to see a flying puppet covered in green blood after just being decapitated and not have fun with the material. Scott Lobdell (Happy Death Day) manages to set the right balance of dread, fun, and camp to keep things interesting and the 93 minute runtime moving. There are few lulls in this story, and while nothing is outright horrific, there is enough terror on screen to keep the stakes apparent even through the puppet slaughter.
For fans of the original series, there are enough Easter eggs and throwbacks to keep you happy, Critters Attacks! also stands on its own as a retro creature feature. Yes, you will miss out on the deep Critters lore, and you won’t get what all the fun is about when characters from past movies make an appearance, but Bobby Miller has done a good job making a film anyone can jump into and enjoy.
Fantasia is delivering a diverse set of films this year, from truly fantastic watches to good old fashioned camp. While Critters Attacks! will not be winning many awards, what the film sets out to do, it does well. This is a retro throwback for fans of 80’s shlock, and it delivers that in spades. If you love camp, gore, and practical puppet work, give Critters Attacks! a watch. It is the 80’s puppet-based horror fest I never knew I needed in my life until now.