In space, they love to hear you scream
The crass crew of the space ship Salvage 1 tell Andy Griffith to take a hike and…wait, wrong movie. Anyway, some wreckage recovery retards, constantly musing about their profit shares, stumble across the interstellar time capsule that was shot into the cosmos at the end of Critters 3 and determine it might contain something exciting. Boy, were they ever wrong. Rightful owners, the obtuse Terracorp conglomerate, direct the celestial street cleaners to an abandoned set for Aliens 5 and tell them not to touch anything. Well, greed and cinematic forward momentum soon take over and the coarse Captain Rick opens the extraterrestrial Winnebago. Turns out that the petrified pod contains rust, gaseous emissions, a dope named Charlie (cause of said noxious discharges), and two Crite eggs. Well, before you can say "unnecessary direct to video hack sequel," the creatures have cracked their shells and are rolling around, eating only the bad guys on board. Ersatz bounty hunter Charles tries to stop the circular special effects before they lame everyone to death. Eventually, the interplanetary lodge begins to go nuclear and our clueless cast is making a beeline for the exit hatch. But thanks to a previous unknown aptitude at genetic engineering and hairball husbandry, the Critters have gone from two to several and don't like their dinner guests leaving early. So not only do our errant astro-jerks have to battle a faceless corporate conspiracy and atomic fission, but there are some angry fur pillows that'd like a word with them as well. It's just another bloody day in the load pan bay for those unfortunate enough to find themselves knee deep in creature crap, otherwise known as Critters 4.
There must be some mandatory rule in the monster movie handbook about taking your about-to-crash and burnout fright franchise and shooting it off into space to keep the sequel machine alive. The Irish irritant the Leprechaun did it, and the results were as nausea inducing as a ride on NASA's vomit comet. Clive Barker's sadomasochistic Cenobites found themselves in orbit in Hellraiser: Bloodline and the plot convolutions caused more video signal damage than sunspots and Trading Spaces combined. Heck, even that human hacksaw Jason "I Can't Swim, Mama" Voorhees ended up frozen like a Popsicle and magically transported to the year 2500 where he could wreak his never-ending vivisection…or perhaps, just reek, on an unwitting group of space station simpletons for Jason X. Inevitably, each and every one of these exercises in interstellar ineptitude would find their cinematic strategies lifted directly from Ridley Scott's light years more superior Alien, which in turn got its creepy chops from It!: The Terror from Beyond Space. In the world of tired terror sequels, imitation is the sincerest form of robbery. It's only fitting then that in this long tradition of marrying the cosmos to crap, we'd find Charlie, Ug, and those cretinous Crites in a "who asked for it" fourth installment of the "should have been in suspended animation eons ago" Critters canon. After all, Critters 4 simply takes the glutinous, spike spewing fuzz balls back into the void of the Crab Nebula from whence they came oh so many better movies ago. It's no surprise that this latest and seemingly last installment of the low grade Gremlins rip-off is unnecessary and painful, but it is a shock at how incredibly boring and moronic it is.
There are some givens in the futuristic film, obvious story and character directives that must have been passed down by ancient astronauts in between making crop circles and scaring the Incas. In space, everyone is either a member of a suspicious and slimy interstellar conglomerate (Ug) or a smuggler/salvage worker (the crude crew here). There is usually one fish out of water (Charlie) or a moody, depressed dissident (the daddy-demanding Earth-bound Ethan) amongst the hard drinking and dollar-minded band of bunglers. Space stations are always cavernous, labyrinthine, and well timed moments away from self-destruction. On board, somewhere, there must be a laboratory or science bay filled with Dr. Mengele inspired medical experiments gone horrible wrong. And crawling amongst the condensers and computer part compost piles must be creepy crawly creatures of unascertainable numbers and lethalness. Critters 4 does indeed follow all these prerequisites, adding those unfunny furry fishbowls to the mix. Previous incarnations of this monster mess at least had the obnoxious orbs attempting a few feeble sight gags in order to make the direct reference to Spielberg and Dante's other manic little green goofs more obvious. But here the mostly-mouth monsters make a late second act appearance and spend more time looking like taxidermied New Orleans nutria rather than minions of menace. The Crites were never the most horrifying entities to begin with, but by this fourth version they seem as out of it as the audience. It's as if the filmmakers painted themselves into a corner with the ending of the equally derivative Critters 3 and decided to simply let the stupidity play itself out. And boy does it ever.
It's hard to imagine anyone wanting to own this final installment in the silly series, even if they are a hardcore completist or fans of the slimy Brad Dourif or sinewy Angela Bassett (both looking embarrassed). New Line does nothing in its packaging or presentation to warrant an immediate product purchase. Like all the other Critters DVDs, they provide a viewing choice between a mostly clean anamorphic widescreen image at 1.85:1 and a rather grainy (and pointless) full frame open matte. Since the movie itself is no compositional or artistic statement, it really doesn't matter what version you chose. Aurally, the 5.1 Dolby Digital is acceptable since, as commanded by the cinematic authorities, the vast interstellar sets resonate with a small amount of channel challenging ambience. But unless you find trailers for the other Critters film "special" or demand to see these ancient advertisements as part of your "bonus" content, these DVDs are as bare boned as they get. No animated menu or full motion scene selection screen can make up for the dearth of content here (DVD-ROM content not considered).
And that goes for the movie as well. Critters 4 hoped to take the tale of voracious villainous vermin back home to its celestial roots, but since it had to incorporate so many of the standard space opera elements into its already thin as a Flynn Boyle premise, the resulting 90 minutes feel like 57 years in a cryogenics deep freeze. While Charlie and his fellow reward jockeys are to be commended for constantly fighting the tired fight against these rogue rugs from hell, it's a shame they couldn't have focused some of their bounty business on the real criminals in Critters 4: the people who thought up this boring bilge.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
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