When I started to do these ‘strange trip’ reports, they started off as a moment-by-moment commentary but I bit off more than I can chew. Plus, reading a bunch of time-coded comments? How fun could that be? Until I find a way to create a GDL16 series of subtitles you can drop in with your computer’s movie player, I’ll keep these STs to a ‘bite size’ variety, much like last year’s Halloween Countdown adventures.
Last year, the movies all began with H: Hellraiser, House, The Howling, etc. I burnt out with Halloween by the time the eponymous holiday finally showed up but that’s what I do ever year. Burn bright, burn fast. It’s all about pacing. Either you end up making it through the meal, or you choke.
This year, it’s time to hit up the salad bar for seconds. It’s time to get into the wonders of sequels. The Horror genre is notorious for cranking out films that capitalize on horror’s known low-overhead/high profit system. If Jeepers Creepers 4 is shot for 3 million and pulls in 7 million during a short run at the box office before it makes an additional 5 million in DVD sales/VOD rentals/whatever, some shitty movie has brought in four times its budget. SUCCESS.
A much as sequelitis might cheapen things, when you start out low, you can’t go much cheaper than dirt. There’s not a lot of respectable content in the Ghoulies franchise. Or in what we’ll start this Countdown off with: Critters 2.
For this month’s Strange Trip series, I picked sequels that 1) I haven’t seen or if I have, my warped memory, corroded by years of excessive internet use and American junk food, can’t recall the exact details and 2) don’t require prior knowledge of the first movie in order for shit to make sense. We’ll see how well that second requirement holds up. I remember that I’ve seen both Critters and Critters 2 but that was back before the Clinton administration.
The general concept is that a Critter is what you get when you cross a porcupine with a piranha and give it the appetite akin to the greed of a Goldman Sachs worker.
Also, they’re from space. Critters 2 reminds us this by opening up in the swamps of some galactic shithole that looks like West Memphis on a good day. A guy looking like the Pyro character from Team Fortress 2 (alternatively: Dogwelder) gets caught stumbling around the swamphole. Some sound scares him off and he runs face first into a monster that looks like the illegitimate lovechild of a Facehugger and John Carpenter’s The Thing. Luckily, Pyro 2 shows up and the monster gets exploded.
Seems these are bounty hunters! And one has a bitchin’ 80’s haircut. Lorezo of the Longhair and his buddy, Bucktooth Roger, are informed by alien made out of bubblegum (shaped to look like what Right to Life people believe a human fetus looks like at twelve weeks) informs them that a G-Sweep of the Planet Earth shows residual “Crit Life.” Crit as in kite and Crikey, not like as Crit and Critical. Uh-oh. Seems Lorenzo and Bucktooth didn’t do a good enough job in the last movie.
Next scene. Cue up an old-fashioned bus (so old fashion, they have a black man driving it) heading to a place called Grover’s Bend. Unfortunate name if you’re a muppet.
Sassy Black Bus Driver acts as Mr. Exposition to the kid we see as Bradley Brown. We hear about SPACE PORCUPINES and the Brown family. Cue the Brown farm where Emmett Kelly the Hobo and one of the extra punks from Return of the Living Dead are looking for “buried treasure,” which is what I think they called “sex” back in Regan’s America.
Dolt the Punk pulls over some hay to reveal a bunch of rotten avocados which, I suppose, are Critter eggs. Knowing that the market for “things that look like Cow Shit” has bottomed out, The Hobo says “THESE AREN’T WORTH DICK.” However, not to be deterred by this statement, Dolt the Punk sells them for a case of what I heard as “monsterbrau” which, if it is a beer, I want some.
Oh look. It’s the Grover Bend Easter Egg Hunt. Movie, are you somehow setting something up in blatant foreshadowing or were movie audiences so full of cocaine and spandex that they think this glaring sign of THERE WILL BE A SCENE WHERE THOSE EGGS YOU SAW ARE CONFUSED FOR EASTER EGGS AND KIDS WILL DIE was subtle? God, I hate the 80’s.
A montage of Grover’s Bend beats us over the head with the idea that this is a sleepy town where the 60’s and 70’s have yet to happen. The Sheriff sleeping outside of his office is a nice touch.
We get an ass-first introduction to what I assume is the movie’s heroine. Her name is Megan and her sister is a little blonde girl who has joined the mob in hunting down the elderly woman in spandex. Crimes against nature and fashion, I assume.
The following scene is reportedly the inspiration for Mad Men, where Megan’s dad and a woman with hair straight out of a Batman villain talk about newspaper publishing.
There are so many denim jackets in this movie. I’m having acid-wash flashbacks.
I guess the dumpy teenage Brad Brown is some kind of a big story. “The Boy Who Cried Critter,” says the newspaper lady. It also shows that the spandex elderly lady with the children is Brad’s grandma who takes care of literally some paste eating nincompoops of kids.
Dolt and Hobo show up. A dog scares Dolt and when Hobo says “It’s just a dog,” Dolt says “So was Cujo.” This, of course, breaks one of the pivotal rules of any horror movie: DO NOT MENTION ANOTHER HORROR MOVIE IN YOUR MOVIE.
Plot development: Sal the reporter shows up outside an airstream where a dumb hick is angry that she interrupted him from watching a game show. Turns out that Hickory was the sheriff of the first movie and cares not for Young Master Brown.
Meanwhile, Dolt and the Hobo finish unloading the Critter eggs. When no “Masterbrau” is available, Dolt takes two cases of “plain wrapped piss” and A COUPLE OF THESE (porno mags.) Oh, porn before the internet. Such halcyon days.
Seriously, kids are missing out on the joy of discovering discarded porno mags. I guess that’s a joy gone extinct, though watching that old Playboy fly off the back of Dolt’s jeep sure does bring a nostalgic gleam to my eye. Porn found in the woods. Seriously, kids. You’re missing out.
Back in Space, the snotnothing driving the ship is called Lee, a ‘nothingface.’ Shapeshifters! Find the right face for the right time and that’s how it works. There’s a poignant moment where Bucktooth (aka “Charlie”) and Lorenzo Longhair (“Ug”) where Charlie, hesitant at going back to earth and being left behind to resume his life as a “big nobody,” is reassured by Ug that Charlie is indeed a “bounty hunter.” This means that one of them is going to die. I put my money on Ug.
Next scene. Oh snap. THAT GUY. Eddie Deezen. He’s been the voice of a million nerd cartoon characters and he looks just like how he sounds. I wonder if someone said “We need to NERD him up! Make him more look like DEVO.”
Dolt (aka “Wesley”) hits on Bootylicious (the aforementioned “Megan”) before Bradley shows up to get beat up before he jumps into Booylicious’s car. Megan’s last name is Morgan, continuing the trend of “first and last name starting with the same letter.” It’s a shame that Dolt isn’t Wesley Willis. This movie would be a lot cooler.
Bradley Brown is a nice guy
He tries to do the right thing
He gets his ass kicked.
Megan saves his ass.
Rock over London. Rock on Chicago. Where’s the Beef? Only at Wendy’s.
Bradley calls the only bangable chick in this town “like Jimmy Olsen, with breasts” in a display of how they’re the movie’s romantic subplot.. I love 80’s storytelling. It would be nice to see a movie where the lead hero and heroine don’t end up boning and that the girl sticks with her dumbass boyfriend because she generally likes him.
Grandma and Bootylicious’s sister go and visit Hobo, who sells them half of the critter eggs for twenty bucks. Bootylicious drops Brad off at his Grandma where he talks about being in Kansas City and denies the actions of the first movie ever taken place. Good. So it’s alright that I haven’t seen it in twenty years.
At the same time, despite it being clearly spring and sunny, Hobo has left the heater on and placed his half of the Critter eggs next to them. After returning from what I must assume is church since Hobo’s dressed up (and his remark of “Shit, Easter sucks”) we get the movie’s first two casualties. The Critters reveal themselves, first as they “nurse” on the body of Hobo’s dead dog, then standing in a cute little line behind Hobo.
He tries to escape but since it’s twenty minutes and there hasn’t been any blood, you can figure out how well that happens.
At Chatteau d’Bootylicious, Megan and her little sister have painted the critter egg which gets set down near a heating grate. I kind of blame the parents for this one. The kid shows up with clearly a fucked up looking egg and they decide to leave it out in room temperature? Shit. I’d be worried more about the smell than anything.
Adorable as they are, seems that Crits are highly squishable when first hatched and the inadvertent right foot of Daddy Bootylicious saves the girl. I guess Crits are also made out of Nickelodeon Gak and bubblegum.
We cut to the church and it seems that these eggs are starting to hatch, which makes me wonder 1) what creatures laid them and 2) why are they hatching now? Are these like sea-turtle eggs, getting plopped down to hatch, emerge and devour everything in its path?
The guy playing the new Sheriff (the “guy we got because Richard Moll was busy” guy) shows some kind of hatred for dressing up as the Easter bunny, which I can’t blame him. The costume does look pretty lame. Plus, the zipper doesn’t work, meaning that the sheriff’s gun is hanging out and it’s a perfect place for all the newly hatched Crits to jump in and start snacking.
In the most shocking bit of social commentary, the Easter Bunny throws himself through the church window to knock over the crucifix. Of course, it’s the sheriff, dead and service is cancelled. This freaks out Bradley and Bootylicious tries to comfort him (while noticing the magnificent mullet that Brad’s got going on) and suggest that they go see Harv, the sheriff from the first movie and current Airstream aficionado.
Bitter and somewhat pissed, Harv takes off just as Charlie, Ug and snoty land. Leave it to Charlie to go straight for the discarded Playboy. Lorezo Longhair and Nothingface show up and because we’re thirty-six minutes into an 80’s horror movie, we get our bare breast quota filled with the lovely figure of the late Roxanne Kernohan.
Look, I know the director really just wanted Roxanne to walk around naked but the nerd in me questions the reality of a shape-shifting race that can’t make clothing strong enough to survive a shape change. If Roxanne’s ample bust and derriere could snap through the protective clothing, what good is it against a Critter? Or anything larger than a raccoon?
Bootylicious and Brad find frantic Journalist Sal at Hobo’s junk shop and we get out first glimpse of a fully grown Critter. We also get our first projectile porcupine quill. I think this movie is ready for all the action and comedy to start because after an inflated-Critter gag, we cut to Nana’s house where a Critter shows his hatred of Nana’s all vegetarian cuisine. Bradley and Bootylicious shows up and thankfully for all of them, so does Lorenzo Longhair and Roxanne. Thankfully for the film’s rating, Roxanne has fashioned some wardrobe. Looks like they both belong on a cover of Heavy Metal, though. Is that magazine even around anymore? (just checked. It is!)
A reunion between Charlie and Brad has the line “I have to go where the Cosmic Winds blow me.” Well, at least Charlie has his priorities.
Roxanne and Lorenzo show up at the Hungry Heifer where we get as bit of a Gremlins rip-off where a horde of Crits chew the fuck out of a diner. In between all the Crits goofing off, both Lorenzo and Roxanne ‘extend their guns’ in a wonderfully phallic display that cracks a smile from Roxanne. It’s a shame she died so young. She had some personality for a role that just needed a body and not a mind.
The ensuing chaos is pretty awesome. We get our first subtitled Critter speak and the sight of a deep fried Crit. It’s also pretty clear that this movie does not give a fuck and knows that it’s exactly a movie about goofy looking furry monsters. There are sound effects, visual gags and a moment where a group of Crits, forming a mega-ball, mow down some townsfolk like a bowling ball.
Oh god. No. After finishing up with the diner, lovely Roxanne mutates into Eddie Deezen before shifting back into Roxanne. She ends up walking into an alley where all the Crits are hanging out, leaving her to freeze before she is eaten. The discovery of her chewed up corpse sends Ug into a shock that he loses his face and ultimately, becomes useless.
There’s a ridiculous scene involving a girl on a tricycle that defies logic and sanity. The less said about that, the better.
Ultimately, the idea is to use the local meat packing plant as a decoy for explosives. Get all the Crits in there, blow them up. I figured the buggers would go after that FIRST, unless they simply had a desire to eat humans instead of beef. But, I suppose if I was dropped off on an alien planet with the ability to consume the local wildlife, I wouldn’t really go into the alien equivalent of a Stop & Shop and raid the cheese counter.
Some bullshit with the CHANGING OF THE WINDS leads one huge critter to say EAT HAMBURGER NO BONES in a strangely twisted Peta message. Turns out that it’s UG, who could turn into a Crit. This leads me to wonder why the fuck they didn’t just morph into something HUGE and UNDEVOURABLE in the first place. How about a fucking rhino with machine guns for shoulders? I don’t get you, Movie.
KABOOM. The plant goes up in smoke but then comes the ICONIC IMAGE of a huge, hairless ball of mouths and teeth, rolling out to eat everything. If you saw the VHS cover art back when there used to be VHS, the image of that rolling ball was the reason you rented it instead of a Beethoven movie or a collection if Inspector Gadget cartoons.
After playing pinball with the town, the ball of Crit death seems to be on its way to where everyone has hidden themselves. So the logical thing to do? Stop watching the movie? No. Have Charlie kamakazi the ship into the ball of death, of course. Out of sadness, Ug takes Charlie’s face, which is strange and probably a bit in poor taste to the few people who actually liked him.
Happy ending for all!
The day after, while everyone cleans up, Bradley Brown is seen taking the bus out of town. Which, I guess, is kinda fucked? I mean, why did he show up in the first place? Just to visit his Nana during Easter? These things, I don’t really know. Or care for. Oh, look. Charlie parachuted out of the spaceship without anyone knowing. How did that work? Who cares. It’s over. Ug decides to go up to space, leaving Charlie (despite promising not too) and Charlie is made Sherriff through the wholly-democratic process of “old sheriff tossing you the badge.”
Final Thoughts: Not a lot to chew on, but it’s a staple of 80’s monster cinema. I’ll go back and put up pictures but right now, I’m coughing up shit that looks greener than Kermit. It’s very unappetizing. Anyway, kind of a dumb flick but it’s good if you want to kill an hour and a half. Goofy, not terribly serious, gore’s kinda low. Eh. Nothing nutritional. EMPTY CALORIES.
I’m going to go lie down.