Measuring your expectations for the fifth entry into any horror franchise is just good common sense. Keeping low expectations for the latest Critters movie, the non-theatrically released Critters Attack!, is good self-preservation.
A full 27 years after the functionally enjoyable Critters 4, the little scamps return to the screen. Horror franchises tend to be cheap enough productions to revisit. That, combined with the fact that horror fans’ loyalty often carries even the weakest films past the profitability goalpost, could very well be the case with Critters Attack!. The Critters themselves are fun enough, but ultimately the plot is sluggish and even the hard-R rating for gore and “bloody creature violence” is not really enough to make it worth your time.
In the very beginning, siblings Drea (Tashiana Washington) and Phillip (Jaeden Noel) are just chilling at home when Phillip spies a flying object in the sky. That flying object is soon identified to us as the Crittermobile, and those jerks have just invaded their hometown. The Critters then attack a sushi delivery guy, who’s employed by the very same sushi restaurant where Drea works. You see, even though Drea is of college age, she’s passing time at the sushi place because she keeps getting rejected from her dream school. Phillip gets some equally shallow and underdeveloped character traits, along with the rest of the kids and adults in the cast of characters. Not to mention the shoehorned cameo of horror icon Dee Wallace as a Critter hunter with no real ties to anything. Not much effort is put into the characters, the sets (why is the college a ghost town?), or the plot, so in-kind I will also breeze past these essentials.
What Critters Attack! does pretty well are the practical gore and creature effects. The sushi kid’s early demise sets the movie up for some pretty disgusting gags, and when we get to focus on that instead of the shell of a plot, the film kinda works. However, these parts are sadly few and far between, and are constantly interrupted by nonsensical plot points and exposition.
Perhaps the greatest feeling of lost potential within Critters Attack! is not the deflated hope for the next Critters classic, but the lack of another Bobby Miller-directed gem. Miller’s previous feature film The Cleanse (née The Master Cleanse) was a festival darling from 2016. Its blend of creature effects, emotional complexity, and quirky characters made him an exciting and natural choice to take the ropes of this 1980s terror series. It’s impossible to know where his whimsy got lost in translation to this movie, but something is amiss here.
Schlock lovers accustomed to ignoring plot, character, and logic might enjoy cheering on the gore, but few others will revel in the sparse joys of Critters Attack!.