Two years after a pack of very illegal aliens (actual tagline, not my joke) gorged themselves on the Brown family farm, the Browns, not surprisingly, have moved away to the big city in an effort to distance themselves from that all-too-close encounter. The tiny town of Grover’s Bend was able to carry on as usual by satisfying themselves that the Browns were a pack of loonies and the events of that fateful night never occurred. Unfortunately, the remnants of that night–in the form of clutch of Crite eggs–have just been discovered by a shady antique dealer and sold to the church as fodder for their annual Easter egg hunt. It’s about this same time that Bradley Brown, youngest son of the ill-fated family of the first installment, returns to visit his grandmother. It’s also about this time that those intrepid inter-galactic bounty hunters, having learned of the presence of more Crites on Earth, begin their voyage back to Grover’s Bend. Will this collective homecoming be enough to stop an even larger Crite invasion, or will Grover’s Bend be the appetizer for their eventual takeover of our planet?
I have more than a few soft spots when it comes to the subcategories within horror. One of my biggest would be the underrated horror sequel; especially unsung part 2’s. Jaws, The Fly, Demons, and Psycho all have fantastic second entries that often get relegated to the realms of the forgotten simply because of the numeral they tow. I would definitely have to assign Critters 2 into that same category as it is a terrific sequel to a campy, extraordinarily fun cult classic. I don’t think it over-praise to note that Critters 2 actually improves upon a few aspects of the original.
First and foremost, kudos to the writers for maintaining and embracing the cheesiness of the original film. It would have been terribly easy to shoot for a more hardcore monster film and, in the process, lose the charm of the first film. But despite the fact that, true to horror sequel form, there is substantially more violence in Critters 2, it is all played with such black comedy as to get the atmosphere light and consistently entertaining. I love the new running gags about the shape-shifting alien bounty hunters constantly looking for new forms to take and the Easter bunny gag left me rolling in the aisles. In the realm of holiday horror, this is a much stronger Easter entry than, say, the killer rabbit film Night of the Lepus. So we get the same amount of irreverent humor as in the first film with a substantial increase in carnage, not too shabby.
But the one area in which I feel Critters 2 improves upon the original is in the character development. Specifically, I found Barry Corbin’s Sheriff character far more engaging in the sequel than he was in the first film. Now granted, Corbin is taking over for M. Emmet Walsh so some of the changes may simply be differing actor choices. But he is given so much more opportunity to be a complete badass in Critters 2 that it almost seems like an entirely different character. He’s a cowboy who rides in when he’s most needed and fills fuzzy little monsters full of holes with a pair of six-shooters, all while spouting the best one-liners of the film. How can you beat that? Furthermore, the relationship between the bounty hunters, including the returning Charlie (Don Opper), is far more layered if a bit silly; wielding the most phallic laser blasters in filmdom.
That’s not to say the film is without fault. Chiefly, Critters 2 suffers from a profoundly clunky ending. It plays this expectation game with the audience wherein it refuses to let any reasonable conclusion be the actual ending in favor of padding out the run time. It’s forgivable the first time they do it, but by about the fourth time they pull this stunt, they were bordering on exhausting my patience. But all in all, a solid sequel.
Critters 2 had the distinction of being shown on one of the coldest days Austin has ever seen. As such, as one would expect, attendance to this sold-out screening was adversely affected. I can’t remember the last time two entire rows were left empty at a Terror Tuesday event. The cold must have also negatively impacted those who did dare to leave their homes and make the trek across the Lone Star Tundra because the crowd was noticeably subdued. Where normally a moment of pure, brilliant ridiculousness would elicit a roar of laughter from the auditorium, on this night distinct and isolated pockets could be identified. Nevertheless, I saw not one unsatisfied face as we shuffled reluctantly back out into the cold winter night.