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Critters: A New Binge Review

March 20, 2019 | Posted by Joseph Lee
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Critters: A New Binge Review  

*Christian Sloan as Holt
*Joey Morgan as Christopher
*Kirsten Robek as Veronica
*Stephi Chin-Salvo as Dana
*Bzhaun Rhoden as Charlie
*Gilbert Gottfried as Uncle Murray
*Thomas Lennon as Assistant Principal Weber

Story: The horror-comedy series picks up the tale of the Critters, everyone’s favorite hairy, carnivorous, insatiable aliens from the beloved film franchise. Pursued by intergalactic bounty hunters, the Critters return to Earth on a secret mission and encounter lovelorn high-schooler Christopher (Morgan), his crush Dana (Chin-Salvo), his best friend Charlie (Rhoden), and his mom Veronica (Robek), whose past will come back to bite them—literally.

At the beginning of 2018, it was announced that a brand new Critters digital series was being developed for a new mobile video app called go90 through Verizon. Then in June of that same year, Verizon abruptly pulled the plug on that service, leaving the series seemingly in limbo. That is until the amazing folks over at Shudder saved the series and announced that they would release it exclusively to their service. After all, who better to recognize the value of brand new Critters content than a streaming platform curated by and for horror fans?

The format of A New Binge is a short-form series broken up into eight episodes, which are about ten minutes in length each. In other words, it’s basically a brand new 80-minute movie. That would put it right at the sweet spot of length for films in this series, except for the fourth film that inexplicably decided it needed to run 105 minutes. The less said about that movie, the better. Considering it’s been 27 years since Critters 4 hit video store shelves in 1992, was A New Binge worth the wait or should the series have stayed dead?

To answer that question will largely depend on whether or not you’re on board with a series that abandons any horror pretense. Critters has never exactly been about the scares, but make no mistake, A New Binge is intended to be a farce. It’s a constant stream of jokes and even moments that could be considered “dramatic” in the loosest since of the word are quickly undercut with humor. This is not something that is meant to be taken seriously at all. If you’re on board with that kind of a tone, then you may enjoy what A New Binge has to offer.

That said, the downside of being wall-to-wall jokes is that not all of the jokes will land. That’s the case here, especially in the early “episodes” in which we’re asked to follow the human characters through their by-the-numbers high school shenanigans. This sequel is at its strongest the weirder it gets, so it makes sense that it’s at its weakest when we have to sit through fat jokes, jokes about men screaming like women, jokes about hairy balls, etc. Again, not every joke is going to land but at least for the first half, the jokes miss more often than not.

Humor is of course subjective, but in this humble reviewer’s opinion, the humor works best when A New Binge leans into how ridiculous its premise and concept are. That happens around episode six. Once that happens things get crazy and it gets genuinely hilarious at times. In other words, it’s the kind of Critters sequel you’d expect from the director of Zombeavers. Obviously there will be no spoilers here, but a joke about Infinity War is more timely and funnier than yet another reference to bullet time in The Matrix.

If you have any interest at all in watching this, you’re likely wondering about the level of special effects and the stars of the show, the Krites. There’s a bit of a good and bad news situation with that. First of all, it’s clear that this series was shot on a microbudget. That’s perfectly okay, and a budget does not define quality most of the time. That said, bad CGi doesn’t have the same charm as say, bad practical effects, and there are a few here that can take you out of the viewing experience. It usually involves the troublesome bounty hunters and their ability to shape shift.

Luckily, this isn’t the type of series where that sort of thing really matters. Bad special effects may happen but they can be forgiven because, and this is important, there’s a ton of great practical effects. The Krites here are all puppets, including the giant Krite ball they form for eating as many people as possible. There’s also a lot of practical gore, with body parts, intestines and anything else you can think of flying around during the feeding frenzies.

Given the over-reliance on CGi blood and gore, particularly in low budget horror, it’s a breath of fresh air to see a series that doesn’t go that way. The Krites themselves could have also been computer animated and thankfully they were not. It’s very easy to forgive the problems forced onto a project from a small budget when you see the hard work that goes into other areas to make it as great as possible for the fans of the property, as this does. Someone behind the scenes knew that Critters fans would likely be upset if puppets weren’t used, so we got puppets. They still work for the most part.

The story itself deserves some mention in that, hey, there’s actually a story. It doesn’t seem like it at first, but the Krites are actually on Earth for a reason. There’s a plot twist in the sixth episode that will divide fans but I support it simply for not being the same thing once again. It’s when this sequel really got good for me, but other fans may not feel that way simply for how it changes the Krite-human dynamic, at least as far as this story’s canon goes. We’ll see whether or not Syfy acknowledges it when they produce their own Critters movies.

A New Binge will give you what you expect from it. It’s not flawless. There’s some spotty CGI and the jokes do miss more than they land early on, but there have been worse entries in the Critters series. It’s at least better than the straight to video sequels New Line produced in the early 90s and makes an attempt to be something different. At the end of the day, A New Binge is new, and I’ll take a flawed project with ambition over a boring retread any day of the week.

Critters: A New Binge will be available on Shudder starting Thursday, March 21.

The final score: review Average
The 411
While Critters: A New Binge doesn't start out as fun as fans may like thanks to a small budget and jokes that miss more than they land, it eventually does find its footing. That opens things up later on for more laughs and plenty of carnage. This was obviously made with hardcore Critters fans in mind, and they'll definitely want to take a bite out of it.

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Critters: A New Binge, Joseph Lee