These films shaped me, for better or worse, but none of them had an impact like the 1986 science fiction horror Critters. Like a lot of horror films, especially from that era, the main protagonist was a kid, Brad Brown. Brad was played by actor Scott Grimes, who was fifteen years old at the time. Grimes’s biggest roles to date have been Dr. Archie Morris on ER, Will McCorkle on Party of Five, and Tech Sergeant Donald Malarkey on the critically-acclaimed HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. I was never a fan of ER or Party of Five, but when I spotted him on Band of Brothers, I immediately jumped on the internet to see if he was the kid from Critters, which he obviously was.
Despite the impact the film had on me, there are bits and pieces I don’t remember, but I do remember plenty. I remember Brad, I remember Charlie, the town drunk, I remember the Critters themselves, and I remember the shape-shifting bounty hunters that were sent to clean them up. And I even remember Billy Zane, though at the time I didn’t know who he was.
Critters were the reason that I never watched my back for monsters, I watched my feet. And there small size was deceptive. It made them harder to spot and ultimately harder to kill. They were wily, fast, and while you were focused on killing one of them, a dozen more would make their move.
There’s a moment in the film in which Helen Brown (Dee Wallace-Stone) is watching dishes in the kitchen. Their sink, like most, is situated in front of a window, and Helen peers out into the night as she cleans. Suddenly, she spots something moving and becomes frightened. She might’ve screamed, I’m not sure. She thinks it’s an animal, we know it’s a critter. To this day, I grow slight uneasy when looking out my kitchen window at night. It could be for a multitude of reasons, but that scene in Critters will always stick in my mind.
And then there’s the matter of my childhood bed. When I was a child, my bed was very low to the ground. It had a frame, but one that barely lifted it. I imagine a lot of kids had similar beds, for accessibility reasons. My bed was adjacent to the door, which stayed open at night. I would lie in bed, facing the doorway, and peer out into the hallway. We had night lights in the hallway, but they only made it worse. A lot of kids prefer night lights, and I’m sure I did to some extent, but they were not without their downside. The light is great, but it’s where the light stops that’s truly terrifying, that wall that fades into darkness. So there I was, every night, at Critter feeding level, staring out across the carpet into the outskirts of the light, watching for those glowing red eyes.
Guest author Dylan Duarte is crazy about film, the written word, and potted meat. He writes on a variety of subjects, including Halloween costumes. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.