'Critters: A New Binge' Director On Giving The Crites More Dialogue And Leaning Into Comedy [Interview]

Last year, we interviewed director Jordan Rubin at the winter Television Critics Association press tour when Warner Brothers' Blue Ribbon Content introduced his new series, Critters: A New Binge. Today, that series premieres on the Shudder streaming service and we had a chance to catch up with Rubin again.1986's Critters was New Line Cinema's answer to Gremlins. The Crites are evil little furballs who shoot poison quills and are pursued on Earth by bounty hunters with no faces who can change to resemble any human. Critters was a hit, so 1988 saw Critters 2: The Main Course. However, Critters 3 and Critters 4 went straight to video.Critters: A New Binge picks up with the Crites returning to Earth on a mission that will reveal itself over eight 10-minute episodes. Our human heroes Chris (Joey Morgan), Charlie (Bzhaun Roden) and Dana (Stephie Chin-Salvo) encounter the Crites while a new pair of bounty hunters take new faces to hunt them down.Was it always your plan to start out with Crites right out of the gate to show these are the critters and this is what we can do with them now?Yeah, I think there were early drafts of the script where we were maybe going to have the humans early and then do a slow reveal. Since we're giving them such personification, I really wanted to jump into it and just show the tone that we're going for which is not the Jaws where you see the shark in moments. We're actually straight out, here we go, here are the critters. Establish that.More Critter dialogue means you have to write more dialogue for them, right?Yeah, 100%. It was like just having more actors on set so it was funny. Our main puppeteer, Glenn Williams, created a whole mini language. We ended up using some of his sound stuff but we also brought in a lot of voice actors for post and did a bunch of ADR sessions with different actors here. Obviously, Stephen Merchant cameos as the President Critter. It was a lot. It was funny having to have these actors have full on conversations with critters. The first moment on set was a lot of laughing and trying to play it straight. It was entering the Jim Henson world a little bit. Ultimately we didn't use all of the language. I changed a lot of the inflections in the edit but on set he just wanted for his own sanity to just develop a little language and words that he saw recurring, things like "ship" or "Crites." It was funny and fun on set to do that.Are the puppets a lot more expressive now than they could be in the '80s?I got to see one of the original Chiodo Brothers puppets that was very fragile and no one was pupetteering it. I'm not aware how animatronic those puppets were on the original franchise. These were fully animatronic and puppetted but also would be rod puppeted with the hands. I don't think it was technology that didn't exist back then but we definitely lean into it a lot heavier. I wanted to have them doing a lot more talking as you can see, and having their own characteristics and personalities. It was very important for me to have the critters moving almost in humanistic ways, whether that be expressions or something that would look like a shrug or reaching for something or looking out a window, whistling, walking over, things like that. I just put a lot of emphasis on it. I don't know if it's a technology thing or something that I leaned into.Did The Chiodo Brothers still design your Crites?Unfortunately not. We wanted to work with them but the constraints of location of shooting and budget, we shot in Vancouver. There's all sorts of tax benefits, tax credits and just the location you're in so we didn't have the ability to fly them up and fly the puppets up. So we went with a local company up there called SFX which turned out to be great. I was sad to not work with the Chiodo Brothers but these guys did a great job.What was your thought to redesigning the bounty hunters with green nonfaces between transformations?I just wanted them to have a little bit more modern but try to work with color and not have it feel like green screen. What was the original one, like an orb or sort of pearly?They were more flesh colored.Yeah, I liked just having it feel different and having it feel a little bit more modern, these neon kind of colors, referencing the '80s but just didn't decide to go with the unmolded clay feel.Was that also why you gave Crites green innards to splatter all over the place?Yeah, just having it feel more like an alien species blood.The original movies always had a sense of humor, but did you want to lean into the comedy more?That's a good way to put it, lean into it. I come from a comedy background and I just enjoy that. I didn't want to mock. I didn't want to get meta at all but I wanted to have fun with the silliness of it, similar to the way I did in Zombeavers, have these lines that were so ridiculously straight but they're funny for that reason, not because I'm poking fun at the Critters or anything. The original films were so serious and I thought there was room to have fun with the comedy of it which is why it helped to have the subtitles and a lot more dialogue and different personas for each of the main Critters.I don't know if they were so serious, but they were horror movies with comic relief, not horror-comedies.Totally. They were darker.I won't give away the twist in later episodes, but was that twist part of your original pitch to doing a new Critters?Yeah, we first submitted an outline. That was the pitch. We wanted to have a unique angle and build on that idea. We just felt like it elevated it. The whole idea was funny to us.Do you have something to say about eating disorders with Chris or is that reading too much into it?I'd say that's reading too much into it. There's no big message like that. It was just a funny thing for us to have this reveal of this kid who likes to eat a lot and his mother's always giving him sh** for it but it's really because of this bigger reason that we find out later.Did you create A New Binge like a movie?We always knew we were going to do it as episodes but it felt to me like I was shooting a movie when shooting. I'd never shot an episodic before but I'd directed two films. It was blocked out and shot by location, block shooting. The schedule felt very much like we were shooting a movie. I think it just as easily could have been cut into a film but it was interesting to come at it that way, write it that way and know that it's going to be serialized and binged.Was there a reason it's A New Binge as opposed to The New Binge?We always wanted it to be A New Binge. What was Gremlins 2, The New Batch? So I think we were separating from that.Are you aware Syfy's doing another Critters movie?I just heard about that recently. I was doing interviews and someone asked me. They heard one of the original actors was going to be in it and I said, "No, I think that's the other project" but I don't know anything about it. I'm psyched to see it but we were wrapped on shooting and finished editing a few months back. We're not working together or working against each other at all.Do you have plans for a second season of A New Binge?Yeah, we left it open. We'd love to keep going with it. That's why we left that sort of cliffhanger ending and I loved shooting that second to last scene where they're all talking. There was a game time decision to do that swiveling circular dolly Reservoir Dogs thing which is one of my favorite thing to shoot in movies, even though it was so rushed on the day. I love having a conference table there and the camera's swiveling around trying to catch lines from their mouths.