Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, John Glover
Writer: Charlie Haas
Director: Joe Dante
We pick up years after Kingston Falls was painted an ooey gooey shade of green by a bunch of mischievous little Gremlins. Billy and Kate have relocated to New York City and are employed at Clamp Enterprises; a massive state of the art building owned by big time media mogul, Daniel Clamp. This skyscraper has it all, including a genetic research lab ran by one, Dr. Catheter. After the death of Mr. Wing, Gizmo ends up at this lab and is on the verge of falling victim to some damn terrible experiments. By sheer luck, Billy finds Gizmo and rescues him just in time, only to leave the poor Mogwai unattended long enough for bad shit to happen. Gizmo gets wet and pops out a few new Mogwais. The Mogwais eat after midnight and turn into Gremlins. The Gremlins get wet and holy fuck nuts, cartoonish chaos reigns down on Clamp Enterprises!
Dear Gremlins 2,
I remember when I saw Gremlins for the very first time. My Mom had rented it the year it dropped on VHS and busted that shit out on Thanksgiving Day while I was watching the Macy's parade. I never watched said parade again (until Rick Astley popped up on a float many years later). This movie changed my life, and I've always considered it a favorite, and definitely my favorite Christmas themed film ever. There's so much charm flowing out of every aspect of Gremlins, and similar charm is a really hard thing to come by in film these days.
Anyway, fast forward to 1990, the year of Gremlins 2. Fucking stoked enough to shit my pants on purpose is a severe understatement. I thought this flick was gonna be HUGE. Here's where disappointment sneaks in. This poor sequel suffered the fate of being released the same day as Dick Tracy. This was a year after Tim Burton's Batman wowed the hell out of audiences, so naturally people were all about a new comic type film. While I originally did have interest in going to look at Dick (lol) on the big screen, there was no way in hell that I was gonna sell out on Joe Dante's little green devils and put them in second place. Fuck that. So me, my nephew, and my Mother flocked out to see Gremlins 2, opening day, first showing. We got there, bought our tickets, and the ticket booth girl even gave us Gremlin 2 T-shirts. I got one with the Brain Gremlin across the front, and I was happier than a pig in shit. Furthermore, this kind of marketing at a theater had me thinking that the movie was gonna be even bigger than I had imagined (note, I was 13 at the time, and was already following what movies of interest were banking and which ones were bombing). So, the three of us got some candy, popcorn, drinks, and headed into the theater. I think maybe there were 15 other people in there... tops. WHAT? THE? FUCK? I dunno why this bothered me (especially since when I walk into a theater now and if it's near empty I am fucking ecstatic), as it was the first showing of the day, but it did. I just didn't want something like this to fail. I got up to use the bathroom in an attempt to conceal my butthurt.
After coming out of the bathroom, I had to pass the doors where Dick Tracy was showing. There was a fucking mob of people, and a ton of them were kids my age. Really? Rubbing salt in the wound, some of these little fuckers were actually pointing at me and laughing for wearing a Gremlins 2 shirt. I remember this shit vividly because it hurt like a swift kick to the nuts. I brushed all that off my shoulders, went back and sat down in the theater, and enjoyed the hell out of myself. Gremlins 2 ruled in my eyes. I got up early the following Friday to go get the newspaper from our lawn to see how well it did. Well, Dick Tracy was in the #1 spot, but that was alright; I expected that. But I also expected Gremlins 2 to be in the second spot, at worst, but it fucking wasn't. It placed #4 and made under $10 million. I was crushed. How? Couldn't believe it. The movie sadly didn't even reach its budget theatrically. With all this being said, I decided to check out Dick Tracy to see what the big freakin' deal was. I wanted to know what was so damn awesome about it. To be truthful, I walked into the theater that weekend with the mindset of hating the film. And I did. And I never gave it another chance. That's immature and really unfair, but it is what it is. Honestly, I have a pretty good memory, and even though I was young and pissy, I don't remember a whole helluva lot to like about Dick Tracy. I remember it was colorful. Ya know what else was colorful? GREMLINS. FUCKING. 2. Colorful and a goddamn blast! Maybe one day I will give Dick another chance (lol again), but I don't expect it to ever have a place in my heart anywhere near Gremlins 2.
With all that out of the way, let me blow my love load all over the face of Joe Dante's fantastic sequel! Naturally, it doesn't have the same kind of charm and heart as the first film. I can go back to Gremlins any day, or every day, and still feel the same way I felt about it as a kid. Gremlins 2, on the other hand, I've just always thought was a real monster mash fun time. Writer Charlie Haas seemingly knew he couldn't bring the ruckus that Chris Columbus originally brought. So instead, he concocted a gigantic festival of homages to the first film and countless other classics. On top of all that, the satirical jabs at pop culture and technology are overflowing off the frames of this flick. And guess what? That IS its charm! That IS its heart! For what it is, Gremlins 2 is a pretty fucking perfect sequel.
Nods to the original:
Directly behind Daffy is none other than the Peltzer Peeler Juicer!
Kate's ridiculous Clamp hat. Haas mentions on the commentary that this is a direct nod to the embarrassing Christmas tree costume that Pete (Corey Feldman) had to wear in the original.
While the evil Gremlins enjoyed filling their bellies with beer the first time around, the evil Mogwais in Gremlins 2 get their kicks off of bloating up with frozen yogurt! I would much rather sport a beer gut.
Return of the Flasher Gremlin! Kate's not havin' that shit!
Other nods to the original:
- The Splice 'o Life lab- Dr. Catheter's science lab of genetic mayhem is honestly not far removed from the science convention that Randall Peltzer attends in the first film. The talking cow is completely reminiscent of the Robby the Robot (Forbidden Planet) cameo in part 1. Originally, the cow was supposed to be crossbred with a hamster and seen running on a treadmill, but budget wouldn't allow it.
- The rules- taking jabs at the 3 main rules for Mogwais is goddamn genius, if you ask me. Who hasn't wondered what would happen if a Mogwai gets a piece of food stuck in it's teeth only for it to come out after midnight? Or the whole timezone/it's always midnight somewhere line... brilliance.
- Gremlin mischief- Daffy Gremlin playing with elevator wiring totally mirrors a Gremlin fucking with traffic lights. Also, all the pain Gizmo endures at the hands of Mohawk and his crew is extremely similar to Stripe and his pals playing a game of darts while Giz is tied to the dartboard.
- Kate's horror story about Abe Lincoln's birthday- The first film caught a lot of flack for Kate's childhood story of her Father dying in the chimney while dressed as Santa Claus. Here, she gets interrupted just as she mentions seeing a man who looked just like Honest Abe, but dressed in a rain coat. Shit is epic.
Nods to other films:
Genetic sunblock Bat Gremlin nod to Batman.
Epic King Kong homage.
Phantom of the Opera nod.
Quatermass nod (name on wall).
Gizmo givin' some love to Rambo. This also nods to the first Gremlins, where Gizmo is influenced by the Clark Gable film, To Please a Lady.
Joe Dante Howling nod. Funny that the Howling series almost made it to part XI.
"I'm melting!" Witch Gremlin- Wizard of Oz nod.
Other nods to films/television, etc:
- Joe Dante's love for Looney Tunes is shown in the film's opener and closing (as well as throughout the whole film, if I'm being honest), which features Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig.
- The Gremlins themselves are rough translations from jokey stories of little monsters creating aircraft failures in WWII (as mentioned by a drunk Murray Futterman in the first film). Additionally, they are inspired by Roald Dahl's book, The Gremlins, as well as from the Bugs Bunny cartoon, Falling Hare.
- Monkeys in the Splice 'o Life lab are named Alvin & Theodore (Alvin & the Chipmunks)
For the most part, human characters take the backseat for a fairly large duration of this film. It's heavily about Gizmo and the Gremlins this time around. Not to say that the peeps have nothing to do, and they are all pretty damn interesting, but they are in second place as far as I'm concerned. What I find particularly badass is that damn near all of the human personalities go through character arcs, except for maybe Bill and Kate. I'll take us through that right now!
Billy & Kate, reprised by Zach Galligan (Waxwork) and Phoebe Cates. The couple have certainly grown into that cutesy pair that I'd always imagined them being. Billy's got his hair a bit more under control this time around (hey, it's the 90s!) and Kate is at her absolute most adorable. I've always thought Phoebe was a doll anyway, but in this and Drop Dead Fred, oh la la! Performances are good, although, with Gremlins 2 being more about the monsters, these two aren't given as much to do as you'd expect. Phoebe Cates, especially. She does have some great moments, though, and her facial expressions are awesome throughout. Zach gets to shine here and there with his Mogwai bestie, and certainly during the ending. One thing I never thought of until I listened to the commentary was how much he and Gizmo mirror each other. While Giz is being picked on by Mohawk and his gang, Billy's taking shit from pretty much everyone around him.
John Glover (In the Mouth of Madness) as the rich and eccentric Daniel Clamp. Originally, this character was meant to be a villain of sorts, but Glover came off instantly likable and it kinda altered the character. My favorite Glover moment is actually at the end, when he's introduced to Gizmo. His spiel about envisioning dolls with suction pumps staring out car windows is excellent, not to mention a brilliant commentary on marketing! Another piece of greatness is when Clamp has to air the "end of civilization" tape and it brings him to tears. Glover is a fucking delight!
Christopher Lee (Horror of Dracula) as mad scientist Doctor Catheter. At first, Lee comes off as just that, a mad scientist! Once the shit hits the fan, he starts to have a change of heart, promising God that he won't perform these types of experiments on a living creature ever again. Lee plays the sympathetic change awesomely. When is this dude not good, really? He even fucking owns in Howling II!
Robert Picardo as Forster, basically Daniel Clamp's right hand man, and a total prick, at that! Picardo used to be a Dante regular of sorts, being in Innerspace, The Howling, Matinee and other films. Here, he pulls off the 'dude you love to hate role' with ease. When Forster gets to do something assholish, you get the vibe that he enjoys it, and that really enables Picardo to push it over the top (like firing a guy for smoking on the clock and teasing him with the loss of his health benefits). But like many others characters here, Forster finally finds something to be truly happy about!
The Futtermans! Once again played by Jackie Joseph (Little Shop of Horrors) and the fantastic Dick Miller (The Terminator). Joseph is just as minor here as she was in the first film, and her character is pretty much the exact same. Miller as Murray, on the other hand, is a bit different. He's completely fueled by paranoia as opposed to kinda, and Miller kills it! Murray's afraid everyone around him thinks he's crazy, his wife talks to him like he's crazy, and it makes for some funny as shit moments. But once he nuts up and leaves his fears behind, a couple of Gremlins have a serious motherfucking badass on their hands.
The late Robert Prosky (Last Action Hero) as Grandpa Fred. Well, this one's a favorite for me, for a few reasons. One- he's a total reference to Al Lewis as Grandpa Munster. Two- taking that a bit further, Al Lewis reprised his Grandpa Munster role as a creature feature host in the 80s on TBS. The program was called Super Scary Saturday. So the fact that both elements are referenced here just puts a gi-fuckin-gantic smile on my face. Three- Prosky makes this personality hella sad, and furthermore, makes it work. After Fred's show has been given the 3 A.M. time slot, he's just really down in the dumps. His talk with Billy about how he expected his career to be different in broadcasting is a heartbreaking moment, and you simply want the best for him! Prosky nailed this shit, nothing more to say.
Haviland Morris (Sixteen Candles) as Marla Bloodstone, Billy's boss. This bitch smokes more cigarettes in five minutes than John Carpenter has in a lifetime. Morris' character is a corporate ass kisser, as well as a wannabe home wrecker. She'll do anything as long as it furthers her career. Not a very likable person, but the performance is awesome. And Morris was pretty damn smokin' when she let her hair down.
Cameos and bit parts:
HOLY SHIT at all the cameos!
- Page Hannah (Creepshow 2) as a tour guide. Fun fact- she's Daryl Hannah's sister.
- Raymond Cruz (From Dusk Till Dawn 2) as a messenger. Really important cameo, here. If not for this dude, Billy would have never learned the whereabouts of Gizmo.
- Henry Gibson (The Blues Brothers) as Employee Fired For Smoking.
- Hulk Hogan (No Holds Barred) as himself. Lemme talk about this for a minute. Another piece of genius was the change for this scene once it hit video. Hogan's theatrical section is removed and in place of it was something to more coincide with the home video release. Enjoy!
- Composer Jerry Goldsmith as Yogurt Customer.
- Director Joe Dante as Grandpa Fred Director. Dante also did puppet work for the Beanie Gremlin and did voice work for the Melting Witch Gremlin.
- Keye Luke (Kung Fu) reprising his Mr. Wing role from the first film.
- Leonard Maltin as himself.
- Gedde Watanabe (Sixteen Candles' Long Duck Dong!) as Mr. Katsuji. The Grandpa Fred/Mr. Katsuji team-up owns.
- Kathleen Freeman (The Blues Brothers) as Microwave Marge.
- Julia Sweeney (SNL's Pat) as Peggy.
- Rick Ducommon (The Burbs) as Clamp Center Security Guard.
- Dean Norris (Breaking Bad) as S.W.A.T. Team Leader.
- Dick Butkus (Any Given Sunday) and Bubba Smith (Police Academy) as themselves.
- Kenneth Tobey (The Thing From Another World), Paul Bartel (Escape From L.A.), and Belinda Balaski (The Howling) as Projectionist, Theater Manager and Movie Theater Mom, respectively. Tobey and Balaski also appeared in the first Gremlins as Kingston Falls residents.
And let us not forget Don and Dan Stanton (T2) as the Splice 'o Life lab twins!
Howie Mandel returns as the voice of Gizmo and Frank Welker (who did Stripe and additional Mogwai and Gremlin voice work in the first film) gives us the gargled and gurgling chops of Mohawk. Kirk Thatcher and Mark Dodson also provide Gremlin voices. But the shining moment here is Tony Randell as the voice of Brain Gremlin. The shit is absolutely amazing, not to mention his singing performance of "New York, New York" shreds!
At the time of this movie, original SFX guy Chris Walas was into directing, so Dante and crew had to look for someone else. After initially not wanting to take on such a project, the great Rick Baker (An American Werewolf In London) finally agreed --he co-produced the film, as well. For starters, we get a cleaner looking Gizmo this time around. I don't mean that Walas' design was sloppy, but here the creature doesn't look as aged. If anything, the Mogwais and Gremlins in this flick look more hokey, and it fits the cartoonish nature. The Gremlin designs are epic, and much more reptilian. The cocoons are gooier and the multiplying sequences are a huge step up. You actually get to see little Gremlins inside of those wet, pulsating bubbles, waiting to get out. As far as gross out shit, the paper shredder scene is fantastic. Shots like this also forced the actors to do their own puppet work, which I find pretty damn impressive. There's a few blue screen FX (when Gizmo is shown walking and dancing) sequences, some miniatures and matte paintings, and the stop motion FX for the Bat Gremlin is fucking top notch. But nothing takes place over all the hybrid Gremlins in this flick. Backing up a bit, it was a smart move to give the new Mogwais their own appearances, as opposed to all looking mostly like Gizmo. Lenny and George (Of Mice and Men shout out!) are excellent, and Daffy is a fucking show stealer. All of that and the idea of hybrid monsters was really what sold Rick Baker on the project. Electricity Gremlin, Bat Gremlin, Brain Gremlin, Lady Gremlin, Mohawk Spider Gremlin! What is not to love about this onslaught of ass kickery!?
Badass Jerry Goldsmith (RIP) returns to give a fantastic musical score. Again, we get to hear that 'anarchic circus ran by monsters' sounding theme, and the damn near tear jerking Gizmo tunes. Aside from Goldsmith's wonderful music, we also get a fairly good rock soundtrack, as well. There is some bullshit, such as Damn Yankees, but jams like Slayer's "Angel of Death" and Faith No More's "Surprise! You're Dead" totally make up for anything that sucks. Lastly, Fats Domino's "I'm Ready" is a damn good song!
I'm not gonna dive too deep into this, but if you wanna read up on all things Gremlins, I highly recommend the Wiki site. Not even just for merchandising, but just in general. Two things I had that I greatly enjoyed related to Gremlins 2 were the novelization of the film and that immensely infectious NES video game. Novelizations are always kinda neat, because they tend to change up things and usually even give a bit more character background. The fucking video game was the bees knees. I could still play that shit. You take the role of Gizmo! I mean, c'mon! It's been a while, but I seem to remember the Electric Gremlin being difficult as shit.
Random Animated GIFS:
Mohawk punching a motherfucker out!
Gizmo dippin' the hell out!
I'm wondering if Randall Peltzer had a hand in building Clamp Enterprises. Nothing works!
Marla's weird eye movements. Kinda looks like...
Daffy's weird eye movements!
Mrs. Futterman holds the key to my heart!
Is it weird that I find Kate's face crazy hot here? Zero fucks given.
I guess at this point it's fairly obvious that I love the shit out of Gremlins 2. This was really long winded, but I am unapologetic, because the movie deserves all the praise it gets. For those of you who stuck around, I thank you, and I hope you had just as much fun reading this as I had writing it. Happy to be a part of Guts and Grog's Horror With Training Wheels theme.
-Brobocop signing off.
I'm a kid stuck in the body of a 35 year old douche bag dude with giant tits. Sick jams, flicks, booze and weed... that's all the fucks that Brobocop needs!