Guts and Grog Tooned Up

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Horror With Training Wheels Has Come And Gone

Horror with training wheels came and went faster than I would last in bed with the pink power ranger. I had been wanting to do a theme week on the grog for a bit, and one drunken night kids horror hit me like the whore that I am. It just seemed perfect. I knew everyone had to have started somewhere with their horror obsession. Nostalgia is a drug all of us horror kids are addicted to more than Charlie Sheen is to tiger blood, so I figured it was a good place to start. What I assumed would be a week of a review a day featuring films like "Ernest Scared Stupid" to "The Monster Squad" turned into a week exploration into so much more. The heavy hitters I got to reminisce blew my goddamn mind. Horror with training wheels was a success that I never would of guessed. Sure there were problems. I got sicker than shit during it, Facebook decided to block me for three days in the middle for bullshit reasons, and Blogger was fucking with me hard. I know more than one of the posts were messed up. I spent days and days formatting and arranging the awesome, and sure enough when I posted them a few had completely lost  the format I had seen. These were all resolved of course. I got better eventually, many of you helped share all the posts in my absence from Facebook(shout out to Brobo for keeping this shit on course). One thing I was sad about is due to all those factors is I was not able to contribute nearly as much as I wanted(granted, I didn't need to with all the awesome everyone else brought). Well I want to take this time to give a quick overview of my training wheels, as well as thank everyone one of you that read or contributed to this badassness.

I have always been the type to just jump into things. When I was a kid  my dad found me a bike at the dump(yeah, he was classy) and I lived on the top of a hill in Florida. I would go to the top of the hill everyday and get on my bike and try and make it to the bottom. I spent many days in a row eating shit and going home bloodier than Carrie White's shower, where my mom would bandage me up and I would climb my dumb ass back to the top. This is how I have lived my whole life. I always have sworn by "why go swimming if you don't wanna get wet." Well that also bleeds into my horror life. I remember seeing "Friday the 13th V: A New Beginning" on TV when I was like six or seven. I saw that dude axe that fat kid in the back and it disgusted me, but I enjoyed it. Is that weird? I wasn't sure. I instantly was hooked. I would buy Fangoria when my mom would take me to Walden Books, I would check the TV guide every week for upcoming horror films, and I would stop by the video store by my house on my way home from school. I quickly was obsessed with horror and I couldn't get enough. I started reading and watching anything I could. My mom was not a horror fan at all, but she was very supportive. She would let me watch whatever I wanted. She did spend lots of time with me making sure I understood the difference between Freddy and real horror. She knew I was not a total douche, and trusted me. The school would call occasionally worried because my story I wrote, or drawing I did was too macabre. My mom always had my back. I was lucky with that. Before I was ten I had already seen some seriously fucked up films and loved them. The thing is... I still found kids horror or whatever you want to call it. Even after I rented "Faces of Death" I would see "Tales from the Cryptkeeper" and swoon. I still wanted to buy Count Chocula. I had seen all the Freddy and Jason films that were out, and I still read "Bunnicula" and "Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark" more than your average church goer pretends to read the bible. Kids horror played a huge part in my life. I just didn't happen to watch it first.

Kids horror to this day is huge in my life. I still wake up and feel the need to watch "Tales from the Cryptkeeper." I still watch "Monster Squad" on a regular basis, hell I just saw it in 35 mm last year. I still read "Bunnicula" yearly and everyday when I drive by the kennel "Howliday Inn" chuckle and assume they are huge James Howe fans. I am literally eating a bowl of Count Chocula as I type this. Kids horror is forever. I decided I was a horror nerd before I could cum and will continue to be one long after I can get it up.

In closing I would like to thank each and every person involved in this.  I seriously am so overjoyed and amazed at the awesome I got for this. I have read each article submitted numerous times, and cannot believe the time and thought that every single one of you put into this. If you have not read all of the entries, please do. This shit blew my mind, and you owe it to yourself to check it all. Below are links to all of the articles. Please also check all of the sites the contributors write or work for. These are all places I am a regular reader of.

- Tromeric

Friday, November 16, 2012

Son of the Mad Monster

I first ran into Nathan during the "30 Day Horror Movie Challenge." We had a mutual love of Ernest, so I knew I needed to check him out. Once I started reading through Son of Celluloid, I couldn't stop. I then won his contest for actual screen used props from "Dear God No!" which had already brought us together with both of us having quotes on the DVD. His love of everything from Joe Bob to extreme cinema kept bringing me back. I recently wrote an article for his "What Halloween Means to Me" countdown along with so many other bad asses. I hope to someday walk through a horror con side by side with the son, grog in hand.

Everything I Need To Know I Learned from Mad Monster Party?


Introducing the next generation of monster kids to the world of PG, kid friendly fright fare purely as an entry point into the horror genre that we all love is all well and good, but we’ve gotta remember that there are also a lot of life lessons to be found in these films. We’ve all heard that infuriating “what message is this sending to our kids” question thrown at horror movies. Well, if you look at a lot of the “training wheels” horror, they’re actually offering the little bastards some sage advise if they’re smart enough to listen. Take one of my favorite flicks of all time, Mad Monster Party?, for example. Rankin-Bass (the same stop motion animation studio responsible for Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer) released this masterpiece in 1967, not only giving us a classic horror-comedy romp featuring an all star lineup of the greatest monsters of film history and the voice of Boris Karloff, but dropping knowledge in the process. There are a lot of universal truths to be gleaned from Mad Monster Party?, and I’d like to share them with you. These are lessons have served me well throughout my life, so let the ‘ol Son of Celluloid give you some words to live by…

Exploding birds are funny after all.

Remember when you were a kid and feeding Alka-seltzer to seagulls or throwing snap-n-pops laced bread to pigeons just to watch the feathers fly was your favorite pastime? You do too! I know I’m not the only one. I’d be willing to bet that your parents use the same “that’s not funny” and “people who do that grow up to be serial killers” lines on you too. Well, Mad Monster Party? completely disproves that argument. When it comes time to test out his matter destruction formula, Baron Boris Von Frankenstein grabs a nearby crow, drops a little serum on his Raven friend, and watches him explode. The Baron isn’t a serial killer. On the contrary, he seems like a kindly old gent. He even busts out a “Nevermore” joke, proving once and for all that not only do sane people engage in a little avian demolition from time to time, but it IS a laughing matter. Take that Mom!

Destruction > Creation.
Every kid could tell you that. Building that house out of blocks is fun, but it’s nowhere near as good as kicking that bad boy and watching the blocks hit the other kids in the face. The Baron definitely agrees. Building that monster, his bride, and Francesca was cool and all, but making this formula that can destroy anything, anytime, anywhere is the ultimate thrill! He refers to it over and over throughout the flick as “my greatest creation/discovery.” He says that to Francesca repeatedly. It’s like he’s taunting her. “I made you, and you’re nice and all, but this blue stuff that can annihilate everything is WAY cooler than you could ever hope to be.” Who cares about creating life when you can make it cease to exist? Always remember folks; destruction is way more fulfilling and impressive than creation.

                                                      The fuck ups get all the breaks.

File this under sad but true. We’ve all run into this. Do you have someone at work that is an absolute fuck-up, but they seem to always catch the breaks? Yeah, we’ve all dealt with that one. You want to bash their head in, but for some reason the boss always seems
to fall in their favor. Well, Felix is a fuck-up. There’s no two ways about it. Just watch him at work in Mr. Cronkite’s Drugstore. He gets a letter from his Uncle inviting him to the Isle of Evil (by the way, apparently you could mail live spiders in the 60’s) and then proceeds to knock over three displays and flood the store while asking for a week off. Mr. Cronkite is so pissed that he grants the vacation so . What they don’t show is later in the day after Felix left, when his competent co-worker showed up on his day off to pick up a couple of things after working a double for the last three days only for Mr. Cronkite to tell him he needs him to finish Felix’s shift. Oh, and by the way, I’m gonna need you to go ahead and cover Felix’s shifts for the next week too. Yeah, that would be great. Why? Because that dumbass destroyed the store, so I gave him a vacation. Now clean up this mess that he made. It happens every time. Might as well get used to it. Goddamn you Felix!

If you create a monster, you are the monster.
Look at that cover. Look closely. That’s Baron Boris in the middle, and The Monster to his immediate right. As you can see, it’s the same face. Look at that jaw line. Look at the brow line. Look at the nose, forehead shape, and ears. Aside from small details, they have the same head. This begs the question, when the Baron created this monstrosity; did he make him in his own image? Did the monster slowly morph into his creator? Did the Baron become the spitting image of his monster over time? Are they intrinsically linked on a cosmic level? Who is the real monster? I think I’m gonna leave it to you to discuss the deep, philosophical, existential implications of this one. That’s some deep “…the abyss gazes also into you” shit right there.

Your drunken idiot friend will ALWAYS find out about the party.
We’ve all done it. You want to throw a party, but you don’t want that one person to show up. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that drank up all of the booze, puked in the aquarium, started a brawl, instigated all kinds of drama, cussed out the cops, passed out naked in the middle of the floor, made an ass of themselves…and most likely is responsible for that stain on the couch that no one can identify. It’s no use. They, or in the Baron’s case “It”, will ALWAYS catch wind of the party and show up pissed because they weren’t invited. It did his best to ruin the last monster convention at the Baron’s place. The baron and his staff took great pains to make sure It doesn’t hear about the shindig this time around, but despite their best efforts, It shows up at the Isle of Evil ready to get rowdy. Predictably, It ends up being the death of the party. We all have that one person, and they WILL show up, no matter what you do. Go ahead and make a contingency plan.

Sometimes a little sexual ambiguity can be so much hotter.
The Baron, at some point, created a voluptuous, smoky voiced redhead named Francesca. If I say that a claymation character is hot as hell, does that make me as weird as the hentai guys? ‘Cause, you know, she’s pretty sexy for a…nevermind. I’m gonna stop there. Anyway, we’re left to wonder “did they or didn’t they?” He introduces her as his “secretary.” I saw Secretary. I think I know what’s going down in that castle. If they
had told us flat out that they were an item, we wouldn’t think anything of it. Since they leave it ambiguous, we get to imagine all kinds of inappropriate subversive scenarios in a kid’s movie. Take the scene where he tells her about Felix for example. When the Baron says stuff like “Seeing you everyday gives me a great deal of pleasure” in a way that could be construed as either fatherly or lascivious, and she gives a sheepish “Why, Dr. Frankenstein;” the exchange is positively dripping with sexual tension. If she’s just Anna Nicole-ing it, that’s just kinda icky. If the Baron created his own sentient sex doll who’s trapped in the castle at his beck and call, well, that’s a fetish fuel scenario right out of one of those old men’s adventure mags. Then again, maybe I’m just a pervert.

If it acts weird, throw drugs at it. 

This is one that the parents and doctors of the world have REALLY picked up on. At one point, a (wo)man-eating plant has a mouthful of Francesca with the intention of chowing down. Thinking quickly, Felix, a pharmacist, throws a handful of pills in its mouth. Apparently they work, because the plant mellows out and grows flowers from its tongue. I’ll have some of whatever Audrey’s having! From Ritalin to Prozac to Xanax, Americans (and I’d imagine people all over the world) are ready to drop some mood altering pharmaceuticals on you at the first sign of antisocial behavior, much less eating people. Felix was truly ahead of his time.

If you want the girl of your dreams, bitch slap her! 

We all know that the best way to calm down a hysterical female is to slap the ever-living shit out of her, right? Of course! Hollywood has taught us that from the beginning. Hell, sometimes it takes a village, right Airplane? Anyway, what you might not know is that there is a side effect of the old five-finger sedative; the girl will fall madly in love with you. For the entire movie, Francesca has had it in for Felix. She’s tried multiple times to plot his death and screw him out of his birthright as the Baron’s heir. After Felix pulls her from the moat, she starts crying about how everything was fine before he came to the island and yells “I HATE YOU!” repeatedly. Seeing that she is obviously hysterical, he gives her two good slaps across that pretty face. Francesca suddenly seductively moans “Oh Felix, you’re wonderful. I’ve been such a fool.” She then sings him a cheesy love song and jumps his bones. So what are we to learn from this? If an impossibly beautiful woman hates you…and says so, haul off and coldcock her. All chicks are kinky like that and dig the abuse, so she will instantly be head over heels for you. That is the way it works, right?

When everything goes wrong, just blow everything up!
Your friends have betrayed you. Your girl has fallen for another. Your party is ruined. Everything has gone wrong. So, what do you do? No, no no, it’s not time for Ben and Jerry’s, a razor blade, and some My Chemical Romance. Maybe if this was Twilight, but this is Mad Monster Party?, and it’s time for some wholesale destruction baby! It has the Baron and everyone else clutched in his fists. Everyone that the Baron showed such great hospitality to has spent the last day trying to kill his nephew, and his “whatever she is” Francesca has run off with Felix. The Baron has a little surprise for everybody though.
He’s still got a vile vial of that destruction formula. You done messed with the wrong mad scientist folks, cause he’s gonna vaporize himself, the island, and all of you! That’ll show ‘em. Considering he’s the most likable character in the movie, it seems that the lesson is that the heroic thing to do in a situation like this is a dramatic mass murder/suicide involving explosives. I’ll keep that in mind…

EVERYONE has a deep dark secret. 

It’s a tried and true trope in movies to have the one completely normal (and often slightly nerdy) character in the midst of the monsters. They’re supposed to be the audience’s identification point. In Mad Monster Party?, that’s Felix. He’s portrayed as a bumbling everyman in a world of vampires, werewolves, creatures, zombies, and mad scientists. Even Francesca, the only other semi-normal character, is one of the Baron’s creations. Felix is the only normal human, or so we think until the film’s final moment. Yes folks, I’m about to spoil the ending, but you’ve had 45 years to see the flick. It’s not like I’m facebooking Walking Dead spoilers here. Get over it. So, Felix and Francesca are alone in a boat. The island exploded, and there’s no one else around. They’re finally safe, right? On the contrary, this is when Felix suddenly develops a twitch, repeats the line “Nobody’s perfect…” over and over, and starts clicking metallically. Then the camera pans away and into the credits we go. What the hell just happened? Is he a machine? Is he another one of the Baron’s golem creations? Is he just bat-shit crazy? What is Felix’s dark secret? Well, it’s so dark that Rankin-Bass won’t even explain it. You couldn’t handle that kind of knowledge. We don’t know what the hell he is or what the hell he’s going to do to the woman trapped in a boat in the middle of nowhere with him. All we do know is that the normal guy is actually some kind of deranged beastie after all, and it probably isn’t gonna end well for the buxom redhead. The moral of the story is that we all have a monster lurking inside of us. Even the good guys among us are really hideous inside. In the end, the best thing to do is give that monster control and let it all out…but not until you’ve won the damsel’s trust and you’re alone, far away from anyone who could possibly save her…

You see? There is a lot of good advice to be taken from Mad Monster Party?, and the other films we’re talking about this week too for that matter. All 10 of those are exhortations that you would do well to take to heart. Truthfully, there is some bad lessons the unguided kid could pick up from this story. For instance, here is a song in the flick, sung by Boris Karloff no less, called “Stay One Step Ahead.” It’s all about determination and hard work being the keys to success. Yeah, right! Like that ever happens. You should probably just stick with the truths Uncle Nathan just pointed out for you, and everything will be just fine…maybe.

- Nathan

Nathan Hamilton is your average "slightly eccentric" horror movie junkie. At the age of 32, he’s already been involved in “horror business” for 20 years as a haunted house actor, ghost tour guide, and genre blogger/critic/journalist. He currently writes the horror movie blog Son of Celluloid. Nathan is also quite proficient with a chainsaw. You can decide for yourself if you’d rather experience his writing or chainsaw wielding talents. He’s happy either way.

Gremlins 2: Back Online, Back On Duty

Brobo makes me jealous on a daily basis by living in the same town "2000 Maniacs" was filmed, and by just being a bad ass.

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 InnerspaceThe HowlingMatinee 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!

Voice work:

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.

Final Thoughts:

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!

She Blogged About Something Wicked This Way Comes

Stacia and I first crossed paths when we co-captained the U.S.S Bad Netflix together. I then started reading her work over at She Blogged By Night and was blown away. I have since become a huge fan of her work covering everything from horror to the golden age of cinema.

As the fourth act of Shakespeare's Macbeth opens, the three Weird Sisters are concocting a foul potion made of bits and pieces of poisonous animals with enough variation in bodily organs that, if they desired, they could sew together a hideous monster comprised of newt's eyes, wolf's teeth, and the fingers of murdered babies. Despite a thick air that must be full of the foul fumes, the second witch still senses the imminent intrusion of an evil presence: Macbeth. She declares "something wicked this way comes" moments before he barges in, demanding conjured images of his fate. 

Spirits assure Macbeth that no man of woman born can do him harm, something he foolishly takes as literal, and considers himself immortal despite his wife's descent into madness and death after their plan to rule their kingdom has turned to nearly incomprehensible tragedy:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, 
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time; 
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools 
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! 
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, 
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, 
And then is heard no more. It is a tale 
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, 
Signifying nothing.

Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes is heavily influenced by Macbeth, not merely through the use of the famous quote from the Second Witch, but almost as a counterpoint to Shakespeare's meditations on fate, dissatisfaction, impatience and the passing of time. Macbeth wallows in his discontent and allows his ruthless wife to encourage him to great crimes in a quest for power and glory. He is defeated by Macduff in the end, of course, but through being overpowered, outwitted and, as every human being eventually discovers, being unable to escape Fate.

In Bradbury's tale, however, Fate is not necessarily preordained. Those who would say otherwise are evil manipulators, dependent on man's inherent longing for that which he cannot have. They are the Autumn Ones, brought in by the fall wind and a late-night carnival train. The Autumn Ones convince men that their disturbing fates are inevitable and, in moments of weakness, prey on their desperate attempts to have the life they dream of rather than the one they are dealt.

Bradbury wrote Something Wicked This Way Comes as a screenplay in the 1950s, inspired by Gene Kelly of all people, who was interested in the concept but could never get the project off the ground. After turning it into a novel, Bradbury finally had the chance to adapt it back to screen in the early 1980s, this time with Jason Robards in the lead and produced by... Disney.

Ah, bright blue credits. You couldn't get any more 1980s unless you added some hot pink accents, or maybe used the Equalizer font. Another clue that this is pure 1980s is the obligatory opening sequence of beautiful New England fall foliage:

I've been a nut for autumn my entire life, and I blame, or maybe thank, 1980s kid's horror films like Something Wicked and The Lady in White (1988).

Disney was in the midst of trying to court a slightly older audience, the roughly 10-14 year old demographic, thus producing movies with a harder edge than their usual fare. Something Wicked does indeed promise wickedness, or at least mild naughtiness, with the opening title looking to have been written in dripping blood. 

Unfortunately, the horror is rather slight in SWTWC. Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade are two young boys in 1930s Green Town, Illinois when a mysterious lightning rod salesman Tom Fury (Royal Dano) arrives. Jim, being the bolder of the two, buys a lightning rod and installs it on the house. Will is more timid, which is explained as being the fault, or at least caused by, his father being an older man with a mild heart condition. He's the town librarian, so he has the nerd stigma, as well; this is a change from the novel, where Charles is the janitor of the librarian, which of course explains why he is there at night. Will's father Charles (Jason Robards) has a deep shame for not being enough of a man, by being timid, older and unable to participate in physical activity.

Charles isn't keen on fantasy, which is understandable, since he is stuck in a world where his health and his age overwhelm everything else in his life. It doesn't matter what he wants when there are only so many things he is physically able to do. So he has little patience with other adults in town who live in their own fantasy worlds to an extent, basically longing for the past. A former football star who lost an arm and a leg in an accident dreams of playing again; Mr. Tetley knows he will eventually win the lottery if he just plays often enough; lady's man Mr. Crosetti (former '50s heartthrob Richard Davalos) expects beautiful ladies to come to town at any minute; and the local schoolmarm Miss Foley presumably dreams of her youth when she was the prettiest girl in town. 

If their motivations seem strangely shallow, don't worry, that's because they are. Disney changed the screenplay to reduce the dimensionality of the adults, who in Bradbury's book and, presumably, his original screenplay, are much more complicated. Bradbury stated several times that he was upset at Disney's changes to the script.

Charles is dismissive and a bit pitying of all of the adults and their wishes. He is the realist in town, encouraging kids to get their adventures from books rather than in real life, mildly scolding Mr. Crosetti for his desires, shaking his head at everyone around him. When fliers for Dark's Pandemonium, a traveling carnival, start blowing in on the wind, the sleepy burg awakens, excited of the possibilities. Charles is uninterested.

Will and Jim, however, cannot help themselves. The three male characters of Charles, his son Will and his friend Jim Nightshade are three parts of a bildungsroman where each character is in a different stage of growth: Will is youngest and most fearful of what the future holds, Jim is already on his way to discovery and itching to grow up, and Charles Halloway is older and fearful as well, but it's not the same as Will's fear. Will has adulthood to fear, while Charles, pushing 60, knows the future means death.

The boys see suspicious things on the carnival train as it rolls into town late at night. The next day when the rides are set up, they watch as the adults around them live their desires. Miss Foley sees herself as young again in the mirror maze and Mr. Cosetti is surrounded by hot harem girls, while Mr. Tetley finally wins a contest.

But the boys know something strange is going on, so they return at night, only to see a carnival worker on a beautiful carousel, hidden from everyone's view. As it sails backwards, the worker gets younger and younger, until he becomes a little boy who pretends to be Miss Foley's nephew. They are unable to warn her in time, and the fake nephew somehow grants her the wish she has always wanted: Her youth and beauty. But she is immediately struck blind, which is a rather biblical punishment for a vanity we never really saw Miss Foley possess.

It seems that, just as Lady Macbeth was the dame at the root of all the tragedy in Shakespeare's play, the women in the film adaptation of SWTWC ain't nothin' but trouble. 

Pam Grier is the beautiful woman in a rather thankless role of Dust Witch, a.k.a. Hot Chick With No Dialogue. She is stunning and has a terrific presence, her facial expressions and body language informing the role with meaning that I suspect the script did not originally have. The scenes play out as though they were written as, "Just stand there and look hot while we turn on the smoke machine." Grier is too good for that, and even though she never speaks, she and Jonathan Pryce as Dark, owner of the carnival, have quite the chemistry.

The Dust Witch is the sum of all men's desires. She is in the harem that seduces Mr. Cosetti, the pretty lady Mr. Tetley spends all his winnings on, the beautiful woman in white meant to convince Tom Fury to give up his secret of lightning control. Her purpose is to lure men to their false fate, avoiding the future they would normally have by being seduced into thinking a glorious, better future awaits. It doesn't, though, as what is promised is a monkey's-paw deal: A price must be paid, so the men are turned into statues or children or, in the case of Miss Foley, blinded.

The Dust Witch also controls the spiders -- when the boys get too close to the truth, she unleashes a nightmare of tarantulas on them that turns SWTWC into the finale of Kingdom of the Spiders for about three long, gruesome minutes. The tarantula swarm disappears when Jim and Will awaken, all just a dream, but clearly a dream given to them by the Witch.

Spiders in dreams mean different things, of course, because despite what Sigmund Freud might have told you last night while you were discussing bowls of bananas and the price of cigars in Cuba, dream interpretation isn't exact science. My husband was told in art classes at uni that they indicated a fear of the future, for example. There is of course danger implied when any poisonous creature is dreamt of, as well as the more literal interpretation of getting caught in a web.

But our friend Freud apparently thought they were symbolic of mothers in the context of the Oedipal complex, i.e. the mother who eats her own children, both literally and sexually:

 Given the way women are portrayed in the film, I think it's likely that the script was using the Freudian interpretation. Not only is the Dust Witch seen as more evil and one-dimensional than Dark, but Miss Foley is punished more harshly than the men who also fall victim to their wishes.

 Then there is Jim's mother, played by Diane Ladd. Jim's father ran off a few years earlier to pursue adventure, leaving his hot-to-trot wife behind. Mrs. Nightshade is Diane Ladd at her Diane Laddiest, all gussied up and lazy in bed while eating bonbons and ignoring her son. She dances with other men because she is either a floozy or a whore, the movie never bothers to differentiate between the two, and her sexuality bothers Jim greatly. 

 And let me tell you, for a Disney kid's movie, there is a lot of G-rated porn going on in this film. Jonathan Pryce as Mr. Dark, owner of the carnival, is nothing more than strong sexual desire in the shape of a man... but I repeat myself. 

 Dark and his Pandemonium are the Autumn Ones, supernatural carnies that roll into towns when they sense despondency and desire have welled to levels that can sustain their evil existence. They feed off misery, self-doubt and negative thoughts, and fear of death is their biggest meal. Dark, like the devil, offers people what they truly desire in exchange for their lives. He is fear incarnate, but admittedly he is an attractive fear, the kind of fear you seek out to purposely be scared.

I had a rather lurid love affair with Pryce when I was a teenager. Don't tell him, though, because our scandalous affair was entirely in my head.

Jonathan Pryce is pure, unhinged intensity. His Dark practically vibrates through SWTWC, and the film is at its best when Pryce is on screen. Watch the scene at a little over an hour in, where Charles is confronted by Dark who wants to know who the two boys are. As Robards does various bits of business while trying to look nonchalant, Pryce barely blinks. He stares directly at Robards' head, his own moving in time with Robards', like a snake trying to get a bead on a small rodent.

Dark is the reason for the most effective moment in the film, when he accuses Charles of living through books rather than living his own life, relying on the dreams of others. As Dark confronts Charles in the library, demanding to know where the boys are, they literally hide in books as a metaphor for, well, hiding in books rather than experiencing adventure on their own. It's a curious point for an author to make, criticizing people for living vicariously through literature. But this is unquestionably the best scene in the film, as Dark temps Charles with the promise of youth, to stave off death for a while longer, to be the virile man he wants to be.

Disney had more success with Something Wicked than they did with many other films of the early 1980s. The cinematography by Stephen H. Burum, with an impressive c.v.and the understanding what the film could have been, was stunning. The actors are all excellent without exception, though sometimes, such as with Diane Ladd, Pam Grier and my beloved Jack Dodson, given too little to do.

There is also a really lovely Tod Browning influence running through this film. In this TCM and torrent age, we take for granted that any cinephile knows all about Tod Browning. That wasn't the case in the 1980s, so for a Disney film to take the effort to not only construct carnival cars straight out of Freaks, The Unknown and The Show but to hire Angelo Rossitto, one of the little people in Freaks, is impressive.

The fear factor is relatively good, too, especially in the tarantula swarm and Jonathan Pryce's performance. Unfortunately, a confused production leads to some bad choices. The subplot of the lightning rod salesman being kidnapped and tortured by Dark goes nowhere. Tom Fury has this hilarious helmet on his head, but there isn't really any explanation of what the lightning is about. The little girls in the background are real, you can see them move, but nothing is done with them. Are we to assume a pair of young girl twins were kidnapped the same way the adults were? Why doesn't anyone notice any of these people are missing?

The green, mysterious lightning attracted by Tom Fury's rods (please leave your "angry rod" jokes at the door -- Management) are animated bits straight out of Forgotten Planet, floating about like so much handwavium to explain an ending that is obviously confused. Early on, there is another mysterious light, a red glow coming out of cemetery angels as the carnival train rolls in, but we have no idea where that cemetery is and nothing is said about the glow again.

The confused ending is the Achilles heel of this otherwise solid kid flick. Once Dark and the boys leave the library, the finale becomes a mess of re-edited scenes, unexplained plot points and silly special effects. The mirror maze is especially weak, but the aging skeletal body used as Dark is thrown decades and decades into the future is quite frightening. 

Unfortunately, after Angelo Rossitto comes to pick up the dessicated corpse of Dark, Robards starts running around like a goofball, being jubilant -- which is not something Robards is particularly convincing at -- and essentially teaching us all that, uh, even if you have heart problems and are told to take it easy you can still run around like a kid and it's no big deal? I guess? Because dropping dead of a heart attack while running around a light pole is a great thing to do to your 10-year-old kid.

But kids probably aren't going to notice these things. They're going to see Dark's moving tattoos and the creepy mirror maze and the boys sneaking out at nights and be delighted. The scary parts will scare them, and they'll see the Dust Witch and Dark and their hormones will start bubbling away, right on schedule. 

- Stacia

Jet-setting socialite Stacia became a household name in 1982 when she invented the snack cracker. After the Great Saltine Tragedy of 1996 she went into seclusion, finally emerging years later as a movie blogger and Emmitt Nervend impersonator. She loves horror movies, the smell of gasoline, and Reb Brown. Make sure to check out more of Stacia's writing at She Blogged By Night.