Monday, November 4, 2013

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

The year was 1984, and the long toil of writer-director-producer trio Chris Columbus, Joe Dante, and Steven Spielberg had come to fruition; their creative endeavor Gremlins jumped on the silver screen to take Hollywood by the haunches.  Its story begins when a mysterious creature known as a Mogwai is negligently purchased from a Chinatown pawn shop and given to a teenage boy as a pet.  The caretaking rules for these cute Ferbie-looking critters are simple: 1) No bright lights 2) No water 3) No feeding after midnight.  Sure enough the rules are broken, the first two by mistake, and the third by a nasty trick of the soon to be transformed scaly, clawed, and evil-looking little monsters henceforth known as Gremlins.  Hell breaks loose as the Gremlins attempt to take over the town, but they're eventually bested by the bright rays of morning sun.  Even though it might be scary for a young audience, Gremlins is light on the horror, focusing more on plot, comedy, and badass animatronics.  There's even a bit of suspense as we slowly discover the life cycle of the Mogwai (think Alien, 1979).  Gremlins is a great movie that successfully blends multiple genres and tells a holiday tale for the ages.  Despite a strong Christmas theme throughout the film, Gremlins was released to theaters in the contradictory month of June, but who cares?  Fuck it.  This would be the Gremlins mentality for the duration of this short-lived franchise.  Gremlins had a diverse line of toys, trading cards, other memorabilia, and even a sequel in 1990.  This sequel would be the last we ever saw of the Gremlins, but God damn did they go out with a bang.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch.  What can I even say about this movie to describe it?  It's undeniably terrible for so many reasons, but under the surface it might just be brilliant.  The plot sucks, a shitty attempt at story just to bring back the main character and his Mogwai friend, Gizmo.  Six years after the original run-in with the Gremlins, Billy Peltzer and his fiancee Katie (who both still look like they could be in high school) are working at Clamp Enterprises, a corporate behemoth which specializes in all products and services imaginable.  Secretly in one of the in-house laboratories, animal experimenting and cloning has been taking place at the whim and sick imagination of a mad scientist.  Somehow Gizmo comes back (does it really matter how or why?) and some dumbass janitor gets him wet when trying to fix a water fountain, and once again his evil brethren are unleashed to make their new habitat their playground.  It's all a big excuse to set up for the introduction of new and ridiculous mutant-Gremlins which take the form of bats, giant spiders, vegetables, and even ugly hookers, all causing chaos and pandemonium when the secret lab is taken over and vial after vial of tranformative potions are consumed by the little monsters.  It's clear that they spread the budget over a much wider array of effects and new Gremlins because although there are much more of them, most of the special effects look pretty crappy in comparison to the original's.  Don't forget the ultra-intelligent talking Gremlin-Professor who can actually say "fuck you" in English in addition to giving the usual scaly, Gremlin middle finger.  The fact that he never degrades the viewer in as many words is a testament to the sly bastards who wrote this sequel because for the duration of Gremlins 2, I couldn't help but feel that the joke was on me for deciding to watch this dumb movie in the first place.

I think one of the greatest lines I've ever heard in a film is simply an uncredited voice blaring over the company intercom at a random point in the movie, "Tonight on the Clamp Cable Classic Movie Channel, don't miss Casablanca, now in full color with a happier ending."  The fact that Steven Spielberg, great and mighty re-editor of the Indiana Jones series, might have had something to with this line makes it all the more hilarious and depressing.  Of course you can't rip on Hollywood without some star power of your own.  Cue Christopher Lee as the twisted, maniacal Dr. Catheter (I am not making this up) and a fourth-wall-breaking cameo by Hulk Hogan (who was presumably a big deal in 1990).  Last but not least, Chuck Jones himself made a comeback to animation for Gremlins 2 to create brand new Looney Tunes/Gremlins animated microshorts.  They're incredibly brief and primarily exist to feature some naughty Gremlins crashing Merry Melodies sketches, once again illogically crossing the reality barrier and interrupting the flow of the film.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch.  I can't make sense of it, but this movie has balls.  Is it garbage?  Is it brain pollution?  Is it a masterpiece in disguise?  Is it the world's greatest practical joke?  Fuck if I know.

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