Film Reviews:

Gremlins 2: The New Batch

(Joe Dante, US, 1990)

Joe Dante said he wasn't initially interested in directing a sequel to his 1984 horror comedy hit Gremlins. He only decided to agree taking on this hilarious follow up after spending quite some time developing the script. Yet, despite this deliberation, the finished article is not exactly a radical departure nor ground breaking in the plot department. The action relocates to New York city where Billy Peltzer and Kate Beringer (Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates both reprising their roles from the 1982 outing) are a young couple trying to get by working for the global Clamp corporation (a thinly veiled stab at Donald Trump's empire). Work is a struggle but things appear to be going reasonably well until Billy discovers to his horror that in the research department of the Clump organisation they are breeding Mogwai's - the creatures that, when exposed to water, rapidly mutate into hideous, malicious Gremlins who run amok causing havok in their wake.

Apparently, prior to production, Dante sat down with friends and colleagues drawing up a list of vignettes, scene, sketches and visual gags, and almost countless movie in-jokes as they could in which to place the Gremlins. The finale in which most of these occur takes up almost a third of the film. It's only upon repeated viewing that you realise this as after watching it for the first time it feels like a constant barrage from the get go. Special effects guru Rick Baker who worked on the original film takes advantage of the advancements in animatronic technology between the two films. It is still a combination of the kitsch and the clever but the Mogwai effects at the beginning provide suitably cute and convincing creatures worthy of your emotions. Meanwhile, Dante goes all out to deliver a film carefully designed to deliver maximum audience enjoyment. Details (and rational explanations) are skipped over and not allowed to slow the pace of either the visuals or the cracking dialogue. Gremlins appear dressed in perfectly fitting clothes and costumes, hats, glasses etc. - whatever is required to make the gag work.

The audience is constantly reminded that it is watching a film. American film critic Leonard Maltin even appears at one point presenting a film review show on TV and suggests to its viewers that they avoid the film Gremlins since it purely about monsters running amuck and has no redeeming features whatever! With numerous cameos and Christopher Lee as Clamp's mad scientist there's plenty to keep the buffs entertained. As an exercise in fulfilling its aims, Gremlins 2 achieves them perfectly and cannot be flawed. It could perhaps be said that is it largely a remake of the first outing but there's only so far you can go when dealing with creatures whose only aim in life is to creative havoc and destruction. No, Gremlins 2: The New Batch is an expertly and lovingly crafted film that many would have you believe even surpasses the original.

Rob Dyer

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