Well, since I was still waiting for some DVDs to arrive, this review in my “1990s Films” series will be of an old favourite of mine that I’ve been meaning to review for a while.
I am, of course talking about a “so bad that it’s good” comedy horror monster movie from 1990 called “Gremlins 2: The New Batch”.
Although I must have referenced this film more times than I can remember (and have watched it at least four times), I haven’t actually reviewed it properly yet.
So, without any further ado, let’s take a look at “Gremlins 2: The New Batch”. I should warn you that this review may contain SPOILERS and that the film itself contains some FLICKERING LIGHTS (although I don’t know if they’re intense enough to cause issues or not).
“Gremlins 2” takes place a couple of years after the events of the first “Gremlins” film (and you should really watch that film first). It begins in New York where an old shopkeeper in Chinatown is threatened by property developers.
He refuses to sell, but dies of old age six weeks later. The shop is demolished – and the old man’s pet Mogwai (a cute, fluffy creature called Gizmo) barely manages to escape alive, before he is suddenly kidnapped by a passing scientist.
Meanwhile, Billy and Kate (from the first film) are going to work at the Clamp Trade Centre – a giant futuristic office building run by a charismatic businessman called Daniel Clamp. After a series of random coincidences, Billy learns that Gizmo is being kept in a genetics research facility on another floor in the building. So, he decides to free Gizmo and hide him in his filing cabinet.
Filed under “G” for “glum”, of course….
After Billy’s boss Marla pressures him into going to dinner with her, Billy asks Kate to pick up Gizmo and take him home. Reluctantly, she agrees. But, before she can get to Billy’s office, a repairman accidentally splashes Gizmo with water whilst repairing a drinking fountain. The first rule with Mogwai is never to get them wet. When they get wet, they start reproducing at an alarmingly fast rate.
When Kate arrives, she accidentally picks up one of Gizmo’s offspring instead of him.
Meh. Close enough.
Of course, by the time Billy gets home and realises that the Mogwai isn’t Gizmo, it is already past midnight. After all, the second rule with Mogwai is that they mustn’t eat anything after midnight. If they do, they turn into…. Gremlins!
And hilarity ensues!
One of the first things that I will say about “Gremlins 2” is that it is an acquired taste. As I mentioned earlier, it is a film that is “so bad that it is good“. This film is silly, anarchic, nonsensical, childish, meta-fictional and …strange. And, yet, it’s still a really interesting film for so many reasons.
Whilst the first “Gremlins” film was a light-hearted “feel good” horror movie, the second one is much more of a zany creature-based comedy. The humour here is a bit hit-and-miss, and it is a film that manages to be both very sophisticated and patronisingly simplistic with it’s humour. Which is quite an achievement.
For example, there’s a well-hidden background joke here that I only spotted when going through the screenshots for this review. Unfortunately, it’s just…. two policemen in a doughnut shop. Haw haw haw!
Some of the film’s more subtle humour works really well, some of the humour is a bit too referential (although the reference to the “Santa Claus” monologue from the first film is genius!), some of the characters are hilarious, sometimes it can seem like the film is trying too hard to be funny, some of the humour just seems a bit stupid, some of the humour is a bit outdated (eg: a stereotypical Japanese tourist character), and some of it shouldn’t work but it somehow does:
Like when the anarchic Gremlins suddenly break into a lavish and well-choreographed musical number. Seriously, this is hilarious!
But, even most of the comedy elements that don’t work are still part of this film’s charm.
If I had to sum the film up in two words, they would be “endearingly annoying”. It is one of those strange films that will have you rolling your eyes and yearning for the credits to roll when you’re actually watching it, but it will leave you in a happily nostalgic mood after you’ve finished watching it. These rose-tinted memories will inevitably cause you to rewatch it every year or two. It’s adorably terrible, or reassuringly stupid or heartwarmingly awful.
“Endearingly annoying” is also a good description of Gizmo too.
Another reason why this film is “so bad that it’s good” is that some parts of it really haven’t aged well at all – or rather, they’re a reflection of a more innocent time.
For example, Daniel Clamp is clearly meant to be a parody of Donald Trump. This is somewhat jarring by modern standards because he’s portrayed as a foolish and cowardly- but ultimately nice, good and successful – character.
Pictured: Not the way that a modern satirist would depict a Trump-like character (the 90s really were a more innocent time *sigh*)
Plus, the futuristic Clamp Trade Centre building is almost certainly a reference to the World Trade Centre. Then there’s the fact that the film also includes a brief comedic scene involving an acid attack (at the time of writing, these types of attacks turned up in the news in Britain alarmingly regularly – and are anything but comedic!). Hulk Hogan even has a cheerfully enthusiastic cameo in this film too! This film really is a relic of a different age!
And, yes, this scene wouldn’t turn up in a comedy movie these days!
But, in other ways, this film’s age really works in it’s favour! Everything from the lighting, to the special effects, to the wardrobe department, to the set design etc… is so gloriously retro 🙂
Seriously, it’s a really fascinating stylised glimpse into a part of the past that is both vaguely familiar and extremely different at the same time. Not only that, the film also has a really stylised aesthetic that goes really well with the zany, cartoonish events of the story:
Seriously, set design and lighting were SO much better in the 1990s!
And just check out the amazing lighting in THIS scene too 🙂
And the set design/lighting design here almost looks a little bit like something from “Blade Runner” or “Robocop 2” 🙂
The characters in this film are a really interesting bunch too. Billy and Kate (played by Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates) are slightly more mature versions of their characters from the first film – with Billy being the cheerful and optimistic one, and Kate being a more cynical, practical realist and/or pessimist.
I also forgot to mention Mr. Futterman (Dick Miller) and Marla Bloodstone (Haviland Morris), who are brilliant characters too.
In addition to this, Christopher Lee plays an evil scientist and Robert Picardo plays an obnoxious manager too.
Yes, Christopher Lee AND Robert Picardo 🙂
The film’s pacing is both terrible and brilliant at the same time. The film is surprisingly slow to get started, and yet this contrasts well with the chaotic action in the later parts of the film.
Likewise, the film’s narrative can be a little bit random and disjointed, but this compliments the anarchic events of the film really well. Plus, at 102 minutes in length, it is almost a little bit on the bloated side of things – but it never feels too long after you’ve finished watching it (but the literal opposite is true when you’re actually watching it).
In terms of the special effects, they’re surprisingly good for a film released in 1990. The creature designs are fairly inventive, the animatronic/puppet-based effects are handled very well, there are some traditional animation-based effects (instead of clunky 90s CGI) and the gore effects in this film are also interesting too.
Since this is something of a family comedy film/ light-hearted monster movie, the gore has been replaced with some hilariously gross green slime, gunge and/or skeleton-based effects:
With this scene involving a gremlin and a shredder surpassing the gross hilariousness of the microwave scene from the first film.
And, yes, this is a “Wizard Of Oz” reference too. Since this film was made before the internet became widely-used, many of the references in it are really old and/or “obvious” ones.
And, yes, I LOVE these painted lights too! Old special effects rock!
In musical terms, this film is really good, containing a great mixture of classic 1980s/90s Hollywood orchestral music and other types of music such as thrash metal and show tunes.
All in all, “Gremlins 2” is so bad that it is good. There’s really no other way to describe this film. It is both amazing and terrible at the same time.
It is both a cringe-worthy relic and a piece of heartwarming retro nostalgia. It is a film that would never get made today – and this is both a good and a bad thing. It is a film that you’ll never forget! It is a film that will make you pray for the credits when you’re actually watching it, but you’ll want to watch it again after the credits eventually roll. It is a lot of things, but above all, it is unique. There is nothing else quite like this dreadful delight!
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get… both one and five simultaneously.