Retro Rewatch: Gremlins 2: The New Batchpoppascotch
Retro Rewatch is an ongoing editorial that takes a look into certain films, conventions, crazes, and characters of the horror genre years after their heyday. It is an effort to try and put the magnifying glass up to the horror world with the much needed luxuries of time and perspective applied in order to fully understand the impact and social significance of these projects/themes/ideas (if any). So for this installment of Retro Rewatch, I present to you a film that holds a very special place in my heart: Gremlins 2: The New Batch.
When I was a young boy growing up, my parents showed me the original Gremlins on a beat up VHS tape and from that moment on, I was completely hooked. They bought me a Gizmo stuffed animal (I was about 5 at this point, maybe 6) and then took me to see Gremlins 2: The New Batch in the movie theater. Even as a child of only 7, I had a clear grasp on what fandom was, before I even understood what the word really meant. I sat through the film with my parents, and as a young child filled with hopes, dreams, and a blissfully ignorant view of the world, I had a great time. It was the first time in my life where I got to experience the anticipation of a sequel to a film that I loved. Unfortunately, at 7 years old I didn’t have the mental capacity to put this many words down on a page that weren’t either "dog" or "cat", so I didn’t bother writing a review about it at the time. But now since I’ve grown up (physically) and have the luxury of watching the movie again in my free time, I want to see if this childhood favorite still holds up to the awesomeness that I had imposed on it from my youth.
Before the film even went in front of the camera, Joe Dante was asked to be the director. It was no surprise, he directed the first Gremlins, but when he was asked to do a sequel, he declined saying that he felt that the Gremlins story had already been told. The studio went shopping for other directors, but they couldn’t nail someone down. Thusly they come back to Dante, who said that he would do it, if he had final cut (approval of the edit of the film that gets shown to audiences) and total creative control of the movie. So the studio gave him a budget that was three times the amount of the first film and let him tell whatever story he wanted. Now, with the little shades of ridiculous that got shown in the first Gremlins film, what did you really think that the sequel was going to be like?
Well whatever you could have possibly imaged in your early nineties days, Joe Dante went a little bit past that. He focused on a few key plot elements that were socially relevant back in the early 90s including yuppies, network television, and modernized architecture of the "future" and how inefficient and impersonal it really was. This is a pretty big parallel to the horrible scenario of these black souled and evil looking Gremlins getting unleashed on the perfect small town stuck in Americana. Not only do you get those little nuggets of social commentary, but you also get Gremlins that randomly get superhero-type powers. Yes you read that right, you see in this huge skyscraper where the film takes place, they for some reason have a lab, a television studio, and a massive gift shop that all aid the company in research, development, and promotions.
After the Gremlins take over the lab, they do what any creature would do… inject themselves with whatever they could find. This included a magic lightning formula that turned a Gremlin into a lightning bolt, a bat (animal) and sunshine (wtf?) formula that turned a Gremlin into a flying day time bat-attacking hybrid, and a vegetable tonic that made vegetables grow from one of the Gremlins. Did I mention the super smart Gremlin? The one that could talk in an esteemed British man’s accent? Yeah, there was that too. As a kid, it was a hodgepodge of crazy colors, cute animals, and weird humor that made me laugh. As an adult, I sat there wondering what in the hell was going on for most of the film. Then it hit me, Joe Dante pretty much gave up on making sense of the film and instead decided to make it as fun and ridiculous as possible.
Apparently the studio wanted a sequel no matter what so they could sell more gizmo dolls, so they gave Joe Dante complete creative control. The first Gremlins film had moments of actual terror in it. Sure there were some yuk yuk moments, such as when the Gremlins were drinking at the bar and screwing around, but when the chips were down, Spike was as mean as ever and trying to kill Billy and his special lady friend in a sporting goods store. There was danger being presented to a character that you would have to be soulless not to root for him. In the sequel however, all of this dread, fear of the unknown, and scary moments are pretty much gone. The entire movie is Gremlins doing stupid stuff and acting like morons. So what do you ask in the end result of all this madness?
A good time.
Yes the movie was bad. Yes it is very clear that Joe Dante doesn’t have his heart in it. Yes it’s clear that in most cases, studios shouldn’t give complete creative control to anyone, but I still found myself realizing how ridiculous the whole thing was and I couldn’t help but find some enjoyment in it. Sure it’s juvenile, stupid, and almost entirely brainless despite attempts at the counter, but I still had fun here. It’s hard to find at least one thing you don’t like about Gremlins 2. The reason for this is that Joe Dante created a hodgepodge of crazy ideas, themes, and meanings and loosely tied them together with something called a story which in this one special case was fine with me.
Is it a cult classic, a fitting analysis, or complete forgettable?: For its insane concepts, slapstick Gremlin culture and general references to everything from Batman to Rambo, I have to give this one the cult classic status. I owe it to them.