Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) review

Gremlins 2 posterDirector: Joe Dante

Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, John Glover, Christopher Lee

“Because of the end of civilisation, the Clamp Cable Network now leaves the air. We hope you’ve enjoyed our programming, but more importantly, we hope you’ve enjoyed life.” (Public service announcement, Gremlins 2: The New Batch)

The success of Gremlins in 1984 meant than a sequel would be inevitable, but director Joe Dante didn’t want anything to do with it at first. The film lingered in development hell for years until the promise of a much bigger budget and full creative freedom convinced Dante to return and helm the sequel, which was finally released six years after the original.

Gremlins 2 is a very different beast to its predecessor. While they’re both horror-comedies, the first film focuses more on the horror whereas the sequel plants its best foot firmly in the comedy camp. The first film was genuinely dark – the Gremlins killed people and some aspects of the script certainly weren’t suitable for children (such as Katie’s story about her father dying when she was a child after he dressed as Santa and broke his neck climbing down the chimney, where he lay for five days.

Gremlins 2
“Do these glasses make me look ugly?”

This time around there’s no such nastiness, as Gremlins 2 instead packs its 106 minutes with silly jokes and parodies of other movies. Not that this is a bad thing, of course, it just feels different to the original.

Not that you’d know it based on the plot, mind. Once again the cute and cuddly Gizmo finds himself away from the safety of Mr Wing’s shop, this time ending up in a scientists’ lab at the futuristic Clamp Enterprises office building. Once again, Gizmo ends up meeting Billy (Galligan) and Katie (Cates), who are coincidentally both working at Clamp Enterprises, and once again Billy warns the others that Gizmo shouldn’t get wet, be exposed to bright lights or eat after midnight. And once again it all goes inevitably wrong.

This time, once it all goes tits-up and there are hundreds of Gremlins roaming around, rather than go on a killing spree the film instead turns into a series of parodies and tongue-in-cheek references. The Wizard Of Oz, Rambo, The Phantom Of The Opera, Marathon Man, King Kong and Batman are all given the Gremlins treatment, and it’s all entertaining enough, but it makes the Gremlins about as far from threatening as possible.

Gremlins 2
The Gremlins have more unique personalities this time. Top marks to Rick Baker and his special effects team

To add a bit of variety to proceedings this time, some of the Gremlins find their way to the lab and start drinking the various potions and chemicals the scientists have been working on. This leads to all manner of new Gremlins – a bat Gremlin, a vegetable Gremlin, an electrical Gremlin, even what appears to be some sort of female prostitute Gremlin. Most notable though is “Brains”, the Gremlin who develops the ability to speak and have intelligent conversations with humans.

Gremlins 2 is a fun enough film but it hasn’t aged quite as well as the original film. Many of the jokes, now over 20 years old, feel a little dated and whereas the first film’s horror leanings mean it could still pass as a low-budget film today, the sequel is very much a product of the ’90s. Dated, then, but still a laugh.

Gremlins 2 is only available on DVD in the UK – you can get it here. It isn’t available on either Netflix or LOVEFiLM’s streaming libraries.

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