The first GREMLINS takes place in the sleepy town of Kingston Falls, home to young bank employee Billy Peltzer and his girlfriend and waitress Kate Beringer. Billy receives a cuddly creature named a mogwai as a Christmas present and he names it Gizmo. He is then given the following care instructions:
1) Keep the mogwai away from sunlight.
2) Don’t allow the mogwai to get wet.
3) Never feed it after midnight.
Predictably, almost immediately, both the second and third rules are broken, and which result in Gizmo quickly reproducing a number of twisted creatures that are the opposite of Gizmo’s cute and friendly demeanor. They quickly take over the town and matters escalate.
For years, film studio Warner Bros. wanted a sequel, as the first film was rightly a huge success, but Dante waited six years to make it, requesting and receiving full creative control, and he made the most of it.
GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH sees Billy and Kate in New York City, both working for billionaire Daniel Clamp who is the CEO of a wide-ranging company named CLAMP. Billy is a commercial illustrator while Kate has the far less glamorous job as a CLAMP tour guide.
Gizmo is brought into the CLAMP building by one of two twin CLAMP scientists. Billy discovers Gizmo thanks to hearing someone whistling Gizmo’s unique tune and he reclaims the mogwai. As you might suspect, Gizmo immediately gets wet and chaos ensues. Unlike the first film, apart from one scene, the gremlin antics take place solely in the CLAMP building. Also unlike the first film, Dante completely leans into his love of cartoons and slapstick and self-indulgent silliness — the film even opens with the classic Looney Tunes opening, complete with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.
The ‘new batch’ of gremlins are absolutely bonkers and not nearly as cooke-cutter as the first time. The gremlin designs are absolutely wild and even include an ‘electricity gremlin’. There’s an entire KEY & PEELE skit about how the ‘Hollywood Sequel Doctor’ helps shepherd the unhinged the gremlins to life. You may want to wait to watch until the GREMLINS 2 credits roll, but it is classic KEY & PEELE.
“Okay, you guys know that none of that is going to be in the actual movie.”
All of that is in the actual movie.
GREMLINS 2 is certainly unbridled Joe Dante at the height of his powers and laser-focused on everything he loves. He even weaves in Christopher Lee and character actor and creative Paul Bartel (who will pop up again in a future Horrorclature post)! The creature effects by Rick Baker’s Cinovation Studio are absolutely mesmerizing, and feature a number of scenes that are as visually packed as a MAD MAGAZINE illustration!
Sadly the film flopped, which is a shame, but as demonstrated by the KEY & PEELE sketch it has found a cult audience, of which you can watch it and join the GREMLINS 2 admiration club.