When Gremlins released in 1984, a lot of critics didn’t know what to make of it. It alternately was a send-up of monster movies, a modern fairy tale, and a bona fide horror flick, and it seemed aimed at an audience of kids with its PG rating, despite its fill of ghoulish freak-outs. Any movie this contradictory seems destined for cult status, and that’s exactly where Gremlins landed, securing a firm spot in ‘80s movie nostalgia. With its commercial success, it’s no surprise that a sequel followed in 1990 with Gremlins 2: The New Batch. The original film got a 25th anniversary Blu-ray release back in 2009, and now it’s the sequel’s turn for high definition. Gremlins 2 finally hit Blu-ray this month, and here’s a look at the new release.
Though the original Gremlins is a mix of comedy and horror, it leans more heavily in a dark direction. Gremlins 2, on the other hand, embraces the comedic side of the franchise and presents a far more ridiculous story with over the top antics that far surpass the events of Gremlins. The first film unleashed the ravenous beastlings upon a small town, but the sequel brings them into the big city. Billy (Zach Galligan) and Kate (Phoebe Cates), the human heroes of the first outing, have moved to New York City, where they both work at Clamp Enterprises, a media corporation housed in a high-tech Manhattan office building. John Glover plays Daniel Clamp, the company’s eccentric owner, and Christopher Lee appears as the company’s head scientist, the worryingly named Dr. Catheter.
Squirreled away in Catheter’s lab is Gizmo, our favorite little furball from the first movie. After Gizmo’s previous owner died, the mogwai ended up in the labs at Clamp, the focus of all sorts of saddening experiments. As these things go, it doesn’t take very long for the cardinal Gremlins rules to start breaking, and Gizmo gets wet, causing him to spawn even more mogwai. And, of course, the new arrivals just have to grab a snack after midnight, thereby transforming themselves from adorable Yoda-Ewok hybrids into skittering and screeching full-blown Gremlins. The bulk of the movie has the Gremlins laying siege to the Clamp building while Billy and Kate fight to survive while keeping the monsters from escaping into the streets of Manhattan.
Once the Gremlins transform, the movie shifts gears into all manner of cartoonish mayhem. Spoofs abound, with plenty of references to Rambo, the original Gremlins, and even to Leonard Maltin’s negative review of the original film. The scenarios and shenanigans are as violent as before, but this time around the campiness of the creatures’ plots keeps the movie from becoming actually scary. There’s even a Gremlin who swallows brain serum and then becomes a super intelligent mad scientist monster. The silliness threatens to topple the film, but it all ends up being a fun and satirically murderous romp through 1990 corporate America.
Gremlins 2 looks and sounds great in HD and even outshines the 2009 Blu-ray release of the first Gremlins movie. All the puppets and mechanical effects are a refreshing reminder of a time when Gremlins could cavort around office buildings with nary a computer generated monster in sight. In addition to the film itself, the Gremlins 2 Blu-ray also includes a number of special features:
- Deleted Scenes – Around 20 minutes of additional footage that was cut from the film
- Behind the Scenes Documentary – Less documentary and more mockumentary, this is a brief feature with Gizmo and the cast.
- Audio Commentary with Joe Dante (director), Zach Galligan (Billy), Charlie Haas (writer), and Michael Finnell (producer)
- Gag Reel – A few minutes of line flubs and gags, but it’s all unsettlingly overshadowed by repeatedly returning to footage of the film crew tormenting a real monkey with a Gremlin puppet.
- Alternate Home Video Sequence – A segment that was added to the VHS release of Gremlins 2, with the Gremlins channel surfing
- Theatrical Trailer
Gremlins 2 is a fun return to the mythology set in motion by the first film, but it definitely veers in a more comedic tonal direction. If you enjoyed the gags and slapstick bits from the first movie, you’ll find it wall-to-wall in the sequel. Those more interested in the horror roots of Gremlins might be disappointed. Either way, Gremlins 2 is a nostalgic gem and never has looked better than it does on Blu-ray. Gremlins 2: The New Batch released on Blu-ray on May 8, 2012, and is in stores now.