Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

If you're going to risk making horror movies for kids, then you can't attempt it much better than the two Gremlins movies.

They're funny. They're safe(ish). They're gross.

They're funny: While the humour in the first movie gets by okay, in the second half of the second film it positively excels. The TV emergency tape. The moment when the film itself catches fire. Leonard Maltin reviewing the first movie and declaring it to be rubbish. Not to mention the catalogue of throwaway one-liners:

TV Continuity: "Tonight, on the Clamp Cable Classic Movie Channel, don't miss Casablanca, now in full color with a happier ending."

Fire alarm: "Fire: The untamed element, oldest of man's mysteries, giver of warmth, destroyer of forests, right now this building is on fire. Yes! The building is on fire! Leave the building! Enact the age old drama of self-preservation!"

TV emergency broadcast: "Because of the end of civilization, the Clamp Cable Network now leaves the air. We hope you've enjoyed our programming, but more importantly, we hope you've enjoyed... life."

As you can tell, I was a lot more taken with this series' satirical elements than with its titular characters. That said, what a shame that Hoyt Axton never rocked up at the end of 2 to reprise his role as Randall Peltzer from the first film. The sequel seemed to be heading towards this, and it's a shame to learn while researching this review that such a scene was very nearly shot, but infuritatingly dropped at the last minute.

They're safe(ish): Both films are light-hearted in tone throughout. Not just with the jokes, but performances and music too. The synth score is hit and miss in the first one, but the second even gets in a song!

They're gross: As horror movies, both films go over the line with the eww factor, but never go for blood, excrement or sadism. It gets uncomfortable without ever losing sight of being fun. A good example of how carefully this line is trod is with the casting of Christopher Lee.

In another scene Robert Picardo seems to be fighting a losing battle to keep a straight face, and they've gone and left it in! I'm surprised that all the Gremlin goo at the end didn't reassemble itself into a giant Gremlin monster, but y'know maybe that'll happen in a third outing, hopefully this time with Randall.

Ultimately, these were not my kind of films. Horrors rarely are. However when it comes to fun, the second half of the sequel is an absolute trip.

And there are umpteen different versions of both knocking around, making it one of those series that can keep on giving.

Gremlins of, arguably, a more positive kind.

(available here)


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