Daniel Clamp (Jon Glover) is one of the richest businessmen in the world, but he still has big plans, one of them to renovate the Chinatown area of New York City. Only one thing stands in his way, and that is Mr Wing (Keye Luke), the owner of an antique shop there who is steadfastly refusing to budge, so Clamp sends over one of his top men, Forster (Robert Picardo), to speak to him, though his persuasions fall on deaf ears. However, the executive has noted Wing's unhealthy-sounding cough, and perceives that the old man doesn't have long to live - but when he does pop his clogs, he will have an unintended form of revenge that nobody could have anticipated...
Nobody except Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) and his girlfriend Kate Beringer (Phoebe Cates), who have tussled with the creatures unleashed in this sequel before. Perhaps it arrived just that bit too long after the fact, but Gremlins 2 was nowhere near the success that its predecessor had been, in spite of instantly recognisable characters and a bigger budget to cater for returning director Joe Dante's every whim. It could have been that his trademark nostalgia-infused horrors and science fiction were not what the general audiences of 1990 wanted to see, but there were a number of fans of the original who not only liked where Dante was coming from, but considered it even better.
The most common complaint came from those who saw this as merely a succession of crazy gags and not as a proper movie, as if the plot was thrown out of the window the second the Gremilns appeared, and that's a misapprehension that continues to follow the film. But if you're paying attention, then you'll see that there is a lot more to this than ramping up the cartoonish jokes quotient, as there is indeed a narrative that not only makes sense, but is able to bear the strain of some pointed aims at the corporate culture that had arisen in the eighties. Dante was well known for having mixed feelings about taking the major studio shilling, as while it allowed him to put his visions up on the screen, they also hampered his wilder ambitions.
And all because they thought they knew better than the public about what they wanted to see. Ironically, Gremlins 2 kind of proved them right, as while Dante was allowed to do whatever he wanted here, he was evidently not in tune with the majority of moviegoers. On the other hand, he was vindicated as the years went by and the cult of this sequel grew, so maybe this was a work before its time. For those who wanted the humour and references to catch, they were there, for example with mad scientist Christopher Lee carrying an Invasion of the Body Snatchers seed pod, Dick Miller getting attacked by a stop motion flying Gremlin as in Jason and the Argonauts, and a tribute to the film breakdown of The Tingler - all in the space of five minutes.
But there was more to this, as the plot sees Billy and Kate now working at Clamp's state of the art office block home to television studios, architects like Billy, and a scientific lab where Lee conjured up his potions. Gizmo, the cute little creature from the first movie, finds that being cute is a liability in a setting like this and is even more put upon than before, ending up at the lab where he gets wet, then births some fellow Mogwai, which naturally (or unnaturally) eat after midnight and transform into the title villains. Rick Baker was drafted in to make them even more diverse than the previous instalment, so there's a glamorous lady Gremlin, a vegetable Gremlin, an electrical lightning bolt Gremlin, and a very impressive Brain Gremlin with the voice of Tony Randall. The effects are a joy, as is that curious exhiliration of seeing the mayhem erupt and build to outrageous heights, so if the film has more affection for its critters than the humans, its love of its genre and all the trappings that come with it, from slick to goofy, make it clear to see why Gremlins 2 has spoken to such an appreciative group of fans. Music by Jerry Goldsmith.
American director of science fiction and horror, a former critic who got his big break from Roger Corman directing Hollywood Boulevard. Piranha was next, and he had big hits with The Howling and Gremlins. But his less successful films can be as interesting: Explorers didn't do as well as he had hoped, but illustrated the love of pop culture that is apparent in all his work.