It took six years for a sequel to Joe Dante’s lighthearted horror film Gremlins to arrive after it proved a hit in the summer of 1984, but when it did, the final product ended up being something that few, if any, would’ve expected. With Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Dante delivered a sequel that upended everything about the original film, giving audiences something that completely subverted their expectations in a way that continues to feel ahead of its time.
Upon its initial release in 1990, however, it proved to be a box office failure and a divisive film for critics, with some lauding it for Dante’s efforts to not repeat himself and others outright slamming it for seemingly straying too far from what they felt made the first pic work. By all measures, Gremlins 2 is unequivocally a strange beast, and it’s easy to see why many – even to this day – don’t hold it in the same high regard as the original, which wore its heart on its sleeve and feels warm and inviting in a way that justifies its status as a classic.
That being said, Gremlins 2 is quite actively not trying to capture that same feeling, swapping out the heart for pure madness, and thus trying to compare the two becomes, essentially, an apples and oranges scenario, something that’s often held against the sequel by its detractors when that differentiation is entirely the point of what Dante’s going for.
Now, before I go any further, if you haven’t seen Gremlins 2 in a while – or ever, for that matter – let’s quickly catch you up. Years after the events of Gremlins, Mr. Wing’s shop is demolished following his death, an event that leaves everyone’s favorite mogwai, Gizmo, out on the streets of New York City, where he’s found by scientists and brought to a research lab in a high-rise owned by mogul Daniel Clamp (John Glover). Conveniently, Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) and Kate (Phoebe Cates), who are now engaged to one another, both work at the same high-rise, and it doesn’t take long for Billy to discover that Gizmo is there and rescue his old friend.
Of course, things inevitably go wrong after Gizmo accidentally gets wet, giving way to a whole new wave of gremlins who set about terrorizing the skyscraper, forcing Billy, Kate and a few allies to figure out a way to stop them before night falls and the little monsters are free to escape out into the city and wreak untold havoc.
On paper, Gremlins 2 has an incredibly simple concept, one that could otherwise be misconstrued as by-the-books to anyone who hasn’t seen the film, but it’s all about the execution, and nothing about what the sequel does within the playground of its concept could be called cookie-cutter. Right off the bat, the tone is set: An animated Looney Tunes segment starring Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck animated by the legendary Chuck Jones kicks off the movie, cluing us into the fact that Gremlins 2 is going to be different in tone and personality than its predecessor, and off we go.