In Defense Of: “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” (1990)
One issue with sequels, especially in terms of the horror genre, is that once we’ve seen the monster, a certain level of mystique is gone. It’s something I touched upon in my defense of Predator 2, but it’s worth repeating here that whether it’s the Xenomorph from Alien, the shark from Jaws, or any of the handful of iconic slashers ranging from Michael Myers to Chucky, nothing will ever recapture that initial sense of fear or surprise stemming from the unknown that surrounded their original introductions, and Gremlins 2 acknowledges that straight away.
Compare the openings of Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The first film begins with Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) in the streets of Chinatown, which is shrouded in thick fog and characterized by dim neon and deep shadows, before entering Mr. Wing’s shop, a place of mystery coated in a fine haze. Conversely, Gremlins 2 opens in the same place, following Forster (Robert Picardo) and his men in broad daylight, Chinatown appearing no different than the rest of the city, as they attempt to buy off Mr. Wing so that the land can go to Daniel Clamp.
There’s no longer a sense of wonder here. We know who Mr. Wing is and we know what’s in his shop. We know all about Gizmo and what can happen if he’s placed in the wrong hands. What more is there? As if to answer that question, Dante uses Clamp’s influence on the story to mirror the idea of messing with a good thing, of the corporate guy who thinks he knows best shutting down the little guy, with the idea ringing true of Gremlins 2‘s production itself – where the studio and corporate heads felt the need to commercialize any and all success and diluted something that worked once for the sake of franchising the hell out of it.
Gremlins said all there is to say with the premise, leaving the basis of any sequel to simply rest on the idea of “putting gremlins in X location,” and thus Dante opts to make Gremlins 2 self-aware of exactly what it is from the get-go: A corporate-mandated product. If the original said everything there was to say, then the sequel is the exclamation point at the end of that statement meant to prove that not every concept needs to be milked dry.