“Gremlins” became a surprise hit in 1984, when the movie, based on a spec script from Chris Columbus, ended up as the No. 4-grossing film of the year.
Hoyt Axton plays a traveling inventor and salesman who buys a furry creature as a Christmas present for his son Billy (Zach Galligan). The Mogwai, bought from a basement shop in Chinatown, comes with three rules: 1. Keep him away from bright lights and out of the sunlight; 2. Keep him away from water; and 3. Don’t feed him after midnight.
The cute creature, called Gizmo, is accidentally doused with water by Billy’s young friend Pete (Corey Feldman), which causes Gizmo to reproduce. The new Mogwais seem more mischievous, and once they trick Billy into feeding them after midnight, they become rampaging Gremlins, out to destroy the town.
The movie mixes comedy with horror, as director Joe Dante slyly satirizes consumerism and small-town culture. The film was considered violent for a PG film of the time — it, along with “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” helped galvanize the push for the PG-13 rating.
The Blu-ray is an improvement from the DVD release, though there are some flaws evident in the picture. Special features include two commentary tracks, deleted scenes, a vintage making-of featurette, stills and trailers.
Six years later, Dante returns for “Gremlins 2: The New Batch,” which sees Gizmo in a science laboratory in a New York high-rise. John Glover plays billionaire Donald Clamp, who owns the building where the laboratory is housed. Coincidentally, Billy now works in the building for Clamp, where he comes across Gizmo. Billy tries to rescue him, but after a leaky water fountain gets Gizmo wet, the high-tech building is soon filled to the brim with violent, madcap Gremlins.
The film’s shift in tone from the first is manic. The second film plays almost as a parody of the first, with rapid-fire pop-culture references from the Looney Tunes characters to Hulk Hogan. It didn’t repeat the box-office success of the first, though it succeeds on its own merits as a hypercharged madhouse of a sequel.
Howie Mandel voices Gizmo in both films; Phoebe Cates plays Billy’s girlfriend Kate.
Special features on “Gremlins 2” include an audio commentary, a vintage making-of short, deleted scenes, gag reel, trailer and an alternate scene from the home video release.
— Matthew Price
From Friday’s The Oklahoman