Thursday, November 20, 2014

Night of the Demons 2

(R, Republic Pictures, 96 mins., limited theatrical release date: May 13, 1994)

Do you remember the three signs of demonic possession as outlined in a certain 1980s horror cult film? No, they do not involve water, sunlight and late night foodie calls, I've moved on from Joe Dante films for the time being. No, I'm talking about infestation from beyond the grave, Satanism and the human body as medium for the morbidly deceased. There are three warning signs you need to know if you ever hope to escape a haunted house post haste.

The noise is the first one, preferably the loud shriek of a teenage girl startled by some apparitional premonition visible only to her eyes, the kind which provokes easy cynicism from the hormonal heathens of the world. Yeah, the shriek may be no cause for real alarm, but then there's the chill. As cold as the touch of the Reaper himself, the kind whose only security blanket is one procured for a dirt nap. But death is too late to make similes for, you realize, and thus you take a deep breath through your nose only to catch a whiff of Hell on earth. The foulest stench is in the air, the funk of 40,000 years, and grisly gh...

I'm sorry, I got a little carried away there. No mere mortal can resist a "Thriller" joke. It's human nature, I tell you.

The point is that the noise, the stink and the chill are things which occur in a precise order and constitute the danger of demonic possession. It's advice that the new batch of doomed youths in Night of the Demons 2 should have picked up on before they wind up in Hull House, the infamous slaughter mill where Angela Franklin and friends threw the Halloween party which ended them all.

And by them, of course, I mean it ended Angela and her friends. Or did it?!

Because Amelia Kinkade is back in black bridal garb as Angela and she wants to celebrate her inevitable return to the corporeal world. Sadly, none of her old friends want to come back in limbo, so Linnea Quigley is out of the picture. And the original's director, Kevin Tenney, is also not on the guest list. However, reprising their positions from the last film are writer Joe Augustyn, producer Walter Josten, cinematographer David Lewis, and special effects designer Steve Johnson, so it's not all that mercenary. And yet every party needs a proper planner, so who is the man to take charge of "Night of the Demons 2: Angela's Revenge," so to speak?

Enter Brian Trenchard-Smith, an Englishman who went on to corner the market for Ozploitation from the mid-1970s onward. Critical consensus dictated that Trenchard-Smith comes from the Land Down Under not just geographically, but also aesthetically, until Mark Hartley's giddy Not Quite Hollywood gave the filmmaker a ringing endorsement from Quentin Tarantino and sincere love for the likes of Stunt Rock and Dead End Drive-In, which I also recommend. The 1990s saw him transition into American B-cinema, specifically the straight-to-video sequel mill which led him to Night of the Demons 2 as well as Leprechaun 3 & 4.

Yes, he was the man who brought you a demented dwarf from Ireland bursting out of a horny space traveler's kiwis a la Alien while quipping "Always wear protection."

There is plenty of phallic humor to go around in Night of the Demons 2, which owes as much to the Porky's school of horny hi-jinks as it does to its 1988 progenitor. The male heroes are introduced peeking through binoculars at the neighboring bedrooms of their lady co-eds, thus ensuring the film's Hard-R credentials. Flirtation involves a basketball which dribbles up towards a miniskirt with magnetic force. The baddest of the bad girls herein has heaving bosoms which allow for easy demonic access to attack the nearest lech. And once the horror kicks in, it's easy to go Freudian with the many snakes and tentacles which lash out in anger.

Caught in the middle of all the kinky chaos is Angela's biological sister, Melissa (Merle Kennedy), the designated Carrie White of St. Rita's Academy, a Catholic boarding school run by Father Rob (Rod McCary) and Sister Gloria (Jennifer Rhodes). Rob is a bit more liberal in his attitudes toward reformation than the strict Gloria, demanding that the students have more input into the upcoming Halloween social than Gloria prefers. Not only that, but Sister Gloria has a...well, habit of interfering with the throes of young lust by waving her trusty yardstick in between the students and commanding, "Save a little room for the Holy Ghost."

The campus alpha bitch Shirley (Zoe Trilling), though, defies Gloria by using her banishment from the dance to convince her girlfriends, including Melissa "Mouse" Franklin, to have their own party at infamous Hull House, the last known whereabouts of Angela. The poor orphaned cadet is made the brunt of a cruel stunt involving a virgin sacrifice, but the wicked spirit of Angela intervenes by hiding within a lipstick tube which fans of the original will know where it's been. The students make it back to St. Rita's, allowing Angela the freedom to come alive and wreak havoc among the student body.

Whereas the original Night of the Demons offered a scenario straight out of The Evil Dead, the sequel takes some of its cues from the gonzo school of splatter comedy in the vein of Peter Jackson where the more the messier. The demons in this film are treated more accordingly to the rules of vampire lore, easily dispatched with holy water and melting down into puddles of goop. In undeath, an athlete's severed head can be used as a basketball and Angela can transmogrify to adapt to any scenario, emerging even as a serpent. And there's a little Dead-Alive in Sister Gloria by making her kick ass for the Lord, although there's no explanation given for how she can overcome her own decapitation when she is not one of the demons. Are we supposed to accept her as an angel?

At least Jennifer Rhodes (of Slumber Party Massacre II and Heathers) has a field day with her performance, as do McCory's skeptical minister (a nod to Stir Crazy, perhaps?) and Bobby Jacoby (the prankster kid from Tremors) as freckle-faced demonology obsessive Perry, who makes a case for being the missing Frog Brother. On the opposite end, Cristi Harris gets the film's most warming character as Bibi, Mouse's lone teenage ally who manages to have premarital sex and survive, and there's Christine Taylor, the future Mrs. Ben Stiller, getting called "Marcia" by one of the jerky boys as the vapid Terri. Clearly, she was going places. Also in the cast are Darin Heames, the circumcision victim from Dr. Giggles, as giggling sadist Z-Boy and Johnny Moran & Ladd York as the nominal but not loathable Everydude heroes.

But as is always the case, the villain is the main reason to watch, and "Mimi" Kinkade gets to indulge both her Rue McClanahan lineage and dancing pedigree as the wicked Angela. Whether taunting a pair of missionaries with a cake party at the start of the film or doing a reprisal of her sultry "Stigmata Martyr" showcase later on, she makes a deliciously feminine counterpoint to the wannabe Freddy Kruegers of the horror world.

Your enjoyment of the film depends ultimately upon your nostalgic reserves for the adolescent T&A  comedies and/or the equally puerile Video Nasties from the 1980s. Brian Trenchard-Smith doesn't exactly come close to either Peter Jackson or Stuart Gordon in his disreputable hand, but he doesn't stand in the way of the cheap thrills and is all the more respectable for it. Maybe I should credit him less for the blatant use of stock footage from Tenney's film, but the film is far too much of a lark to be shocking. Night of the Demons 2 stakes its own claim as a good-time bad movie which might not stand up to repeat viewings, but it walks tall and swings a mean rosary. I'll take it over any of the Leprechaun movies.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Small Soldiers

(PG-13, DreamWorks SKG, 108 mins., theatrical release date: July 10, 1998)

Previously on Mind of Frames, I lauded the "Mega Madness" that was Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Joe Dante's poorly-received but uproarious sequel to the movie which gave him Hollywood clout. One of the things I forgot to mention was that Dante and screenwriter Charlie Haas reunited a few years later with the charming Matinee. Haas, you may recall, co-wrote the essential youth movies Over the Edge and Tex with Tim "River's Edge" Hunter, and in Haas, Dante found a worthy successor to John Sayles, who scripted Dante's inaugural Piranha and The Howling. It proved to be another two-picture wonder of a collaboration, though, as Gremlins 2 and Matinee each got poor box-office returns. Haas would never write another feature script again, and Dante was consigned to television projects for a spell.

Enter Steven Spielberg again to renew Dante's mainstream potential, having shifted studios from Amblin to DreamWorks and inciting direct competition with Disney/Pixar in several releases. The late 1990s, after all, was when DreamWorks' Antz and Pixar's A Bug's Life vied for the hearts of junior entomologists. Also on the DreamWorks slate was Small Soldiers, a live-action "send-up" of their rival's benchmark of a blockbuster, Toy Story.

As far as subversive hired guns go, Dante showed Spielberg twice that his aim was true. But whereas Gremlins 2 made a sacred cow of its beloved original and ground it up into a juicy burger, Small Soldiers is processed cheese all the way. The screenplay feels distressingly like a multiple cook crash since it credits three different sets of scribes, including Adam Rifkin (The Chase, Mouse Hunt) and the team of Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio (Aladdin, Shrek), which is all you need to know that this was punched-up to low places.

It could've been a hero on the same sardonic, satirically-gifted level as the Gremlins films. The premise is that a modest little toy company is now the subdivision of a military conglomerate called GloboTech, whose new family-friendly image juxtaposes bombers and babies. When transferring employees Larry Benson (Jay Mohr) and Irwin Wayfair (David Cross, who deserved a crack at this script given Mr. Show was airing on HBO about this time) pitch new toy ideas to GloboTech CEO Gil Mars (Denis Leary), Mars demands these playthings be able to play back. Coerced to oblige in a three-month pinch, the more go-getting Larry orders surplus units of the X-1000 microprocessor, a munitions chip, as hardware for both his G.I. Joe-style Army dolls, the Commando Elite, and Irwin's Gorgonites, who are their alien nemeses.

Meanwhile, in bucolic Winslow Corners, Ohio, teenager Alan Abernathy (Gregory Smith) is left to take care of his father's namby-pamby toy store, "The Inner Child," while he's attending a small business seminar. He strikes a deal with the delivery man (the requisite but reliable Dick Smith) to divert some of the inventory in his direction, figuring it would make some easy money to help keep the place open. Maybe it might even help bridge the divide between Alan, who has cultivated an exaggerated reputation as a delinquent, and his beleaguered daddy Stuart (Kevin Dunn, who would later essay an even dumber-downed version of this sitcom staple for the goddamn Transformers series).

Smith plays this Everydork to the best of his abilities though he looks way too milquetoast for all the underwritten teen angst he has to shoulder. Contrivances aside, Alan is more prodigal son than problem child, and whatever conflict he and his father have is utterly inconsequential. Just as preordained is the arrival of neighborly love interest Christy Fimple (Kirsten Dunst), a sassy, seasoned older girl looking for her kid brother's birthday gift. Their sputtering courtship revolves around a mutual dislike of "Family of Five" (that's Party of Five if you're an actual ‘90s kid and not some hacky archetype) and love for Led Zeppelin (which, as an ex junior high brat myself, I can fully relate to). But, of course, Christy is a footballer's squeeze and Alan is forced to play his romantic cards sparingly.

Love is secondary to war, however, once Commando Elite Major Chip Hazard (voiced by Tommy Lee Jones) punches out of his packaging and rallies his plastic brigade in destructive pursuit of the benign Gorgonites, whose leader Alan has taken home with him. Archer (voice of Frank Langella) makes a private connection with the kid and soon the Commandos are gunning after Alan. Since the Gorgonites have been programmed to cowardice, the remaining extraterrestrial exiles are scooped up from a dumpster by Alan, including a Daffy doppelganger named Insaniac and a cycloptic cutie named Oculus. The funniest movie reference in the film is when Alan's TV is airing 1958's The Crawling Eye, which the one-eyed wonder then glues itself to.

The rest of the cinephile pandering is caught between two extremes. Shrewd voice casting on the dolls' part means that the Commando Elites are performed by The Dirty Dozen veterans Ernest Borgnine, George Kennedy, Jim Brown, and Clint Walker, with Bruce Dern taking over for the deceased Richard Jaeckel. The principal Gorgonites are in turn spoken for by Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer, the legendary Spinal Tap trio. Their dialogue is ripe with pop culture allusions, encompassing everything from Patton to Titanic. The most subtle battalion of one-liners stems from how the Commando Elites take their war games dead seriously even for playthings, screaming "Medic!" when mortally wounded and getting noble eulogies: "His battery has run out, but his memory will keep going and going."

Major Hazard's increasing intelligence and adaptive skills spur his team onto more menacing and dangerous strategies, eventually involving taking Christy as a hostage and finally cornering both the Abernathy and Fimple clans under one besieged roof. And yet Dante's uncanny knack for making flesh-and-blood cartoon chaos isn't as potent here. The scorn many heaped at Dante for pushing disturbing images to children in the Gremlins films at least tempered by a giddy, inventive gusto in the staging, and there was better humor to them, too. Small Soldiers feels ‘roided up on cheap testosterone and let loose without much of a game plan other than the diminished novelty of little things causing big trouble in small towns.

The centerpiece of Small Soldiers is when Hazard tears the microchip from the brain of fallen soldier Nick Nitro and harnesses it to bring Frankenstein-style life to Christy's collection of Gwendies. Proud to be serving as cannon fodder, these Barbie surrogates are then stripped down to camo bikinis and attack with the kind of pun-damaged ditziness that made me genuinely fear Akiva Goldsman was ghost-writing this. Never mind the bizarrely fantastical choice to have Christy still in possession of underage toys whilst jamming to Led Zeppelin and Rush, there is a tonal dissonance in this device which is downright numbing, not to mention serious misjudgment in regards to the satire.

Christy's Gwendy dolls are each given specific accessories and costumes to make them look like Greek soldiers, Cleopatra, Jackie Onassis, Sally Ride, the Swiss Miss mascot, etc. You'd think there would be more ingenuity once they come to life than to just reduce them to condescending Valley Girl accents, giggly sadism and fetishistic objectification, but that's all they do after they're activated. They tie down Christy, pounce upon her useless boyfriend and make lame quip after lame quip, all the while half-naked and deformed. The pint-sized antagonists of Small Soldiers barely stack up against the memorably unhinged Gremlins who once mauled Santa Claus impersonators and rocketed an old lady out of her house. The worst that happens here is that the boyfriend gets his pants leg torched and Benedict Arnolds his way out of the plot.

For all of its middling attempts to be madcap and macabre, Small Soldiers, like Gremlins 2: The New Batch, has the advanced sophistication of mechanical effects on its side. Whereas Rick Baker proved invaluable in building upon the puppetry and conceptions of the creatures in the 1990 film, here Stan Winston and his team mix computer graphics and radio-controlled animatronics to make an impressive illusion of lifelike figurines. And once again, all credit to the likes of Tommy Lee Jones, Frank "Skeletor" Langella and the great vocal talents I mentioned before for giving them fairly amusing personalities. Jones, in particular, doesn't ham it up as insufferably like he did with his Harvey Dent from Batman Forever and is more welcome with his wryly macho patois.

Alas, there are many clear casualties in terms of wasted talent. Aside from the two young leads, a visibly typecast Denis Leary and the rakish Joe Dante, himself, I neglected to mention one Phil Hartman, in his cinematic epitaph here as Christy's tech-savvy daddy Phil (seriously?!), because I watch him and all I can hear is Troy McClure egotistically reminding audiences to remember him from this mediocrity. The only real comic chemistry to be found is between MVPs/POWs Jay Mohr and David Cross as the rival toymakers, whose research into the dangers of the X-1000 microchip brings them to its creator Ralph, played by Dante repertoire scene-stealer Robert Picardo as a disgraced inventor turned quarantine manager who used to work under the Pentagon.

Once Ralph designed these microchips to grant "actual intelligence" to smart bombs, now they spur on "psychological warfare" involving Spice Girls songs. Talk about a defective product; you know, wouldn't it have been much funnier and apt if the Commandos blared Aqua's "Barbie Girl," instead? Speaking of a Cheap Trick not done right, I watched the film again knowing that "Surrender" was on the soundtrack listing, and they didn't even use that power-pop gem for laughs. The only songs you hear in the movie with real clarity are mostly re-purposed at the end in trendy hip-hop remixes, such as "War," "Love Is a Battlefield" and "Another One Bites the Dust." I'm confused as to whether I'm being sold a movie, a compilation album (which is better off skipped in favor of Jerry Goldsmith's proper film score), a collection of Chip Hazard-centered tie-in merchandise, or a flame-broiled Rodeo Burger.

Small Soldiers is a sad, strange little film, and it has my pity.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Gremlins 2: The New Batch

(PG-13, Warner Bros. Pictures, 106 mins., theatrical release date: June 15, 1990)

In the 35 years since his solo directorial debut with 1978's Piranha, Joe Dante proved himself to be one of the most lovable anarchists in the cinema biz. His imagination is the product of both a garrulous, genuine love of film and the puckish, feverish invention of a Warner Bros. studio animator. Under Roger Corman's employment and Allan Arkush's partnership, he proved he could sell New World Pictures' line of B-movies with shrewd, demented glee. Even better was when Dante got the chance to make his own independent, irreverent fan favorites like Piranha and The Howling. And then Steven Spielberg, the man Dante was once tasked to rip off, saw his potential and started him small with a segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie, which finally led him to the blockbuster promised land that was 1984's Gremlins.

Naturally, the sadistic suburban chaos of that anti-Christmas classic proved a tough act to commodify. Neither Dante nor Spielberg were satisfied with the many half-baked treatments sent their way, not that Dante expressed much interest in a sequel to begin with. Desperation caused Warner Bros. to approach Dante with the ultimate enticement for any artist, the lure of total "creative control." I can only imagine the great, Grinch-y grin which graced Dante's mug, as that same mischievous smile was what I got numerous times watching that long-delayed sequel, 1990's Gremlins 2: The New Batch.

The studio was angling for a summer hit to compete with Disney and Dick Tracy, but Dante's flick wasn't the underdog success story you wished it would be. Gremlins 2 grossed merely a third of the original's profits, while Gremlins screenwriter Chris Columbus cornered the family market later that year with the massive, $476 million take from Home Alone. Dante had no interest in hackneyed sentimentality and bumbling slapstick, so once again, whatever Dante glory gleaned from the experience was purely archaeological.

1990 was the year Warner Bros. celebrated Bugs Bunny's 50th anniversary on the backs of two flop sequels, the second being The Never Ending Story II: The Next Chapter, and that one was preceded by an actual cartoon short, Box-Office Bunny. But it was the wraparound animation in Gremlins 2 which had the input of the legendary Chuck Jones himself, after Dante had him in a cameo for the original Gremlins. The movie even begins with the classic Warner logo as presented in the vintage Bugs toons, perched wabbit and all, instead of their reliable blue sky bumper. And sure enough, egotistical Daffy Duck storms in to steal the spotlight only to suffer a fruitfully embarrassing comeuppance.

The next 100 minutes of live-action antics only get much, much Loonier from here.

Gizmo, the cuddly Mogwai mascot/failed household pet, is back at Mr. Wing's (Keye Luke) Chinatown antiques emporium, but New York City's gentrification trickles down like water to start the chaos anew. The trouble begins when tycoon Daniel Clamp, glimpsed only via pre-recorded videocassette delivered by chief assistant Forster (Robert Picardo), wants to buy out Wing's property to build his own version of Little China. The answer again is a direct "No," but it's not like old Wing sounds fit enough to continue fighting. Six weeks later, Wing passes on, and a dozer duly levels his shop, with Gizmo scrambling to escape the wreckage. But the creature won't be homeless for long, as Clamp's tower has men in low places, namely the Splice of Life genetics lab technicians who seize him for study.

Also in Clamp's service are Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) and Kate Beringer (Phoebe Cates), the Kingston Falls lovebirds now seeking upward mobility at the billionaire mogul's high-tech, sky-scraping office block. Billy overhears a mailman humming a familiar melody in his design department cubicle, which is enough to spur him to rescue Gizmo from the surgical clutches of laboratory head Dr. Catheter (Christopher Lee). Despite Billy's command to keep out of sight until Kate arrives to pick him up, Gizmo ventures out and in the path of a faulty water fountain, which inevitably yet accidentally breeds another clutch of rogue Mogwai not ready to play nice.

The first rule officially re-broken, then naturally comes the dreaded prospect of them eating after midnight. Luckily, the yogurt and salad bars are open all night, and when Kate brings home not Gizmo but a cross-eyed, cackling impostor, he pigs out on chicken and throws the rest of dinner back in the couple's faces.  Freshly cocooned, it isn't long before the Gremlins hatch, and, of course, you realize this means war.

And not just in the Bugs Bunny sense, but a battle worthy of Rambo as the introductory scenes tease out.

The battleground are the many floors of the Clamp Center, already a subject of Tati-style satire from the moment it's introduced given the corporation's sign has the world squashed in a vise. This "smart building" is equipped with revolving doors which travel at 100 mph, inconvenient eco-sensors that go off when menial workers sit inactive for too long and an overbearing PA system possessed of eerie intelligence. In greeting you upon entrance, the announcement is that you "Have a powerful day." Should you enter the executive washroom, it knows if you forgot to wash your hands. Parked in a restricted area? It will straight-up insult your taste in automobiles. And the fire alarm? Well, you need to hear that one for yourself.

Dante and screenwriter Charlie Haas establish this larger-than-life locale as a narcissistic totem to a character modeled trenchantly on both Donald Trump and Ted Turner. Somehow, it not only feels fresher than the original's Capra-esque winter town, but more expansive and ripest for ruination. Daniel Clamp is the entrepreneur to end them all; his self-made empire, already recounted in a best-selling autobiography, corners the market on cable television, construction, sports, finance, jams, and jellies. Filmed on location in Clamp Tower are such niche programs as: "Microwaving with Marge," hosted by the titular soused chef (Kathleen Freeman); "The Movie Police" with Leonard Maltin, who wasn't a fan of the first Gremlins; and whatever is airing on The Archery Channel, where the current Robin Hood actor has snapped his bow in protest.

Having established all these facetious facets, I hope you are duly prepared for the madness once those Gremlin pods melt away. This is undiscovered territory far from what Chris Columbus and, for that matter, FX master Chris Walas ever dreamed of. Let's not forget to clap our clamps and claws for Rick Baker, another in the movie's roster of MVPs, for supervising the creation of this new and improved batch. Thanks to Dr. Catheter's crimes against nature, the Gremlin menace evolves to the degree where the building's occupants are terrorized by an arachnid Gremlin, an electrical current Gremlin, a bat gremlin, the Brain Gremlin who injects the latter with "genetic sunblock" (granting it immunity against bright light, that third no-no in the protection manual), and the Miss Piggy/Bugs-in-drag creation that is the Lady Gremlin, who gets the vapors near the pompous Forster.

Lucky for us, also, is the human defense team which proves equally clever in regards to performances. Zach Galligan is made a more active and honorary foil than before, especially amusing when he makes a wrong turn at Albuquerque and into a Marathon Man reference, and Phoebe Cates gets to flex comedic muscle in a couple of meta moments. There's even the welcome return of Billy's former neighbors and snowplow attack survivors, Murray and Sheila Futterman, played by the no-nonsense Dick Miller and the jovial Jackie Joseph. And Baker has given Gizmo an animatronic overhaul, not just an adorable miniature puppet but an expressive creature able to command the tightest of close-ups.

John Glover, previously having provided eccentric flourishes to his must-see roles in 52 Pick-Up and The Chocolate War, plays Daniel Clamp impeccably against type and emphasizes a child-like wonder which elevates the character from mere yuppie caricature. Haviland Morris, a severely undervalued comedienne who started in Sixteen Candles and whom many feel should've taken Madonna's lead in Who's That Girl, gets a juicy character with the name of Marla, a name solidified in Charlie Haas' 1989 final draft before the Maples/Trump headlines broke wide open. With her loud mane of orange hair, hysterical Brooklyn accent and jittery, chain-smoking poise, Morris is a ball of fire made flesh.

As a late-night horror movie host and aspiring newscaster boasting an uncanny resemblance to Grandpa Munster, Robert Prosky makes a witty impression. Ditto Kathleen Freeman as the dubious cooking expert who adds sherry by the dollop whilst ingesting it by the trowel. Gedde Watanabe, the 1980s precursor to Ken Jeong who was also in Sixteen Candles with Morris, is his reliably hyperactive self as an overzealous shutterbug. Real life identical twins Don & Dan Stanton, of Good Morning, Vietnam and T2: Judgment Day, play Martin & Lewis, the quirky assistants of Dr. Catheter, the disease-obsessed mad doctor played with exquisitely creepy camp by Christopher Lee.

Look, I could go on about the subtle in-jokes and cameos, including many of Dante's friends since the New World years and a couple of WTF surprises which others have spoiled for me. I could talk about how the movie includes any number of offbeat gags involving serene nature videos heralding the apocalypse, characters openly poking holes at the nature of the three rules and the (in)correct uses of microwaves, paper shredders and wet cement. I could geek out over Tony Randall's hilariously haughty voice work as the Brain Gremlin, which culminates in a joyous performance of "New York, New York" which is sublime beyond words. I can applaud the movie for disarming us with more than enough delicious black comedy, as appetizing as the Chocolate Moose served up in that Clamp Canadian-themed restaurant, but doesn't forget the scares and the slime where it counts.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch is fondly remembered among Dante aficionados not just because it was so undiluted and unconventional, but also hilarious enough that the hits outweighed the misses. The film's reception and cult legacy kind of reminds me of Savage Steve Holland's Better Off Dead, another film which used a familiar plot as an excuse to dream up surreal situations and comic set pieces. And if Holland saw himself in the John Cusack role, Dante imagines himself a Gremlin in the machine, a pop culture prankster of minimal pretension and maximum destruction. This is my Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and it freaks me out. It's a legitimately sardonic, side-splitting and sanity-proof take-off from Dante's biggest hit, which cannot be said about the next film I will cover...

The last thing we need is a fight.