Joe Dante's Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch couldn't be more different films. While it would be fair to label the first installment as a horror comedy, its sequel is an absurd odyssey that has rightfully been deemed as the closest thing we'll ever get to a live-action Looney Tunes movie. Both of the flicks have their merits, but one thing they share equally is some truly stellar creature design. The Mogwai and Gremlins were initially conceived by Chris Walas (who later went on to do even more impressive special effects work on the 1986 remake of The Fly). When he proved unavailable when the sequel rolled around, legendary make-up man/all around genius Rick Baker was coerced into taking over the design work. Baker gave the Gremlins saga an injection of creativity that still continues to inspire over two decades later. At this point, it seems inevitable that there will be a remake or reboot of the franchise, most likely with CGI Gremlins that will almost certainly lack the charm and magic of the original creatures. Before that day arrives, let's take a look back at the coolest monster creations from the existing two movies.
A quick word: You'll notice there are no Mogwai on this list. Clearly they are terrific, but an all-Gremlin list seemed like a better way to pay tribute to the wonder of Walas and Baker's craftsmanship as well as the brilliance of Joe Dante's direction. If this saddens you, my apologies, and if I ever meet you in person I'll be sure to give you a big hug whilst humming Gizmo's theme.
15) Electricity Gremlin
I'm a Gremlins purist who feels that the creatures should only be brought to life through foam rubber and traditional puppetry techniques, and I still have nothing but love for the Electricity Gremlin. I'm probably going to sound like a low-rent Dilbert strip here, but there are few things in life that I loathe more than being on hold. So I totally get the pain that he feels while bouncing around the Clamp Centre phone system. Apropos of nothing, but if I ever get around to writing a list about the best deus ex machinas in genre films, you can bet the Electrictity Gremlin will be featured on there somewhere.
14) Shredder Gremlin
While a complete stylistic departure from its predecessor, Gremlins 2 does have one sequence of surprising violence that is so tonally out of tune with the rest of the film that it is jarring. I'm speaking of course about the Gremlin attack on Daniel Clamp that you can watch above. Clamp's subsequent disposal of the Grimster (as Hulk Hogan would call it) rivals some of the fun kills from the first film. Pay close attention and you'll see that the scene required John Glover to briefly manipulate the puppet himself. Score another one for practical effects.
13) Microwaved/Blended Gremlins
Criminally, YouTube is not letting me embed the scene in which Lynn Peltzer goes batshit crazy against the Gremlins in her kitchen. (You can however watch it here). Most of the Gremlins on this list are featured because of their design or personality traits. Not the ones that were killed via blender and microwave however. Nope. These guys are here just because of the awesomeness/grisliness of their respective demises -- which remain as crowd-pleasing today as they did back in the summer of 1984. Speaking of the '80s, here's a fan video that mashes up this iconic scene with one of the era's most ubiquitous tunes:
That, my friends, is today's moment of Zen.
12) Vegetable Gremlin
The 2008 documentary Seeds of Deception examines the dangers of genetically modified foods. Eighteen years earlier, Gremlins 2: The New Batch explored similar territory by introducing the Vegetable Gremlin. Rick Baker's design work here -- highlighted by some marvelous lettuce ears -- never fails to astound me. It also makes me want a salad for lunch, so maybe I'm missing the point. To sum up: our food supply is probably going to mutate and kill us all at some point, and ranch dressing is insanely fucking tasty.
11) The Gremlin Carolers Gremlins has become a Christmastime viewing must because it offers a dark and funny contrast to the heartwarming schmaltz that most holiday films revel in. In what may be the pinnacle of the movie's humbuggery, a group of Gremlins carolers torment the evil Mrs. Deagle moments before her untimely yet hilarious death. Depending on your own point of view, these sinister singers are either the antidote to or the cinematic embodiment of Yuletide frustrations. Either way, they are wonderful.
10) Daffy, Lenny and George
Because of Gremlins 2's anything goes nature, it's not a shock that the flick's Daffy, Lenny and George characters were inspired by such diverse sources as Looney Tunes cartoons, Edward G. Robinson films and Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. Their background befits their schizophrenic behavior, as evidenced by the trio's above takeover of the Microwave with Marge show. The Three Stooges they aren't, but for some mutated Mogwai they did pretty well for themselves.
9) The Phantom of the Opera Gremlin
Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera is the longest running musical in Broadway history. Yet in my eyes its lack of a Gremlin in the title role makes it a failure on every level.
8) Flashdance Gremlin
Legwarmers, breakdancing and Gremlins. Goddamn there's a lot to miss about the 1980s. Trivia: The song in this scene is "Gremlins (Mega Madness)" performed by Michael Sembello -- the man who also gave us Flashdance's "Maniac." And it all comes full circle...