Joe Dante (USA, 1946)
debuted with the thriller Hollywood Boulevard (1976) and
Rock 'N' Roll High School (1979),
co-directed with Allan Arkush.
produced by Roger Corman and scripted by John Sayles,
was basically a horror spoof of Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1977),
and it mostly looks like a parody not a horror movie at all.
A very young lady, Maggie, with an impeccable record for finding missing
persons, is dispatched by her middle-aged boss to a new mission: finding two
missing teenage hikers.
She reaches the area and, when her car breaks down, looks for help
from a lonely and rather hostile man, Paul, who lives in the only cabin. He
helps her drive to a remote isolated area that used to be a top-secret army
test center. They break the gate's lock and walk into what appears to be a deserted village.
They find a laboratory that was used to grow little artificial monster, some
of whom are still alive.
Maggie also finds the clothes of the kids and suspects they may have drowned
in the pool. Thus she pulls the lever that drains the pool. Out of nowhere
a man jumps at her, trying to stop her. Not content with having trespassed
a military zone, she fights the man and Paul helps her beat him senseless
(without even asking why he was so upset by their action).
While the two are surveying the drained pool, the man they left at the lab
recovers, jumps in their car and drives away like a maniac. He overturns
the car and is rescued by Maggie and Paul, but refuses to explain why he
is so scared. Not content with having trespassed government property,
caused damage and beaten a stranger, Maggie and Paul tie him to a bed.
Downriver the counselor of a summer camp is trying to convince a girl to
swim in the river, but the girl is afraid of "things" in the water.
An old fisherman is suddenly swallowed into the water by something.
In the meantime Paul is torturing the scientist, Hoak, who finally tells him
the truth: the military base was created to breed deadly fish to be used in
war. When the base was closed, Hoak continued to breed piranhas in the pool.
When Paul and Maggie drained the pool, they released the piranhas in the river.
Proof of the story is that Paul and Maggie, surveying the river on Paul's
raft, soon find the dead body of the
fisherman: his legs have been eaten out. Now Paul and Maggie lecture the
scientist that his experiment might kill civilians. They seem totally
incapable of realizing that their stupidity is what released the piranhas.
When the scientist dares tell them that they are the ones who pulled the plug,
Paul simply threatens to hit him again.
They soon find another victim, a father who was devoured under the eyes of
his child. Hoak dives in the water to rescue the child and dies in seconds
but gives the ridiculous couple enough time to haul the child safely onto
their raft. Paul runs to alert the people of the dam and they call the
military. Troops arrive, led by a colonel and by a female scientist, who
turns out to be Hoak's colleague and lover. They de facto arrest Paul and
Maggie, who have become the only civilians to know about the top-secret
project. Paul tries in vain to prove to them that the piranhas can find a
way downstream around the dam. Paul and Maggie escape at night using a
dirty trick (Maggie shows her tits to a guard).
They are driving like maniacs in the night when the sheriff stops them for
speeding. Because Paul is a notorious drunkard, the sheriff does not believe
their story (that they are desperately trying to
alert the summer camp, where, it turns out, Paul's daughter is also camping)
and puts them in jail. Luckily Maggie remembers another trick and manages
to knock out the sheriff and free Paul too. They rush to the camp. On the
way, Paul realizes that the piranhas are aiming for the ocean: then nothing
will stop them. The children are in the water, except the one who was afraid.
Paul and Maggie are driving as fast as possible (in a police car).
They arrive too late: the piranhas have already attacked the children and
killed several. The child who was afraid to swim heroically saves a counselor
but cannot save her best friend. When Paul and Maggie finally arrive,
Paul hugs the child: it turns out it is his daughter (what a telepathic
coincidence that his own daughter was the one sensing the danger from the
very beginning). Now they have to save the people who are inaugurating a
new tourist resort further down the river. Maggie calls the owner, but the
owner does not believe her and has no intention of shutting down his
investment. Moments later the piranhas strike, killing scores of guests.
Paul and Maggie are late again. Ignoring the carnage, they jump in a yacht
and take off at high speed. Paul wants to release some deadly chemicals
in the river that will kill the piranhas (obviously he hasn't learned the
lesson that one has to think about the consequences before unleashing
dangerous stuff). He survives his heroic dive to break the container and
the white fog starts spreading in the water. The female scientist, interviewed
on tv, tells the public that there is nothing to fear: the piranhas will never
be able to reach the ocean.
The Howling (1981) is a classic of werewolf movies.
He directed an episode titled It's a Good Life in The Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), the adaptation of a popular TV series.
Gremlins (1984) is an implausible fairy tale with some gruesome scenes
but mostly more closely related to comedic semi-scifi films like Back to the Future.
It is almost Christmas.
A white man is visiting Chinatown and is taken by a kid into the basement-level shop of the kid's grandfather. The white man is an inventor and tries to sell
one of his inventions to the grandfather, who doesn't say a word. The inventor
hears noises and finds a strange creature locked in a cage. He needs a
Christmas gift for his son and offers a lot of money for the pet, but the
grandfather refuses saying that the pet, called a "mogwai", requires a lot of responsibility.
When the grandfather walks away, his grandson sells the pet to the white man, but warns him that the mogwai hates light, cannot touch water and should never
be fed after midnight.
The man drives back to his suburban home where his wife is struggling with the kitchen appliances that he has invented.
His son Billy is a teenager who has a dog, works at the local bank and paints comics as a side job.
His dog just messed up the snowman of the richest woman in town and she swears
revenge. The dog, that Billy is hiding under his desk, frees itself and attacks the woman, causing even more trouble for Billy, who almost gets fired.
Meanwhile, Billy's friend Kate works at the local saloon.
When father returns home, he gives Billy the mogwai and Billy names it "Gizmo".
Billy loves the affectionate pet and quickly learns that it hates light.
One evening Billy shows Gizmo to a younger friend who accidentally spills water on it. Gizmo goes into a sort of coma and ejects five balls of flesh that
quickly grow up as mogwais.
Mesmerized, Billy brings one of the cubs to the science teacher of the local
high school, who proceeds to examine it. When Billy leaves, the teacher
uses a syringe to extract blood from a paw in order to conduct a blood test.
The other four cubs in Billy's room are lovely and mischievious while Gizmo
is recovering in Billy's bed. Billy wakes up in the middle of the night
hearing his dog whining and finds it hanging outside from Christmas lights.
Another night, when the clock shows that it's not yet midnight, they demand food.
The following morning Billy finds four disgusting cocoons on the floor instead
of the four cubs, and realizes that the mischievious cubs had cut the power
chord of his clock: they tricked him into feeding them after midnight.
At the same time the cub caged in the high school manages to get hold of
the remnants of a sandwhich left by the teacher on a counter, and this cub too
eats after midnight, and this cub too turns into a cocoon.
The teacher is excited by the discovery and proceeds to examine the cocoon.
During a class, the cocoon comes alive. Luckily the students are just about
to leave for the Christmas vacation when the cocoon hatches. The creature that
is born devours the teacher. We don't see it yet.
Billy finds the teacher dead and is attacked in turn by the creature, which now we see as a small evil monster, a "gremlin".
Billy realizes that his mother is in danger. In fact, the four cocoons at home
have turned into similar gremlins and are attacking his mother, but his mother
outsmarts three of them killing them in gruesome manners (one in the blender,
one in the oven and one simply stabbed to death). The fourth one is about to
kill her when Billy arrives to save her.
Billy sets out to find the surviving gremlin, following the pawtracks on
the snowy streets, and finds him inside the local YMCA.
During the fight, the gremlin falls into a swimming pool, which has a lot of
water and spawns a lot of gremlins.
The gremlins scatter all over town.
Billy rushes to the police station and tries in vain to convince the sheriff
that gremlins are loose in the streets.
The sheriff, however, is called when a couple gets mysteriously killed by
a snowplow. And on his way to the home of this couple he sees the rich woman ejected from a window of her house. And we see that both incidents have been caused by evil gremlins, who seem to quickly learn how to misuse machines.
Then the sheriff sees explosion all over town and flees.
Kate is being harassed at the saloon where dozens of gremlins are getting drunk and having fun. She has to serve them alcohol, terrified. Then she finds a
camera and realizes that the flashlight makes them faint and so she manages
to escape. She finds Billy outside and together they hide in the bank.
Kate tells Billy that she always hated Christmas because her father died on
Christmas's Eve trying to impersonate Santa Claus in their home's chimney.
Billy and Kate walk outside and look for the gremlins. They find them all in
the movie theater, where they accidentally started the projection of Disney's
"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs".
Billy opens a gas pipe and sets a fire which causes an explosion where all
the gremlins are killed... except one who had preferred to indulge in the sweets of a candy store in the local mall. Billy tells Kate to look for the switch
to turn on the lights and chases the gremlin through the maze of rooms.
All the time Billy has been carrying Gizmo in his backpack, protecting it
from the evil gremlins. Gizmo escapes and rides a toy car through the mall,
looking for Billy. Finally, Billy and the gremlin face each other in a sort
of duel. The gremlin outsmarts Billy and is about to kill him with a chainsaw
when Gizmo arrives and opens a sunlight, causing the gremlin to lose control.
Meanwhile Billy's father was at a convention of inventors, surrounded by inventors who had much more sophisticated inventions (including a talking robot) and
is now driving back home.
Billy finds the gremlin by the fountain of the mall.
Kate finds the switch to turn on all the lights and the gremlin dies in the fountain before it can create cocoons... or maybe not (the dog sees something bubbling in the water).
The old Chinese man shows up angry, having seen the news on television that
the town was devastated by "hysteria" and having guessed the truth. He speaks
to Gizmo, who understands his language, and takes it away.
Billy's father apologizes, feeling bad for all the trouble that he caused to
his town. The Chinese man scolds him for being irresponsible and tells Billy
that he may some day be ready to take Gizmo back.
Explorers (1985) is an unusual sci-fi movie in which the protagonists are children. It was followed by the sci-fi comedy
The Burbs (1989) is a black comedy.
Gremlins 2 (1990)
Small Soldiers (1998) is a sci-fi movie in which toys become sentient beings.
Homecoming (2005) was a one-hour television episode.
The Hole (2009) was a 3D movie.
Burying the Ex (2014) is a lame zombie comedy.
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