It’s Christmas, 1984, and a man believes he has the perfect gift for his son: a strange creature bought from a strange man in a strange shop. The creature comes with its own set of rules, which must not be broken, for which no reason is given. But soon enough, the rules have been broken anyway, and all Hell is breaking loose as the creatures multiply, escape, and wreak havoc.
Yeah, that’s a film you’ve seen before. Here are some of the differences: these creatures are called “Fookahs”, not Gremlins; they only have one rule (“Don’t put them in the same cage”), not three; they don’t transform from cute to toothy, instead being both at once; the father and son in this film have a poor relationship, the dad being an alcoholic the son blames for the mother’s death; the son is only 15 despite looking 25, whereas Zach Galligan’s Billy Peltzer was old enough to work at the bank.
Other differences you might note include an obnoxious desperation for laughs that come from obvious, coarse humour, side-by-side with a distinct meanness of spirit where the source material offered anarchic good fun. Phoebe Cates’ famous speech, “And that was how I found out there was no Santa Claus”, was a perfectly-pitched setpiece of dark humour, aided by a subtle performance that understood that the way to get laughs is not to play for them. The humour here is no less dark, but it is random, loud, and in-your-face, coming from uniformly terrible actors. There are no jokes in the movie, just invocations of suicide, STDs, alcoholism, and sexual betrayal: not subjects devoid of humour in themselves, but certainly not subjects that work as a punchline in their own right, which is how they’re lazily used here. It’s lazy, anyway, to try to spoof a spoof, especially when the approach is simply to do-over the original and add gross-out humour. If Gremlins was a smart, scary, fun, funny movie like Scream, then this is Scary Movie. In both cases, no familiarity with the original is required as long as one recognises the basic template, as none of its qualities are skewered; instead, it serves as an interchangeable “theme” for jokes that are, well, lazy (in Scary Movie’s case this became extremely apparent when the sequels were able to recycle the same jokes while ostensibly parodying entirely different films and subgenres). Equally lazy is the design of the Fookahs, who more closely resemble evil Tribbles than either Mogwai or Gremlins, and, given the disjointed, perfunctory nature of the story, they might have been the only thing left worth watching. “The Fookahs will return”, promise the end credits, but it hardly seems likely.
Will you be checking Scary Little Fuckers out? Let us know your thoughts in that comment box below!