Gremlins Rip-Offs – By Danny Runion

If I say Gremlins, do you think about an old Looney Toons cartoon or a Mogwi that is fed after midnight? The mid 80s saw Gizmo and Stripe as the marketing replacement for E.T. If the story ended there, it would be a footnote on an eBay auction page. Gremlins was immensely popular. Can you think of a popular movie that doesn’t inspire low budget knock-offs? E.T. rip-offs were always about helpful “cute” aliens. Somehow, those movies are very painful: Pod People, Nukie, and Mac & Me. How painful are they? Shoving a flaming branding iron in your eyes to keep from watching them is less painful.

The Gremlin rip-offs loved to have the little evil monsters terrorizing a group of teenagers. They would get tired and go after a small town when the mood struck them like in Critters 2. A small number of victims are more enticing to the little creatures than a huge human buffet. For some reason, humans are tastier than beef, chicken, or pork combined. Little evil monsters rush to a free meal in the same way a summer camp would bring Jason Voorhees.

The Gremlins inspired movies seem to have a lot in common with the killer toy genre. In fact, the timing of most killer toy movies seem to almost have come out of the Gremlins era. As the Gremlin rip-offs started to run out of steam. The idea of small killing things continued in its natural progression. The small killer animals got replaced with the small killing toys. The Ghoulie movies relied on a magic ceremony to bring them into our dimension which is very similar to the Childs Play and the Puppet Master series.

The monster effects were normally just simple puppets. Normally, they lacked the detail of the gremlin, Stripe. By shooting a cheesy hand puppet in the dark, it is hard to spot how terrible it looked. While the movie may call for the monster not to be clearly seen, it is commonly used as a cheat to hide how truly terrible the monster is. Cave Dwellers has a guy start fighting invisible monsters which is more entertaining than a hard to spot hand puppet attacking any disposal victim.

The Gremlins Series

Gremlins 2: the New Batch

If a wizened old Chinese guy refuses to sell you a strange creature, you shouldn’t buy it from his sneaky grandson. More than that, you should always obey the feeding rules for tiny cute creatures. If you ever wanted to watch Phoebe Cates being chased by vaguely reptilian monsters, these are the movies for you.

The Critters series

Critters 2: the Main Course
Critters 3
Critters 4

The evil carnivorous aliens won’t stop. They just keep coming back for desert. Our porcupine meat lovers terrorized Leonardo DiCaprio in Critters 3. In fact, Critters 4 was the first IN SPACE movie of the 90s. Hellraiser 4 and Leprechaun 4 almost would lead you to think only the 4th movie would be in space. A little film called Jason X brought the big name slasher into space.

The Ghoulies Series

Ghoulies 2
Ghoulies Go to College
Ghoulies IV

A number of little evil imps run amuck and cause trouble. This series is widely remembered for the original video cover featuring the Ghoulie attacking out of a toilet.


Hobgoblins is worse that a rip-off of a popular movie. It is a rip-off of the Gremlins rip-off, Ghoulies. Like a copy of a copy, all the fine details are smeared so badly the subtle nuances are gone. How much would anyone want to steal from a movie that is widely remembered for a toilet attack scene? Apparently far too much, if Hobgoblins is to be believed.

The direct to video market hasn’t had very many Gremlin rip-offs in the past few years. Far too many to name various killer animal movies have been unleashed like a plague of locusts. We need ugly puppets whacking annoying high schoolers and college kids. A slimy hand puppet mauling Freddie Prinze Jr. to death is something will unite our country and heal our wounds.