ByRyan Gavalier, writer at

Joe Dante has made a name for himself with many different genres of the movie business, but his most remembered films are arguably the ones of the horror category. Dante has a very different way of creating these movies, because he uses satirical humor to make a balance with the gruesome violence. I honestly feel that he had films that hit the nail right on the head, and others that were mediocre at best. Below, I will list off the three horror flicks that Dante made, and I will give a short analysis and criticism of each one.

1. "Gremlins"- The most recent film on this list, and also the best, this 1984 classic really showed that Dante learned to make a great horror movie. I grew up with this film, and have probably seen it about 50 times, because it does not get old at all. It is funny, gruesome, interesting, and memorable for a plethora of reasons. I think that the first reason this film was so much better than the others on this list was Chris Columbus' screenplay. Columbus showed off some series chops with his witty dialogue and great plot twists. I feel that the screenplays were slightly lacking in the other two films, and they were both coincidentally written by John Sayles. Another thing that made this movie superior was the casting. Every single actor in this film brought out the best in their co-workers. Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates both had a fantastic chemistry together, and this alone made an awesome foundation for characters that we really cared about. Dick Miller had been a frequent in Joe Dante films before, but I feel this was his shining moment. He brought so much comic relief to the movie, and he became his character. Another thing that made this movie really special was the musical score by Jerry Goldsmith. I felt like this played such a huge part in making the mood of the film, and it was done brilliantly. The opening scene had been dark, and there was suspicious music to go along with it. Then just a moment later, "Christmas" by Darlene Love comes on, and lifts your holiday spirits high as you see the simple town in winter wonderland. Throughout the rest of the film, the evil "Gremlins Theme" comes on as horrid things happen, and it is such a perfect fit for the movie. Overall, this is Dante's masterpiece, and it is an accomplishment that should hold him to very high esteem.

2. "Piranha"- For the second best Joe Dante horror film, I chose his second directing effort; the 1978 cult classic "Piranha." This movie was very inferior to "Gremlins," but it is nonetheless an extremely enjoyable film that I really love. The first thing that makes this film great was its special effects. The piranhas were so simply made. They were rubber fishes with sticks at the end of them, yet they were perfect for the attack scenes. The blood and gore also looked great, and made for some very disgusting images. The next thing that was stellar about this movie was the cinematography. There are some really amazing shots throughout the film, whether it is the menacing moments of the camera looking up at the legs before an attack, or the claustrophobic close-up shots of flesh being torn to pieces. All of these really make the viewer feel like they're looking through the monsters' eyes. The acting was also pretty good, because the performances were convicting enough to make one relate to the characters. My favorite star of the film was Kevin McCarthy, because he gave an insane performance, and the viewer really grew to love him as the movie went on. The characters in this movie were also superior to the subjects of the third film on this list, because we had a slight caring for them. The reason for this isn't in the people themselves, but rather their life stories. It is impossible to not share the same nervousness that Paul has, because his daughter Suzie is in a lot of danger, and she is an adorable little child. The first thing that the movie was weak in was a lack of balance in the humor and scares. I think that there were some very funny jokes at times, but not enough to make it a fully successful satire. The other problem in the writing is that there are a few dry spots. While they don't ruin the film as a whole, they definitely make those few moments a drag. Overall, this is still an essential for horror fans, but it isn't as special to me as "Gremlins."

3. "The Howling"- Now for the film that could've been a masterpiece, but just wasn't. "The Howling" is a cult classic for many horror fans(I will admit to liking it somewhat), but there was so much more potential that was ruined by flaws. To start things off positively, the film looks great. The cinematography is beautiful, the settings and the PRACTICAL effects are very well done(yes I am poking fun at the terrible animated sequence). The attack scenes were especially vicious, and they bring a lot of jump moments for the viewer. The overall plot of the film was actually very good too, as its root of evil in the story really gives a bunch of surprises. Now for the negatives... First off, the writing was terrible. None of the characters got the development they needed, so even if the performance was well done, there was no possibility of caring about them. There were way more dry spots than in "Piranha," and I feel like this actually hurt the film a lot. There were some funny jokes throughout, but the intended dark comedy turned more silly than anything. One of the biggest comedic failures was the transformation scene. I feel like this could have been much funnier if it was done in moderation. The scene went too long, and it just looks more like a terrible accident than a joke. Overall, this film has its definite merits, but it is definitely the weakest of the three.

As you can see, Joe Dante has done some amazing things for the genre, and he has done others that weren't as great. It is safe to say that a lot of the flaws that came about in the latter two films were still him testing the water, as "Gremlins" was his later masterpiece.

What do you think of these three films? Was I on point? Or do you disagree?


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