Zach Galligan is coming to save us. Not the Galligan you know, or don’t know, as the case may be. Not a Galligan at all, not really, but infinite worlds with infinite incarnations are confusing enough without quibbling over a name, without searching for the seam on the hero’s mask. Let him be Galligan, then, for it can be no other—there’s no mistaking those boyish good lucks, that charming smile, the glint of pure goodness that flashes in his eye…and the monsters that forever surround him.
The monsters are as constant as the hero, and as infinite. Sometimes they emerge from molds or make-up kits, latex-based lifeforms and automata birthed by cunning or computers. In other times, in other places, they are no less than what they appear, products of abominable evolution or chaotic technology that came squirming out of the same primeval darkness as the rest of us. In all times, in all places, though, their role remains unchanged, the puppetry of existence a constant no matter how visible the strings of primal programming or a sweaty technician.
The greatest ambition of our species is to refute this eternal pageant, to deny the monsters their due. Yet even our commitment to ascending beyond good and evil betrays our acknowledgement that false or no, the dichotomy is embedded in our brainstems. And so like our terrified ancestors desperately smashing rocks together in the depths of the cave, we seek to find and release the spark that will drive back the darkness. We need an explanation of psychology or biology or even tenuous spirituality that will give motive to the monstrous, because of all the horrors that befoul our reality none is so repugnant as that of pointless cruelty—even the concept of evil is an easy out, as it dismisses the very need for a reason.
The secret is that while there are as many explanations as there are monsters, knowing the wellspring of their bloodlust does nothing to slack it. Nothing does. Relentlessness is a defining characteristic.
We can’t look away, though, for dismissing their wanton barbarism as innate or unavoidable is even worse. All monsters feed on ignorance and fear—they want us to avert our eyes, to gibber and rave in panic. Instead we must hold their ravenous gaze, matching their every howl with an invocation for justice, for our truth is as bright as any torch and as any sharp as any pitchfork.
Yet while every monster has its own profane rules, any frightened child will tell you that learning these rubrics alone isn’t enough to overcome the powers of darkness… and some monsters refuse to stay dead, no matter how carefully you obey the eldritch laws. Monsters cheat, and so must we. Understanding them is not the same as forgiving them. That ultimately, pedantically, we are the worst monsters is all the more reason to be relentless in our confrontations, always vigilant that while some creatures can be saved with sanguine infusions others would rather burn like flashpaper flesh in the halogen light of the sun.
Daniel Clamp is one such monster. I was eight years old when I first encountered him, and he seemed harmless enough—downright toothless compared to his co-stars. My babysitter explained who he was supposed to be as we walked down Beaver Canyon after the movie, the summer sun warm and the green of the leaves bright after the cavernous cool of the theatre. It should have been an unremarkable cinematic footnote, this parody of an egomaniac ensconced in the tower he named after himself; a dated time capsule of a capitalist dark age. I should have been allowed to forget everything but the imaginary monsters.
Instead, Gremlins II: The New Batch served as my introduction to a monster of flesh and blood who would swell and swell, bloating and bloviating, until against all laws of human reason or even basic plausibility of plot he came to rule the world. In Joe Dante’s universe Daniel Clamp helps defeat the inhuman menace that has infested his tower, but in ours Clamp is nothing less than a gremlin king, possibly enhanced into coherence by a mutagenic brain serum and surrounded by a cohort of fiends far uglier than anything to ever come out of Rick Baker’s workshop.
We exist in a world where the monsters aren’t just real, they’ve won.
But only for now, because neither the character of Daniel Clamp nor the actor who plays him are the star of Gremlins II: The New Batch. Zach Galligan is. Zach Galligan proves monsters aren’t the only ones who can return for a sequel, and no matter where or how they manifest we must be ready to fight back.
Zach Galligan knows that horror movies don’t just exist so we can give a face to our nameless fears and give our anxieties a tidy if temporary resolution. Zach Galligan knows life is a horror movie…but he also knows that he’s the hero. You can see it all over his adorably cocky face as he smashes through dimensions, through genres, through celluloid curtains and digital files, through worlds as endless as the collective unconscious. Traveling through portals in time and space is a trick he picked up in Waxwork II: Lost in Time, and while no sane individual would argue that movie has a patch on the first one we aren’t living in sane times and would do well to take all the help we can get.
Zach Galligan is our eternal champion and he’s on his fucking way with Deborah Foreman and Phoebe Cates and David Warner and Dick Miller and werewolf-Bobby-Briggs and the ghost of Patrick Macnee and even Bruce Campbell, just for fucking starters. We’re in trouble, but help is coming. We just need to make it through the night, holding each other up and battling our way through the dawn.
Far-fetched? Absolutely—but we exist in a far-fetched timeline, one where all the rules we thought we knew about monsters no longer seem to apply. We must all find what sanctuary we can, and this is mine.
To paraphrase a paraphrase, horror is more than true - not because horror tells us gremlins exist, but because horror tells us gremlins can be messily defeated. By Zach Galligan. And he’s coming to save us…because he is us.
That’s the final twist. Underneath those ageless good looks, that devil-may-care smirk and strong chin? It’s you. You’re Zach Galligan. We all are.
And we’re not just going to save the fucking day—we’re going to make sure there’s a sequel.
Jesse Bullington is a frequent and beloved contributor to Pornokitsch. Wearing his Alex Marshall hat, he is the author of the Crimson Empire series. Under his own name, he's responsible for The Brothers Grossbart, The Folly of the World and The Enterprise of Death. Some of Jesse's early PK work can be found here and here and and as half of the 'Films of High Adventure' team.