Downright scary

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 April, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 April, 1994, 12:00am

DIRECTOR Joe Dante lets rip in Gremlins (Pearl, 9.30pm), a film which is no more aimed at children, bless their cotton socks, than was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Return of the Killer Tomatoes.

It starts nicely enough. A boy (Zach Galligan) buys a furry animal, called Gizmo, from a mysterious old Chinese man in an antique shop. Then things get nasty. Gizmo is cute, but the offspring that spring from him like bullets from a machine gun are murderous. Soon there are so many of them they have taken over Galligan's picture-postcard home town and turned it into a living hell, somewhere between rush hour Bangkok and Alien.

Dante holds nothing back. Gremlins is a dizzying, enthralling and sometimes hilarious homage to the kitsch Hollywood monster movies of the 50s. It is also downright scary.

The big scenes are memorable, particularly the one in the cinema. Dante shows special concern for the safe use of microwave ovens.

Gremlins is being shown as part of Pearl's tribute to Steven Spielberg because he was executive producer. He makes a cameo (as does Robby The Robot) but you will have to be quick to catch it.

In Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Dante ensures that the beasties meet a sticky end. We cannot help but feel a little sad for them. They may be nasty, but they know how to party.

PIERCE Brosnan, last seen choking on nouvelle cuisine alongside Robin Williams in Mrs Doubtfire, chokes on his smooth-guy image in the 1988 Merchant Ivory production The Deceivers (World, 9.30pm), a bomb with an Indian flavour.

Brosnan, mildly amusing in a ham-fisted way in Mrs Doubtfire, plays intrepid Englishman William Savage, a tax collector for the British East India Company in 1825 who decides collecting taxes is every bit as boring as it sounds. So he single-handedly exposes the ancient and bloodthirsty cult of the Thuggee, people who perform horrific rituals and sacrifices.

Savage dresses up as a native, infiltrates the cult, is accepted by the Thuggee leader, and then presumably nabs him for back taxes. The Deceivers, unlikely as it sounds, is based on a true story. It was adapted from the John Masters novel of the same name and also stars Saeed Jaffrey.

DO not remove your tin helmet. There is another bomb on the way. Body Rock (World, 1.50am) stars Lorenzo Lamas, whose greatest credit is the television soap Falcon Crest, as Chilly D, a streetwise New York teenager who wants quick prestige and an easyfortune.

He goes about it in an unconventional manner, painting graffiti on subway cars and dancing at a local club, called the Rhythm Nation. In Singapore they have ways of dealing with young men like Chilly, but in the US he is discovered by a talent scout and so begins a dizzying rise to mediocrity.

The finale, for those of you who do not make it to the end, is a ''rapstravaganza'', at which Chilly sneaks on to the stage and steals the show.

DIRECTOR Gene Saks won a Tony award for his stage direction of the play Brighton Beach Memoirs. His film version (Pearl, 12.55am) suffers from the same problems that have plagued so many stage plays turned into movies. It is static. The most memorableexample was Death of a Salesman, in which Dustin Hoffman over-acted himself into an early grave.

Brighton Beach Memoirs, set in 1937, stars Jonathan Silverman as a teenager living with his parents, his aunt and her two daughters in the Coney Island area of Brighton Beach. It has a modest nostalgic appeal, but Neil Simon's screenplay seems to be justa series of incidents, a lot of arguing and fewer laughs than we have come to expect from him.