Day 8: Gremlins (1984)

Charles 12 Days of Christmas Movie Reviews, 2016, Classics, Reviews 3 Comments

It’s Day 8 and that means it’s time for Gremlins!!
Depending on whether you agree with Topher’s review on White Christmas and it NOT being a “Christmas movie” or Kelley’s review of It’s a Wonderful Life and it NOT being about Christmas, Gremlins might be the third non-Christmas movie on our list. Personally, I think they’re all Christmas films, but the argument could be made that if you can replace Christmas in a film with any other holiday and have little or no change on the plot, then it’s not really about Christmas and thus not a true Christmas movie.
To me, this is akin to colorizing a black-and-white film. Sure, it can be done, and the plot doesn’t change, but that movie was specifically created to look like that, with costumes and set design that photographed best in black-and-white. In that vein, White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, Gremlins and Die Hard were all written to take place during the Christmas season, and if you were to alter that, you are inherently changing the movie and what the creators envisioned (even if it might not be apparent).
So, I’ll emphatically defend Gremlins as a Christmas movie… and I guess not colorizing black-and-white movies as well.
Gremlins is the blended, twisted creation of director Joe Dante, producer Steven Spielberg, and writer Chris Columbus and their unique influence is clear throughout the entire thing. It also happens to be a fantastic film that blurs the line between being a heartwarming family movie and a gory, frightening film more suited for adults. This is, after all, one of a handful of films in the early 80s that helped lead to the creation of the “PG-13” rating in the U.S. (the other prominent one being Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. What’s up, Spielberg??).
Inventor Randall Peltzer is looking for the perfect Christmas gift for his son Billy. In an eerie and strange shop, he discovers a creature known as a “Mogwai,” but the owner of the shop doesn’t want to sell it. After some back alley dealings with the shop owner’s grandson, Randall is able to purchase the Mogwai, but is given three rules he must follow:

  • Keep him out of bright light (especially sunlight).
  • Don’t get him wet.
  • Don’t feed him after midnight.
  • Naturally, not along after Billy receives the Mogwai (which he names Gizmo), he breaks all of these rules. It wouldn’t be a very good movie if all of these rules were followed and the mysterious shop owner’s foreshadowing didn’t come true, right??
    The lights in the bathroom prove too bright for Gizmo, but it’s when he gets him wet that the real trouble begins. You see, when water is accidentally spilled on Gizmo, more Mogwai pop out of his back. When these other Mogwai are accidentally fed after midnight, they form a cocoon and go through a metamorphosis to become a larger creature… the Gremlin! Soon, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of them wreaking mischievous havoc all throughout the town of Kingston Falls. And only Billy, his girlfriend Kate, and Gizmo can stop them!!
    I love this movie.
    I love the strange homages it makes to other films and cartoons (not unlike what Dante did in The Howling). I love that Dick Miller is used to great effect, even giving the reason the creatures are named Gremlins. I love Kate’s bizarre story of how her father died (similar to her Abraham Lincoln memory in Gremlins 2) and I love how much fun it is!! A room full of Gremlins singing “Heigh Ho” while watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?? I mean, what’s not to love????
    Seriously, watch this movie this holiday season, especially if you’ve never seen it before!!
    Tomorrow is Day 9 and Kelley will be reviewing a movie we disagree on: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!!

    CharlesDay 8: Gremlins (1984)

    Comments 3

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    1. Micah

      Oh Gremlins…such fond memories. As a kid I grew up adoring this movie, memorized most of it. I haven’t watch it in about 20 years and I would equate it to Boo Berry cereal. Something I have recollection of loving it but try it again as an adult and it’s not as great as you remember.
      So let me start with THE STORY IS ALL OVER THE PLACE. First, I am convinced that Chris Columbus wrote the part of Billy as a kid about 13 then the studio decided it would be too graphic to put a kid in that kind of danger and made them change it to a young adult. But his age is the ONLY thing they changed for the character. He is still a man-child, hangs out with Corey Feldman, goes to a middle school science teacher for advice and is a general dumbass. Second, the gremlin rules have so many holes: Rule 1 – Avoid bright lights/sunlight. The kitchen (or horror) is just as bright or brighter than the bathroom and living room. Rule 2 – don’t get them wet. They drink, run in the snow, in the bar scene alone they get beer splashed all over them. Rule 3 – don’t feed them after midnight. I agree with Mark, what time zone is the constant here? And isn’t “midnight” an abstract concept? How does a Mogwai’s biology know the difference between 11:59pm and 12:00am? Third thing is the strange character swings. Kate is the perky good charity girl who wants to “open up her wrists at Christmas time” and whose dad died in the traumatic (and darkly funny) way – which by the way, this story has absolutely no effect emotionally on Billy. The mom goes from quiet, timid house wife one second, gets a call from Billy saying the Gremlins have hatched and the next SECOND decides she needs to not only kill them all but brutally massacre them. Side point, they do not provoke her in any way. She turns the blender on one THEN they start fighting back. For all we know, they could have been harmless then saw their friend horrifically killed and said “Oh no! These humans are trying to kill us! Fight back!”
      Please people, watch this thing with the nostalgia glasses off! It is hilariously BAD!

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