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Gremlins (1984)

  Tags: Chris Columbus, christmas, comedic, Corey Feldman, family, Gremlins, holidays, Joe Dante, Phoebe Cates, Steven Spielberg, winter, Zach Galligan

Your rating: None Average: 7 (11 votes)
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Joe Dante
106 minutes
Hoyt Axton, John Louie, Keye Luke, Don Steele, Susan Burgess, Scott Brady, Arnie Moore, Corey Feldman, Harry Carey Jr., Zach Galligan, Dick Miller, Phoebe Cates

If you live on the East Coast like myself, you were hit with the wrath of that elusive whore known as “snow” this past weekend.  What better time to have a classic holiday film marathon?  So between the killer Santas and wondering what exactly Billy did do with Agnes, I felt it time to revisit one of my childhood favorites.  Gremlins was a creature feature that parents assumed would be kid friendly due to Steven Speilberg’s name being all over the damn thing.  And while Speilberg’s beyond apparent influences are there (and the weakest aspects of the film) this mean spirited horror-comedy still stands the test of time…for the most part.

Inventor Randall Peltzer is in search of a unique Christmas gift for his son, Billy.  What he finds is a cute, little creature called a mogwai.  Named Gizmo, the mogwai comes with three simple rules;  Keep it away from bright lights, don’t get it wet, and especially don’t feed it after midnight.  Clearly the rules are mistakenly broken and little Gizmo spawns more mogwai once he becomes wet, and they in return transform into Gremlins after devouring fried chicken after midnight.  Gremlins run amok as Billy (Waxwork’s Zach Galligan) and his babe-alicious coworker, Kate (mmmm…Phoebe Cates) try to stop them.  Hilarity ensues.  It’s kind of sad to see that Galligan’s career never really took off as he is quite good.  And what the hell happened to Ms. Cates?  Please come back.

Joe Dante is a man that most horror fans are familiar with.  Not only did he bring us The Howling, but also the campy creature classic Piranha.  If his past filmography shows us anything it’s that the man can make a well paced movie, showing every dollar of the budget on screen.  Gremlins is no exception.  The movie swiftly moves along with every minute more entertaining than the previous.  Shot for eleven million dollars in 1984, that was still a rather modest budget for a big studio release like this and Gremlins looks like a bid budgeted blockbuster.  The puppet creature effects are top notch and I’d hate to see what a CGI mess a modern day remake would look like.

Screenwriter Chris Columbus went on to become a prolific director in his own right, with a career littered with hits and misses...Oh Bicentennial Man, you are atrocious.  Between this and The Goonies, maybe he should have stuck to writing?  His script is littered with creative ideas and a good sense of humor.  And the most evasive of filmmaking elements…ORIGINALITY…dun dun dun!  Who doesn’t get a kick of watching those darling gremlins drinking like rapist frat boys?  Or seeing that old lady get hurtled out of her house like a wrinkly fire cracker?  Brilliance!

This over the top humor mixed with the violent nature of the title characters meld extremely well together in creating quite a fetching tone.  The weakest spots are what can only be described as the Speilberg influences.  I can go on and on about why I think he’s overrated, but I can’t deny that the man knows exactly what mainstream American audiences want to see.  Sadly that is usually the opposite of what I like to see. 

Any little bit of research on wiki or the imdb can tell you all you need to know about what the movie would have been like before his involvement and, while some aspects were better left in the paper shredder, there a few fucked up elements I would have much rather have seen in the finished product.  The mom’s decapitated head bouncing down the stairs for instances.  While I greatly enjoy the movie, it’s just walks the line of a cutesy, family friendly good time a little too closely for my tastes.

Though minimally dated, Gremlins still holds up as being one helluva entertaining creature feature chased with a biting dark humor, despite being a little too family friendly at times.  A Christmas must.

Posted on December 24, 2009 - 11:06am | Johnny D