Film review: Gremlins (1984), directed by Joe Dante
Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) is an inventor, although his products aren’t quite there yet. He’s trying to flog his latest invention (think Swiss Army Knife meets toiletry bag) to Mr Wing (Keye Luke) in a curiosity shop in Chinatown. In the shop Peltzer finds an adorable, singing, furry creature – a Mogwai (voiced by Howie Mandel) – and wants to buy it as a Christmas present for his son. “With Mogwai comes great responsibility” is the sage advice, and after some negotiation Mr Wing reluctantly parts with the creature. Surely something that cute can’t possibly do any harm?
Billy (Zach Galligan) names his strange new pet Gizmo and they get along great. The rules he’s given are peculiar, to say the least: don’t get the Mogwai wet, don’t feed him after midnight however much he begs, and keep him away from bright lights. Of course, little Gizmo promptly gets wet accidentally, and when the first rule is broken the second being broken too isn’t far behind, and so the mayhem begins …
Also starring Phoebe Cates as Kate Beringer, Frances Lee McCain as Lynn Peltzer, Corey Feldman as Pete Fountaine, Dick Miller as Murray Futterman, and Polly Holliday as the nasty Ruby Deagle.
When you have Steven Spielberg “presenting” something, it’s normally good. Chris Columbus wrote the script, and the rest is history. After re-watching the sequel, Gremlins 2, earlier this year I wasn’t as keen on it as I once was, but fortunately my hang-ups with that film were absent from this one.
A recurring joke, you could say, is Kate’s tragic backstory. She hates Christmas for what turns out to be very valid reasons. She hasn’t exactly had an easy childhood, despite living in such an idyllic place as Kingston Falls!
Mrs Peltzer is blessed with a lot of patience. When spiteful, mean-spirited little monsters invade her home, she puts kitchen utensils to very good use. You go, girl! For a film you’d think was for a younger audience (theatre release was rated 12A in the UK, 15 in Sweden and PG in the US, Canada and Australia), it’s a very, very graphic film. Then again, they do say that kids can be surprisingly unphased by things us older people think will freak them out, while they can be terrified of the most mundane and ordinary things, like hoovers. Funny that.
Gremlins is a funny little Christmas film. It has all the tinsel and snow you could ask for – and of course scaly little sadistic monsters. Gizmo, though, is so insanely cute you can’t help but wishing Mogwai were real. Hrm, then again, a quick risk assessment would of course rule out ever having one as a pet, because chaos.
Rumour has it that a re-make is in the works, but there is very little information about it as of writing this. Sad as it is, and however much I think re-making films younger than myself is unnecessary and verging on sacrilegious, I would totally be up for going to see it at the cinema. Nowadays, Gizmo and the Gremlins would be all CGI no doubt, but it would allow the film makers to do things they couldn’t with a puppet, so that would be interesting in itself.
Still, as a Christmas monster horror film goes, Gremlins is a classic not to be missed.
4 out of 5 blenders.