Tuesday, 28 December 2010


Gremlins is a 1984 family movie starring Zack Galligan and Phoebe Cates and is directed by Joe Dante.

Trouble arrives in the small American town of Kingston Falls after Billy is given a Mogwai as a pet. Despite being told to keep it away from water and not to feed it after midnight, both of these things happen, resulting in a group of Gremlins taking over the town, causing mischief and mayhem.

There are 2 types of people in this world. Those who love  Gremlins, and those who haven't seen it yet. Seriously, is there anyone out there who doesn't love this film? It's a modern Christmas Holiday classic, like Die Hard. Not really about Christmas, but set during that holiday so you have an excuse to watch it every year.

Despite that last sentence, I hadn't seen this film for years, but as I caught a glimpse of it on TV the other night, I knew I had to hunt down my DVD so I could watch it again, and I am glad I did. There are so many great, classic moments in this film, and so many in-jokes hidden away in the background. My favourite moment is when the dad is at an inventors conference. In the space of about 3 seconds, we have Robbie The Robot from Forbidden Planet making a cameo, while Steven Spielberg drives by in a buggy, and the time machine from The Time Machine mysteriously disappearing in the background.

Other great moments include when all of the gremlins are in the cinema watching Snow White, and the infamous Death By Microwave scene. When the film came out in America, they had to create a new rating for it, the PG13, as it was too violent for young kids, but it's target audience would be unable to see it if they went for the higher rating of an R.

Gizmo himself is one of the cutest creatures ever committed to film. Usually, I hate deliberately cute things in films but I make an exception for Gizmo as he's just so cool and adorable. Just look at him. Who doesn't want a Gizmo of their own? Howie Mandel's voice work for Gizmo is great too, squeaking out "Bright Light" every so often. The person who came up with a Gizmo Furby toy was a genius.

Both Gizmo and the gremlins are bought to life using some incredible puppet work. If ever they were to do a remake or another sequel, and I really hope they don't unless the original director did it, then they would probably use CGI to bring them to life. Whether or not CGI would work nearly as well as puppets is debatable, but personally I don't think CGI gremlins will have the same charm that the puppets do. Having said that, in this day and age, will puppets be as convincing as they were back in the 80's?

The film isn't perfect though. It takes half an hour to really get going, and some of the characters just disappear completely. Judge Reinhold is a major part of those first 30 minutes, but once the gremlins appear, he disappears and is never mentioned again. Deleted scenes have him hiding in the bank. The first cut of the film lasted 2 hours and 40 minutes, so a lot had to be trimmed before release. It's a shame my DVD didn't include those lost scenes.

Zack Galligan is good as Billy, but there is a reason the actor has disappeared into obscurity as he can be quite bland. He did make some great films during the early 80's though. Waxwork and it's sequel are really enjoyable horror movies and definitely worth a watch. And the film he made after Gremlins, Nothing Lasts Forever is one of the weirdest movies I have ever seen. Worth checking out.

Phoebe Cates, however, is as stunning and adorable as always. Did anyone not have a crush on her when they were young? She was going to be a huge star, but then married Kevin Kline and retired to look after their kids. A great loss to cinema. Phoebe Cates contributes one of the films strangest and most famous moments, when she explains why she doesn't like Christmas. It's a moment so strange that it's brilliantly spoofed in the sequel.

The film's director, Joe Dante, is one of my favourite directors of all time. His movies are always great fun. His first horror movie, Piranha was one of the better Jaws rip offs and is a classic film in it's own right, recently spawning a 3D remake. The Howling, along with An American Werewolf In London, reinvented the Werewolf movie with some jaw dropping special effects and some surprising laughs. Innerspace made a star out of Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan and is one of the most inventive and enjoyable summer blockbuster ever made. He was also the man responsible for one of the all time great kids TV programs, Eerie Indiana. It's a shame that he's only made a handful of films since the 90's, and his most recent, The Hole, was a great family horror movie that failed to find a big audience. While writing this, I've just noticed that his film, Explorers, is on TV in an hour, so I may have to watch that.

IMDB currently gives Gremlins 7.1, but I am going to have to give it a far higher 9. The only reason I am not giving it a 10 is because Gremlins II, The New Batch is even better.

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