Never get them wet.
Keep them away from bright lights.
And no matter how much they cry. No matter how much they beg. Never, ever feed them after midnight.
Almost 20 years after we first heard these instructions, these words have become a staple in our culture. They helped spawned hundreds of toys, tee shirts, and even a sequel. Does the movie live up to the hype it created? Why, yes, it does.
Everyone knows the story of Gremlins. Billy, a 20-something bank employee, lives with his housewife mother and his father who makes bad inventions. Billy’s father decides to surprise him with something special for Christmas, which is none other than little Gizmo. Gizmo is cute and cuddly but comes with some very weird instructions. One by one, the rules are broken, and all of a sudden, we have a herd of Gremlins on our hands.
Gremlins is a horror-comedy that achieves a balance not since seen. It offers enough thrills to please even the most well-seasoned horror fan, but not enough to terrify even the biggest ‘fraidy cat. The special effects and puppetry are rather incredible, even by today’s standards. In fact, I dare say they were better. If Gremlins was made today, there is little doubt that the gremlins would be created with CGI. This would be a travesty, as we never would have seen some of the best puppetry work ever captured on 35mm. Then there is the pure logic factor. As tangible effects, such as puppets, look much more real than something intangible, such as CGI, the 20-year old gremlins look far more realistic than almost any computerized modern monster today.
The script itself needs to be commended. It is not often you see a monster movie that has a heart. Despite the spooky exterior, the film gives a very heartwarming message... which is apparently not to let your moigwai drive his Barbie convertible while under the influence of fried chicken. Or something. Oh, and there was some stuff about family at Christmas too. Regardless, this “sensitive side of Gremlins” could not have been achieved without the all star cast. Phoebe Cates and Zach Galligan were perfect “kids next door”. Judge Reinhold is rather typecast the “pricky rich-boy”. Not to mention, Dick Miller is perfectly hysterical as the “slightly tapped” next-door neighbor. As any seasoned film fan knows, special effects can only take you so far, but a dynamite cast is what makes a film a legend. This is exactly the case with Gremlins. Gremlins ultimately worked because you felt like this was happening to people you know. Of course, my friends see gremlins normally. But that’s because they have grown a fondness for mind-altering drugs. Or they are just nut jobs. Hard to tell.
This movie caused a resurgence of monster-orientated films. C.H.U.D. , Critters, and the like all seem to come-out-of-the-woodwork after this movie. While none met with the block-buster success that Gremlins did, they offered a new kind of “monster-cinema” for the 80’s generation. As a horror-buff first and a film fan second, I personally enjoyed this transformation. Not to mention, the success of Gremlins caused a sequel to be made in the late-80’s where Christopher Lee (a personal favorite of mine, for those of you living under a rock) plays the hysterically-crazed Dr. Catheter.
Chances are, if you live on this planet, you have already seen this movie. However, if you need a reason to watch it again, here’s a few: the special effects are superior than any of the special effects nowadays, the acting is top notch, and the film is gleefully-chilling, but won’t give the little ones nightmares. A perfect family horror film by all counts, this movie really holds up well under time. Take some time and enjoy this classic, again. Just make sure that tapping in the furnace isn’t really a Gremlin...