Minature green monsters tear through the small town of Kingston Falls. Hijinks ensue as a mild-mannered bank teller releases these hideous loonies after gaining a new pet and violating two of three simple rules: No water, no food after midnight, and no bright light. Hilarious mayhem and destruction in a town straight out of Norman Rockwell. So, when your washing machine blows up or your TV goes on the fritz, before you call the repair man, turn on all the lights and look under all the beds. 'Cause you never can tell, there just might be a gremlin in your house.
Directed by: Joe Dante
. Starring: 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
, Polly Holliday
. Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
It's quite fitting that Joe Dante's "Gremlins" features many scenes of people watching black-and-white classics on mini-TV sets, one is "It's a Wonderful Life" (of course, it's Christmas time) and another is "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" ("they're here already, you're next!). It's fitting because in a way, "Gremlins" is like a Christmas movie victim of schizophrenia, trying to swim in waters that couldn't have been more different, a Capra-like Family Christmas film and a Sci-fiFantasy monster B-movie, appealing to kids and moms with so many 'ow'-inducing moments and to teens and young adults with gross violence, only redeemed by its wicked sense of humor.
But as twisted as it sounds, the film works and now, it exudes the same classic vibes as these very classics I mentioned, now that the 80's are like the 50's in the 80's. And that's "Gremlins" greatest accomplishment in my opinion, it takes me back to a time that will never be again, and it has nothing to do with chronology, but with a sense of innocent fun that I feel has deserted movies and TV programs as well. It's the kind of film that constantly reminds you of the first time you saw it, and your emotions when you discovered this strange big-eyed creature named Gizmo, perhaps the cutest cinematic creation since R2D2, an improved version of the Ewoks with a Disney-eque touch.
I'll never forget that winter morning when I was having my breakfast, my father had just recorded the film the previous night, and before going to school, he was in a hurry to show me the first part, and it started with the gift-moment, which till now, remains one of my favorite Christmas scenes ever. It has everything: a family reunion, the lights being turned off giving it a strangely ominous atmosphere, and the little noise inside the package adding to the suspense, not to mention that haunting whistle tune that will never fail to shed a few tears whenever I hear it. Little Gizmo's entrance is one of the most defining moment of the 80's, and most irresistible too.
And Gizmo didn't need any computer support, looking like a cute puppet with lips and eyes movements, so well done that you were convinced you were watching a living creature, so the film doesn't overplay the special effects on that level. The gift scene goes on as the mother (Frances Lee McCain) takes a picture of the creature but the bright light startles Gizmo who immediately seeks refuge into Billy's arms, which is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. The father (Hoyt Axton) just remembers there are three rules to respect regarding the Mogwai, and I still see my father telling me to pay attention, rising his index finger as if I was the one to take care of Gizmo, so I religiously listened to the rules: no bright lights, no water and of course, no food after midnight.
I was young enough not to tell the 'absurdity' of the midnight clause, but smart enough to guess that each of these rules would be broken sooner or later and things would go out on control, yet I didn't finish the film until the year after. My father told me the movie was creepy and after another viewing, even as an adult, I can tell that the little one I was would have been scared by the film. It's a pity that a story that has so much charm and delight to offer in the first part, gets so hideously violent after, even in a fun way. Yet there is a scene where a kid played by Corey Feldman is first amazed by Gizmo but then he quickly loses interest and starts reading a comic-book, there had to be some horror and the cute material was only the set-up (although it's what I love the most about "Gremlins").
All the horrific events are still enjoyable and were cleverly sugarcoated by Chris Columbus' script, but I just love the non-violent parts, starting with this opening scene in the China Antiques store where the father's discovery feels like a moment borrowed from Indiana Jones (not a surprise when you know who produced the film). I love the Capra-esque look of small snow-covered town Kingston Falls and her Mr. Potter-like figure, an old hag who's the only human antagonist. And then you have Zach Galligan as Billy, and that was a perfect casting, there's so much likability conveyed by his wide-eyed naive eyes and his timid smile that his bonding with Gizmo feels genuine and real, and their interactions contribute to the film's best moments.
"Gremlins" is full of tenderness and that little piano moment remains my favorite one. There is also a great friendship between Billy and his girlfriend played by Phoebe Cates, and what is more interesting than these two characters (certainly less flashy than the Gremlins) is that they remain as vulnerable and human at the end of the film as when it started. They never turn into some last-minute super heroes, and the last scene takes us back to what makes the film such an endearing classic, it's the perfect emotional reward and it's done in a simple and clever way, letting the final voice-over introducing that "Gremlins" so Un-Christmas-like score.
"Gremlins" owes its existence to the monster-premise, no one would have cared about cute little creatures otherwise, but it's for the cute moments that I'm sure the film is still appreciated and beloved. It also reminds of the 80's where even monsters-films could afford to be cute, and special effects could be amazing without CGI, and when we could come up with new inventive creature and amazement to the eyes without rebooting or remaking old stuff. And to twice the nostalgia effect, the film doesn't just remind me of this time, but of that first time I saw it.
Review by ElMaruecan82 from the Internet Movie Database.