Throwback Thursday – Gremlins
While technically Gremlins is a Christmas movie, it makes a perfect movie for the Halloween season. (I have always considered Halloween a gateway holiday to more intrusive and festive holidays…like Christmas.) Gremlins is a fun movie with some decent scares and moments of suspense, however none are too terribly intense by today’s standards.
At its core, Gremlins is a story of a young boy learning how to take care of his new pet. Billy Peltzer gets a pet as an early Christmas present from his dad. This pet is a Mogwai and comes with three rules that must be followed:
1. They hate bright lights. Especially sunlight. It will kill them.
2. Do not give them any water, not even to drink.
3. Never, under any circumstances, feed them after midnight.
As this is a movie, we know that all three of the rules will be broken at some point. As it turns out, when the mogwai (Billy has named his Gizmo) gets wet, he multiplies. We find this out because Gizmo gets went and out pop 5 fuzz-balls that turn into other mogwai…only these seem a bit off. As for the feeding after midnight, the new mogwai are accidentally fed after midnight and they change. They go from being the cute, Furby-like creatures that they were into mean looking little monsters or gremlins. (Hence the name.) The gremlins then take over the town.
Gremlins works on several levels. First it is a scary movie that is also a comedy or a comedy that is also scary. The antics of the gremlins, while slightly scary at times, are also quite funny. There are a few semi-objectionable words and phrases and the movie does show people (and gremlins) drinking at a bar. The movie also works as a cautionary tale of what happens when we don’t take care of our pets or we don’t follow the rules in taking care of them. Lastly, the movie speaks to the duality of us all. As all the gremlins come from Gizmo, who would himself turn into a gremlin if he were to eat after midnight. The final battle between Gizmo and the head gremlin, Stripe, feels like an allegory between the eternal internal struggle between the good and bad nature in each of us. Considering that director Joe Dante was responsible for the werewolf movie, The Howling, it feels like a variation of the werewolf theme. Or I am reading way too much into a fun little movie.
Gremlins was directed by Joe Dante (The Howling, Explorers) and written by Chris Columbus (director of Home Alone, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets and writer of the screenplay of The Goonies.) Steve Spielberg was also executive producer on the film and his influence does show, just not as much as some of the other films he has been responsible for.
Unlike many other movies, the fun of this movie continues in Gremlins 2. This is one of the few sequels that is just as good as the original. These two movies together would make a great double feature for a rainy weekend especially if paired with a showing of The Goonies.