In 1984 cinema was given one of its greatest Christmas presents in the guise of the loveable mogwai Gizmo, given to Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) for Christmas by his harebrained inventor father. With his undeniable cuteness children everywhere instantly wanted one but, as mummy’s boy Billy discovers, owning one comes at a price…
For anybody who hasn’t seen Gremlins (shame on you) there are three simple but very, very important rules to take into account if you’re ever presented with a mogwai for Christmas. One; avoid exposing them to sunlight, two; don’t let them get their hands on water (that means no bathing, a sure plus to all dog owners reading this) and three, the most important rule of all; don’t ever, ever let them eat after midnight. The rules don’t specify just when it’s okay for them to eat again but the film makes it extremely clear how important it is to abide to the rules. Billy, with the aid of a very young Corey Feldman, suitably break all three to disastrous (if rather humorous) consequence.
Penned by Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone / Goonies director Chris Columbus, Gremlins is not the most conventional Christmas film but this makes it all the more enjoyable. Instead of driving toward an overly moralistic conclusion, the film is allowed to instead enjoy its riotous ensemble. The gremlins, hatching from Gizmo after an accidental run-in with a glass of water, gorge on numerous midnight stacks before transforming into the delightfully hideous chaos-causing monsters that give the film its instantly recognisable title.
Gremlins gloriously reeks of the Spielberg-era in which it was made (no doubt helped by Spielberg’s producing credit in the film) and contains everything that makes 80’s films great. The mixture of non-CGI creatures, recognisable stock characters (the town drunk and evil older woman being examples), creative sound effects and innocently ingenious soundtrack that suitably captures Gizmo’s recognisable whistle all amount to an hugely enjoyable film despite the fact it is nearing its 25th birthday.
Despite the fact that the majority of its characters are puppets, Gremlins is by no means a kids film. Worthy of its 15 certificate, there are some rather harrowing gremlin death scenes (look out particularly for a gremlin who awaits a gruesome microwaving fate and one who meets his maker after a savage Psycho-esque stabbing). If you choose to go against the age restriction and watch it with small children despite the grizzly death scenes beware – the film even openly admits there’s no Santa! Like we said, definitely not a kid’s film.
The gremlins themselves are suitably creepy. For all of their maniacal mayhem however their antics make for some hugely enjoyable viewing and are perhaps the best scenes in the film. Watching them let loose in a bar is one of the highlights, especially as it involves a humorous parody of the countless dance films of the era. With the scene where a gremlin-infested Christmas tree attacks Billy’s mother (Frances Lee McCain) providing what seems to be a subtle mockery of 1982’s The Entity, Gremlins is a film that openly enjoys itself.
Although it contains an unsettling amount of casual genocide (try keeping a head count of the amount of gremlins who bite the dust!), Gremlins is a classic that can be watched over and over again.
Best whistle: Gizmo’s iconic whistle of course!!
Best song: Johnny Mathis’s ‘Do You Hear What I Hear’ will never sound the same again.
Best bit; Watching the gremlins watch Snow White
Best performance; Stripe is one of the most underrated puppet baddies!