@Ventspleen2014 wraps up warm and begins an annual pilgrimage to Kingston Falls, whilst considering what makes the Gremlins films such good fun.
On paper the original Gremlins movie looks exciting, onscreen it is transformed into a manic, innovative and funny movie that is very much a Christmas film. I want to explain my reasons for believing this and hopefully show why the two films are finishing our festive Horror Watch schedule.
Directed by the horror maestro Joe Dante, Executive Producer being the almighty Spielberg and a knowingly dark screenplay by Chris Columbus, Gremlins was always going to be a massive hit. Back in the early eighties the horror/ comedy genre was becoming increasingly popular and as Gremlins was released on the same weekend as Ghostbusters it is clear the two films show similar traits.
The juxtaposition of horrific scenes and comedy works perfectly and both films play on traditional horror elements and effectively satirises them. In Ghostbusters we see the whole concept of possession and demonic attack ridiculed especially by Venkman (witness his retort to possessed Dana’s request for sexual shenanigans) Whilst in Gremlins the sub genre of “creature features” is well and truly mined ( marauding green monsters lay waste to a sleepy generic American town) nothing new here you could argue. But what makes Gremlins exceptional is the tongue in cheek treatment that is delivered (the ever so cute Gizmo giving birth to the horribly dark and witty Gremlins who are anything but cute) There are standout moments of horror as well. Stripe’s vicious attack on Mrs Peltzer in the living room is actually quite nasty as is the various means of dispatch used in the kitchen attack (I love the blender Gremlin but the microwave moment is wonderful) The transformation of Mrs Peltzer from victim to Gremlin killing heroine reminds me of Ripley battling the Alien on board the Nostromo. Its not all old hat and worn cliche though. Think about the rules that Billy is told to abide by. 1) Never expose to bright light (Bright light, bright light- shut up Giz) and especially Sunlight as it kills 2) Never get it wet 3) No matter how much it cries, no matter how much it begs, never ever feed it after midnight. Brilliant! Gremlins critics have pointed out that these rules would have had far more weight if it had been explained why they were in place. You know, “don’t get them wet because one will become two etc etc” or “oh and don’t feed it after midnight because it will turn into an even bigger monster, lose its cuteness and will try and kill you” Whilst this is true complaining about such things is a little picky. You may as well whinge when another stupid teenager disappears down yet another dark cellar or doesn’t run when weird stuff starts happening. Besides it’s Christmas so just go with it!
Gremlins is a tremendously fun film with a plot that really does deliver. Stripes dive into the swimming pool to spawn hundreds of his kin really looks wonderful and the cinema full of Gremlins watching Snow White and Seven Dwarves kinda manages to poke fun at Disney whilst also showing their soft side. Gremlins also benefits from a wonderful cast, led by Zach Galligan (William Peltzer) and Pheobe Cates (Kate Berringer) But present to are eighties film regulars Cory Fieldman and Judge Reinhold (isn’t he in like every eighties film ever?) Add to that a wonderful, anarchic musical score from Jerry Goldsmith and you have a film that delivers on every level. Christmas sentiment and over indulging cheese (check) Horrible but funny green monsters (check) an equally horrible, maniacal old lady that gets murdered in a horrific yet amusing manner (check, check, checkity, check) If you don’t find something to enjoy here then I respectfully yell “bah humbug” to you!
Gremlins 2: The New Batch is not a Christmas film but I make the schedules and I love it! Set in a busy, uber modern New York building (The Clamp Building) we find Billie and Kate have all growed up. They both work for business and media mogul Daniel Clamp (the building even boasts its own cable network) and are happily living the dream. Well kind of! After the tragic death of Mr Wing (the chinese man from the first film) Giz is left alone and homeless (cue cute moment with much sad face pulling) Through a series of mishaps Giz ends up in the horrible research lab (Splice O Life) and well you can guess the rest!
What makes Gremlins 2 exceptional is that it is not afraid to poke fun at itself (Billy tries to explain the rules to a disbelieving Forster and his staff who then proceed to pull them apart) The Gremlins have also developed very individual characters and Brain Gremlin has some fantastic lines. Yes its true that Gremlins 2 is a silly, silly film (New York musical number in the lobby) and critics will rant as critics do. As a horror fan of many years I like to think that I’m not above a bit of silly from time to time. At this time of year it is important to remember the true meaning of Christmas! Family and sitting in front of the TV with a massive bowl of popcorn and a refillable glass of your chosen beverage. When all else fails being high on sugar and alcohol can pretty much make anything bearable!