Several people are hunted by a cruel serial killer who kills his victims in their dreams. While the survivors are trying to find the reason for being chosen, the murderer won't lose any chance to kill them as soon as they fall asleep.
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 (violated), no food after midnight (violated), 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. Written by
A film like Gremlins doesn't call for a review, so much as it demands a detailed discussion. This isn't because the film is particularly complicated, nor does it imply that there are loose ends to theorize about. It is simply because Gremlins can be interpreted in a number of different ways. Is it a dark family film? Or a cheesy horror flick? Is the film a clichéd product of the 80's? Or perhaps a smart satire that was years ahead of its time? For me, it is all of these things. It's a joyous romp that's hilariously silly - so much so that the absence of truly serious moments can be completely forgiven.
The plot is simple; a young man receives a strange present from his dad: a mysterious creature called a Gremlin! There are 3 rules that must be obeyed to insure that nothing goes wrong. One, the Gremlin must stay away from sunlight, or it will die. Two, the Gremlin must not get wet. And most importantly, the Gremlin must not be fed after midnight.
Care to guess how many of these rules get broken before the film ends?
Gremlins is a rare kind of a film, in that it has actually improved with age. The characters are laughably stupid, there's an abundance of product placement, and the Gremlins - even in their "cute" stage - are (perhaps) unintentionally creepy. These are legitimate problems, and yet, they actually manage to enhance the film. I think the over-the-top silliness of the film is to thank for this, as this allows for an environment in which unintentional laughter is not detrimental to the movie experience. This bizarre blend of self-aware comedy and unintentional humor has resulted in a film that will only continue to get better as the years pass.
Admittedly, one could argue that Gremlins is a bit of an awkward film to watch, in that the the intentional and unintentional comedy is often indistinguishable from the other. One scene that effectively hones in on this issue is the famous monologue, in which one character recalls a tragic memory from her childhood. Supposedly, this scene caused a stir among studio executives, whom requested that the scene be removed as it was uncertain whether this was supposed to be sad or funny (if you care for my two cents, I laughed myself nearly to tears at this part).
This could definitely be an issue for some. Is a film that contains so much unintentional humor and laughable flaws worthy of a recommendation? My answer is an unequivocal "yes." The film thrives on clichés of the past. Now that what was modern in the 80's is also a tired cliché in the 21st century, Gremlins has become an intentional parody of itself. It's the tone that the film was always aiming for, and has managed to re-achieve that goal decades later.
Another fascinating aspect of this film is the violence. Gremlins received a PG rating from the MPAA, and the criticism thrust at both this film, and the MPAA due to the violent images resulted in the birth of the PG-13 rating. Yes, as expected, Gremlins die (albeit, in highly creative and massively unexpected ways), but several humans perish as well. If one considers this film to be a horror movie, than this isn't unusual at all. But if one thinks of this as a family picture, than this is very unusual indeed. Once again, I reiterate: this kind of movie simply demands discussion!
The acting is terribly hammy, but in spite of - or rather, because of - this, the performances are delightful. Zach Gilligan is the lead actor, and Phoebe Cates portrays the love interest. Both characters are dull as dirt in terms of personality, but their moronic inclinations make them highly entertaining to watch all the same. The other actors tend to fall in the same territory.
Jerry Goldsmith composed an appropriately maniacal score for this picture. It contains his signature synthesizers (adding to the film's dated feel even further), and ties in Christmas tunes to reflect the holiday setting. In terms of music, there are no questions here: the tongue is absolutely in the cheek.
There is roughly 45 minutes of build-up, followed by nearly an hour of Gremlins mayhem. Thanks to the camp nature of the film, the 45 minute build-up is no less entertaining than the Gremlin destruction later on. The last hour is almost non-stop craziness, and needless to say, it becomes exhausting. But it's the best kind of exhausting; the kind that comes with knowing that you're having an absolute blast. Indeed, the amount of fun here is almost overwhelming at times. It's tempting to spend the entire run-time of the movie trying to analyze its intentions, but the best route is to save this kind of thinking for afterwards. It honestly doesn't matter much in the long run whether you think Gremlins is a dumb movie for smart people, or a smart movie for dumb people. Just let it be known that Gremlins is good, dark fun for everyone!
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