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Gremlins was a fantastic comedy film from 1984-the best year ever in my
opinion for great movies.
Basically, a guy called Billy Peltzer picks up a new pet called Gizmo and after breaking a few rules he shouldn't have, ends up spawning a bunch of ugly creatures called Gremlins who proceed to terrorize the town.
The film is a success because it succeeds at producing both a comedy and a horror in one go which can't be easy. Most comedy horror films are a joke (such as some of the Ghoulies films which emulated the Gremlins series) but Gremlins is both funny and scary. It's funny seeing the Gremlins cause mischief but it's also scary throughout-they're not exactly pretty creatures and are quite scary as well.
Gremlins deserves a look from anyone interested in seeing a good comedy horror movie.
Exactly 20 years ago today "Gremlins" opened in theaters across the U.S. It
went on to be one of the biggest smash hits not only of the summer of 1984,
but of the entire year. And in my opinion, it deserved to be a hit. I
remember seeing this movie at a movie theater with some friends of mine
right after it opened 20 years ago, and I said afterwards, "this is going to
be a huge hit". And it was.
"Gremlins" is a story that plays like a darker version of Steven Spielberg's "E.T." Which is funny, because it was Spielberg himself who had the vision of "Gremlins" becoming a movie. Spielberg, along with his then collaborators Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy (the trio founded the production company Amblin Entertainment), served as executive producers of the film. Spielberg got a then up-and-coming screenwriter named Chris Columbus to write the script (Columbus would go on to become the director of the first two "Harry Potter" movies as well as the first two "Home Alone" pictures), and Roger Corman protege Joe Dante to direct the picture (Dante directed 1978's "Piranha", a witty spoof of Spielberg's first smash hit "Jaws", and a segment of Spielberg's "Twilight Zone: The Movie" a year earlier). What they created was a movie that was great fun from start to finish.
"Gremlins" is about a young man who receives a very unusual Christmas gift from his inventor father. He gets a little friendly creature called a Mogwai, which is as cute as a button. But there's a twist. There are three rules that must be followed in caring for the Mogwai: Rule #1 - Keep them away from light; Rule #2 - Don't get them wet; and Rule #3 - Don't feed them after midnight. When the rules get broken, all hell breaks loose as mean-spirited little monsters turn everything upside down. "Gremlins" then turns into a super-duper special effects picture, with the creatures created exceptionally by Chris Walas (Oscar winner for the makeup job on the 1986 remake of "The Fly"). These monsters are scary to be sure, but also very funny with some of the antics they provide.
Even though the special effect monsters steal the show, the acting by the human actors is very good too. Zach Galligan makes the most of his film debut as Billy Peltzer, the young hero who tries to stop the gremlins; Phoebe Cates is effective as his girlfriend; the late Hoyt Axton is a hoot as the inept inventor father (some of his crazy inventions are hilarious, especially when the inventions backfire into slapstick catastrophes); Frances Lee McCain is good as the mother and housewife (who has one big scene with the nasty critters); Polly Holliday is wickedly funny as Mrs. Deagle, the meanest woman in town; and Dante regular Dick Miller is a riot as Mr. Futterman, the nice man who's always complaining about hand-made products being made out of foreign parts. Judge Reinhold and Corey Feldman have small roles as Billy's bank co-worker and good friend, respectively, and look for a quick cameo by Spielberg himself.
"Gremlins" was such a big hit in 1984 that it got re-released back in theaters the following year before it made its debut on video. The movie grossed over $153 million at the box office (combining the original 1984 release and the 1985 re-release). And it stands alone as a great creature feature. "Gremlins" was also imitated many times shortly afterwards. Following in its footsteps came 1985's "Ghoulies", and 1986's "Troll" and "Critters". All these movies spawned sequels of their own, and none of them came close to capturing the greatness of "Gremlins" (although the original "Critters" came the closest; it was the only movie out of that bunch that I mildly enjoyed). Six years later came the "Gremlins" sequel "Gremlins 2: The New Batch". It wasn't as good as the original, but it's still a good movie sequel. I'll take "Gremlins 2" as well as the original "Gremlins" over "Ghoulies" or "Troll" anyday.
***** (out of five)
Some films are not what they seem. Take "Gremlins" (1984) for example. It
the story of a small-town kid who acquires a strange creature that spawns
pack of menacing green beings that terrorize the inhabitants of the cheery
A silly idea, yes, but surely a fun one, and surely one to be cherished. It isn't technically a great movie, or even a very good one, but it doesn't mean to be. The genius lies in the modest scale of the film -- it isn't just a crude horror film with evil alien species (see "Critters"), but a tongue-in-cheek parody of the rest, that still manages to fit in a few thrills along the way as if by accident.
Thank Joe Dante for this movie. And thank him for providing us with magnificent and imaginative films over the years. He is one of cinema's great underrated directors, the man responsible for bringing other creatures to life very often, whether it is werewolves or small toys or Looney Toons.
The movie is centered around Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan), the small-town kid mentioned above who is handed a Mogwai by his father (Hoyt Axton), who picked the puffy furball up in Chinatown during one of his routine salesman trips. Billy's father is a sort of failed inventor, reminding us of the frizzle-haired Doc Emmett Brown played by Christopher Lloyd in "Back to the Future," only not quite as eccentric. "Back to the Future" came out a year after "Gremlins," and the two are similar in the way they entertain -- silly little ideas that nevertheless become almost genius. Time travel was a myth before "Back to the Future," which turned it into an adventurous notion, a way of being able to transport people back in time to see their own parents. (H.G. Wells himself hadn't even approached these topics, and I can guarantee he would have never sparked a relationship between the sibling and his mother.)
"Gremlins" is milestone movie-making magic, a simple idea like "Back to the Future," stretched out into a bigger picture. I won't kid you -- it's not as complex as "Future" is, but it doesn't need to be, and certainly doesn't want to be. It relies on humor and charm, and it has plenty of it.
Billy works at the town bank, hounded by the city grouch (Frances Lee McCain) and threatened by the vice president (Judge Reinhold). His long-time sweetheart (Phoebe Cates) works there, too, and at the local bar, occupied by drunks at night (and on occasion some nasty gremlins). The town loon (Dick Miller) is convinced there are gremlins about, and soon he is right.
"Don't ever get them wet," Billy is more or less told by his father. "And don't feed them after midnight." (See if you can spot the huge flaw in that rule.) Well, the small little Mogwai, Gizmo (voiced in burps and small cutesy sentences by Howie Mandel), does get wet, and spawns a set of fellow furballs -- all apparently mean-spirited and vile. And after tricking Billy by cutting the power on his clock, they get fed after midnight -- and basically evolve overnight into a bunch of green, nasty little gremlins, all of which continue to spawn throughout the town and cause absolute chaos.
Will Billy defeat the gremlins, get the girl, and save the town? Take a wild guess.
Everything Joe Dante touches is usually magic. Even his live-action/animation film "Toy Soldiers" was a load of fun because of its charming disposition. Dante doesn't try to make his films anything other than what they are -- charming and wildly, wickedly funny -- and that is undoubtedly the key to the outrageous success of "Gremlins," one of the biggest box office moneymakers ever released.
I wasn't a huge fan of the sequel, even though I have it in my DVD collection right next to the original. It lost the darkness of campiness of the original and went for all-out laughs (many of which failed) instead of the laugh-out-loud laughs of the original, which were concealed within a film that actually made sense (in some ways) and still managed to be dark and fun. The sequel also introduced the mandatory Goofy Idiot Character. In fact, it had two -- a Donald Trump-like manager and a gremlin that more or less belonged in The Three Stooges, and definitely not in a movie about menacing creatures. In fact, another of the first film's highlights was the way it made its creatures dark, hurtful, and just plain funny. (People complained that the launching of Frances Lee McCain out a window was too much, but come on.)
As a whole, I didn't think that the sequel worked especially well. But it has as big a fan following as the original in some respects, for those who favor goofy, pointless cash-ins over original, hysterical movies.
I wouldn't expect many people to love "Gremlins" as much as I do, but its charm is certainly worth commenting on -- and so is its wicked humor. Dark, chaotic and pretty darn infectious, the film's sense of humor quickly kicks into boot even during the campy voice-over narrative. The whole film is campy. And unlike something like "Critters" (which I loathe), this film is endearing and fresh and funny and has a bunch of likable characters -- especially Gizmo, the favorite and most infamous little critter ever seen on screen, and Stripe, the lead gremlin whose unfortunate frying incident at the end of the film actually makes you sad. No sequel for that little creep.
- John Ulmer
A dark, crazy, twisted, inventive, and violent Christmas classic.
There's really no way to classify or categorize Gremlins. It's too
mean-spirited to be a kid's film, but not quite intense enough to
justify a higher rating (but the 15-rated UK version makes a mockery of
the BBFC guidelines).
Gremlins has long been an annual tradition for movie fans. The cozy, snowy atmosphere of Kingston Falls (which appears to be in upstate New York somewhere) is the perfect small town that we all wish we came from. Even when the Gremlins invade it's a homely place to be envious of.
I was frightened of the Gremlins when I was a kid, but they're really nothing more than gigantic smiles with arms and legs. They exist only to have fun at the expense of human life and private property. I suppose they could be a metaphor for hedonism or apathy.
Originally a much more evil script (intended to be an anti-Wonderful Life), Chris Columbus was inspired to write Gremlins as he listened to the rats in his apartment scurry about in the dark during the night. He lightened the material somewhat before filming began, but Joe Dante's wild vision makes it a twisted, festive reality.
Special mention must be made of Jerry Goldsmith's outrageous score and that famous theme tune 'The Gremlin Rag', a demented circus fanfare of anarchy and mayhem. It's crazy to think that over 26 years later it's still never been released on CD.
Gremlins sparked the rise of Chris Columbus as a creative force in Hollywood. Only 25 at the time of filming his career has been made up of classics, and Christmas classics, such as The Goonies, Young Sherlock Holmes, Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Harry Potter, and Bicentennial Man. Joe Dante never scored a bigger hit, but his subsequent career significant;y defined 80s and 90s cinema with movies such as Innerspace, The 'burbs, Gremlins 2, and Small Soldiers. Goldsmith scoring every one of them until his death in 2004.
Neither of them knew the massive franchise and fan-following which Gremlins would provoke, but it certainly deserves it's place in pop culture history.
This movie used to scare me immensely when I was younger. It was the
first "scary movie" I saw as a kid, and I think that may effect why I
love it so much today. Nostalgic purposes, indeed.
I think this movie is good for it's purpose. It's not meant to be some life-changing, or hysterically funny, or terrifying suspense movie. It's meant to give you some scares, some laughs, and entertainment. And it does indeed entertain.
We've heard since the 50's about little green men, and in this movie, they are there. And they don't even have to come from outer space, just Chinatown. The actual mogwai (what the gremlins are before they transform) are adorable. So at first you are surprised at how this cute little furry creature who sings a little song could produce other mogwais whom are not so nice. I won't give away how they reproduce or turn into gremlins, but it's all kind of strange, and very fantasy-like.
A great movies for adults to watch with kids for their first "scary movie". I watched it when I was three, and while it did scare me there for a while, I still loved it a lot. I would recommend maybe six years or older, and if they get too scared, tell them it's really just puppets. (It is.) Overall, this film is entertaining, very 80's, a little scary, and pretty funny.
Randall Peltzer (the late Hoyt Axton), while going all around town
trying to sell his faulty wacky inventions, accidentally stumbles on a
cute little Mogwai at an antique china store. The owner refuse to sell
it, but the kid sees dollar signs and sells it to Mr. Peltzer, telling
him three things never to do to the creature. So back in Kingston
Falls, the misguided inventor presents it to his son, Billy (Zach
Galligan) telling him the warning that the Chinese boy imparted to him.
Needless to say, Billy ignores all three rules and soon evil little
Gremlins are all over town causing rampant destruction.
This movie is greatness in every single way. With style, charm, and humor to spare, this film was among the top echelon of movies from the glorious '80's (Man that decade was GREAT to be a kid or teenager in).Never overtly slapstick comical, this film is still tongue firmly in cheek none the less and seeing the amazingly great Dick Miller is ALWAYS a treat. By the by, call me dense but I never realized that Howie Mandell did the voice for Gizmo. That's kinda neat. This was followed by a sequel that's just about every bit as good as the original.
My Grade: A
Special Edition DVD Extras: Commentary by Director Joe Dante, Producer Mike Finnell and Gremlins Creator Chris Walas, Second Commentary by Dante and Actors Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller and Howie Mandel; Cast & Crews bios; 8 Additional Scenes (with Optional Commentary; Photo Gallery; short vintage featurette; Theatrical & Re-issue Trailer; and Trailer for "Gremlins 2: The New Batch"
After this movie there were several other movies that tried to capitalize on the success of this movie. For the most part though they failed to live up to the energy and fun of this movie. Heck, not even the sequel of this one had the energy of this movie. Here we have a guy getting a pet as an early xmas gift, a cute creature called a Mogway. It however, does have a few problems, as it needs special care. One thing you can't do to it is get it wet. Well Billy does (that is the guy who got it). This breeds more of the little critters, and they are harmless enough at first as well. Then they are fed after midnight and this turns them into Gremlins. This new form is a beer drinking, candy eating, mischief machine that isn't above killing. Most of the original batch is killed off in a gruesome kitchen scene, but the leader, Stripe, gets away and dives into a ycma swimming pool, so the whole town gets overrun by the little monsters. This movie is very funny and enjoyable to watch. Even though the Gremlins do kill, this movie never gets as dark as some of the copycats, or too goofy like some of them do. It ends up being a well-made movie that is fun to watch.
A perennial Christmas favourite, Joe Dante's monster movie is a kid's
film for grown ups, made when children's cinema still had real bite.
Watched today, twenty-six years after it was first released, it still
holds a great deal of charm for the adult viewer who grew up in the
'80s. As with most of Dante's movie, a lot of the fun alone comes from
the director's clear affection for the genre, watching for all the gags
and references that are surely to come, such as the scene involving the
classic Time Machine.
As for the rest of the movie...the depiction of small town and family life is very well realised. There's a cosy feel to film's first half. Zach Galligan is a charming hero, and Phoebe Cates the fitting object of his affection. Dick Miller, a genre standby since the '50s, has a nice role to sink his teeth into, and it's also great to see Keye Luke in a pivotal role. The supporting characters, particularly Hoyt Axton as the inventor-father, are well drawn. When the gremlins and their brand of anarchy take over, I was less impressed. The film descends into silliness I could have done without, but then picks up for a climax in which Gizmo shows his true colours, so it's not all bad. I found the sequel, GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH, to be equally fun.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The master of parody Joe Dante and the master of popular entertainment
Steven Spielberg combine their talents (Dante as director, Spielberg as
one of the executive producers) for this cleverly assembled
comedy-horror. Gremlins is a fun movie that delights in anarchic scenes
of destruction and mayhem. But while some films think that destruction
and mayhem on their own are automatically funny (e.g It's A Mad, Mad,
Mad, Mad World and 1941), this one remembers that things like
characterisation and a build-up are also important. Gremlins still has
its share of flaws, including unevenness in the narrative and
occasional sequences that boil over into nastiness, but on the whole it
is an enjoyable movie. The film's box office success certainly
indicates that it caught the public mood at the time of its release.
Wacky inventor Rand Pelzer (Hoyt Axton) searches for a Christmas gift for his son Billy (Zach Galligan) in a dingy curiosity shop in Chinatown. He eventually chooses a cuddly creature called a mogwai, with a severe warning from the shop-keeper's grandson that there are three golden rules any mogwai owner must obey. Never expose them to bright lights, never get them wet and, most importantly of all, never feed them after midnight. To begin with Billy is very careful with his new pet - named Gizmo - but one day one of the neighbourhood kids accidentally spills water on Gizmo. The water makes the mogwai multiply, giving birth to a whole bunch of babies.... but the babies are more malicious and devious than their parent and fool around with Billy's clock so that he unwittingly feeds them AFTER midnight. Their late night snack causes them to turn into vicious, nasty monsters bent on the destruction of the town. Wholesale devastation follows as the dangerous gremlins go on their rampage. Billy and his girlfriend Kate (Phoebe Cates) are the only ones with the courage and the know-how to fight back, but when one gremlin manages to make it to the local swimming pool - where it throws itself into the pool and gives birth to literally hundreds of little monsters - the town seems doomed.
Gremlins is primarily a monster movie parody, but in a subtler way it also parodies feel-good Christmas movies. The old James Stewart classic It's A Wonderful Life is seen playing in the background on several occasions, but here there's no goodwill and seasonal cheer on display as the titular gremlins start demolishing the town. Even Cates' character has a tragic Christmas story to tell, involving the death of her father whilst trying to "play" Santa Claus. It is always reassuring when parodies know where they're coming from, and Gremlins contains many in-jokes for film buffs to enjoy. In particular there are a number of telling cameo roles, among them exploitation director Roger Corman, while Dick Miller (star of several early Corman horror quickies) gets a chance to send himself up delightfully as the grouchy Mr Futterman. The monsters are designed by Chris Walas who successfully creates creatures that simultaneously come across as funny, nasty and fairly real-looking. Rounding things off neatly is Jerry Goldsmith's macabre funhouse-style score. Gremlins doesn't have a great deal of plot, which allows things things to crack along at a brisk pace but afterwards leaves one reflecting how slight the whole film is. Also, the black comedy inherent in the story is soured by touches that are just a little too nasty and mean-spirited. But, generally-speaking, this is a gripping piece of entertainment, worth a look if you're a monster movie buff or a connoisseur of the cynical.
Billy's dad is an inventor and is always looking for cool presents for
this son. So just before Christmas, when he finds a strange creature
called a mogwai in a dark shop in Chinatown, he just has to have it
despite the refusal of the owner. The rules for looking after the
mogwai (who they rename Gizmo) are simple but an accident sees some
water spilt on him, causing a handful more to reproduce from this one.
Billy notices a difference between Gizmo and these new creatures but
the full extent of the difference isn't clear until he mistakenly
breaks the rule on feeding times and a whole new creature emerges.
Criminally screened in the middle of the afternoon by Channel 4 recently (they edited out anything unsuitable for a daytime audience) this film is a lot of fun on many levels. At the start the film exists within an all-American small town with snow on the streets, a sense of community and white picket fences everywhere. It is a world that perhaps owes more to Spielberg more than director Dante but it is a world that the latter takes great pleasure in perverting once the film gets going in earnest. The plot is simple and straightforward, mostly relying on the build-to and delivery of the gremlins' antics and the attempts to stop them. In doing so it produces a great fun horror for older teens and adults. It funnier more than scary but it still manages to do the latter well enough to do the job for the younger element of the audience.
The manic humour in the "horror" is well done and it produces great energy throughout. For adults there is another element in the usual referencing from Dante. It is occasionally clumsy here but mostly it is unobtrusive and funny Dante never seems to let the film main get away from him and keeps the dark tone going even when his action is a bit silly. The cast are very much secondary to the creatures and their antics (whether it be the cute Gizmo or the much more fun gremlins) and their performances reflect this. Galligan is average while Cates is quite nondescript. Support is OK from the likes of Axton, Feldman and Miller but mostly they are all second fiddle to the creatures.
Overall though this is an enjoyable horror movie for younger audiences. It is very, very slightly scary as instead it is darkly funny during the violence. It is engaging even if it gets silly at times and the material is strong enough for an adult audience while also providing lots of film references for those that get them.
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