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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"
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!
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.
Back in 1984 I was a 11 year old just starting to learn to appreciate movies. In 1984 Gremlins was THE movie. It is the first movie, other than E.T. that had a strong commercial tie-in. I had all kinds of things that were Gremlin, specifically Gizmo related. My favorite was the the little Gizmos and Gremlins that you dropped into water and they grew really big. Man were those things slimy after they grew. No telling what kind of toxic chemicals I was touching with my bare hands. Oh the good old days, I can't help but give Gremlins a 10. It just wouldn't seem right if I gave it anything less. I normally don't like remakes, but I think this one would have potential with all the cool CGI out right now. Maybe Spielberg would even help with it.
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