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(1984)

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Ugly Bunch Of Creatures Causing Chaos
Big Movie Fan5 January 2003
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.
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10/10
20th Anniversary Review
ITTMovieFanatic8 June 2004
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)
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9/10
Nobody's got a story like this one. Nobody!
CuriosityKilledShawn4 August 2000
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.
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7/10
Funny, entertaining, a little scary. Perfect as a child's first "scary movie".
jenn_nm_22 August 2005
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.
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9/10
One of my personal favorites...
MovieAddict201621 December 2003
Some films are not what they seem. Take "Gremlins" (1984) for example. It is the story of a small-town kid who acquires a strange creature that spawns a pack of menacing green beings that terrorize the inhabitants of the cheery little area.

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.

5/5 stars.

  • John Ulmer
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8/10
Come on, we're talking cable
movieman_kev15 October 2005
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"
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6/10
Perennial favourite
Leofwine_draca27 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
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.
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8/10
Best of the small creature attack movies.
Aaron13757 April 2003
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.
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8/10
seeing it as a kid vs an adult
MisterWhiplash11 December 2016
Seeing this again in a theater today on 35mm, and it strikes me how much this is a product of the 1980's even as it holds up (that is if you are one of those few brave souls who love the hell out of practical effects and creatures that have to be built - so many of these things have great individual personalities and designs, even as they're all either gremlins or mogwais). Dick Miller as Mr. Futterman, for example, plays the sort of borderline-adorable xenophobe - his one character trait here is that he doesn't trust a single thing that comes from another country - that today in America is not so adorable anymore (a Nixon frame on his wall seems quaint by today's standards). And the gremlins themselves can be seen as the sort of "other" or "outsider" threat that's coming to get us if we're not careful; it's not that we can't or shouldn't have in these foreign critters, but the responsibility is on us, perhaps, to make sure we don't turn them into hideous terrorists....

I may be reading a bit much into this. But it's still a piece of Spielberg Americana, a small suburban town (maybe less suburban than ET but close enough) where everyone seems to know everyone, but given Joe Dante and Chris Columbus's extra-dose of love for B movies and Loony Tunes. It also is wonderful as an homage to the sort of small town one saw in It's a Wonderful Life (which we see on a TV here) and gets sort of featured with the one cantankerous woman who practically runs the bank (her storyline gets put by the wayside for one reason or another).

Not unlike with the Evil Dead series, the first movie is more of a horror movie than a comedy, and I think it takes a little while for the comedy to find its footing - as a kid I found Billy's dad, played by Hoyt Axton, to be amusing, though now as an adult he doesn't hold up as well with the running gags of his mishap inventions (it's kind of cute, at first, but runs out of steam). But once the bad mogwais and especially the plethora of gremlins take over the town, it is an amazing pop-comedy spectacle. If nothing else it's worthwhile for the set pieces in the second half: that bar scene with Phoebe Cates at the mercy of all these damn creatures (the highlight of this movie for me is the jazzy, Tom Waits-like gremlin accosted by the one with the hand-puppets); all of them watching Snow White; the finale with 'Stripe' and how it's an actually effective suspense sequence, with maybe one too many false endings.

And in the middle is little Gizmo, like the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi built for no other purpose except to be sickeningly cute and... who wouldn't want a Gizmo, long as one is responsible for the little guy? It may take a little while for him to become notable to the plot, but when he does it's also a great deal of fun in that finale. So, there is a lot of nostalgia in this for me, as this was one of the first movies I can remember seeing as a little kid. How I respond to it today isn't too different, though I do recognize some of its flaws. Perfect ending.
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5/10
It Came From The Eighties
slokes31 March 2015
The sort of film where a good idea suffers from a patchy script and a lot of revisions, "Gremlins" reflects the time when it was made. The 1980s were a decade of goofy gimmick movies, and "Gremlins" offers exactly that.

While scouring Chinatown to sell one of his many inventions, Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) is introduced to a cute, furry critter called a "Mogwai." He names it "Gizmo" and brings it home as a pet for his son Billy (Zach Galligan). Gizmo requires special handling: no bright light, no water, and no feeding after midnight. After getting wet, Gizmo produces replicant Mogwai. "This could really be the big one," Randall says happily. He is soon proved tragically correct.

When it was released in the summer of 1984, "Gremlins" was a marvel of cinematic wizardry on account of the animatronic puppets that make up the title characters. Much of the talk around the film centered on a sequence in the Peltzer kitchen where Billy's mother (Frances Lee McCain) has to fend off various attacks from the nasty gremlins, and in doing so contributed to the creation of a new MPAA- rating, PG-13.

It's a brilliant sequence, the one moment in the film where the special effects (designed by future Oscar winner Chris Walas), the story (by Chris Columbus) and a human performance deliver on the payoff "Gremlins" promises. McCain is so intense yet so funny you can get as much from watching her face as you do from the carnage on the countertops around her. It's one of the great moments of 1980s cinema.

The rest of the time, "Gremlins" is a tonally imbalanced, under- funny concept film that doesn't do much more than flog merchandise in the guise of a story. Conceived as a straight horror film, "Gremlins" went through various changes after producer Steven Spielberg took hold of the project, so that when it finally was released, it became a scare comedy without the jokes.

Entire plot lines were dropped, but the film is so ineptly constructed that their beginnings remain. We are introduced to Billy's interest in comics, a local pub under threat of condemnation, a poor mother trying to find a way to feed her children for Christmas, an obnoxious co-worker of Billy's played by Judge Reinhold, and other things, all of which vanish when the gremlins take over the second half. None are addressed again; Reinhold, the biggest male name in the cast, disappears entirely once the gremlins attack.

Director Joe Dante does what he can to make the filler interesting. I like the Reinhold character's come-on to Billy's girlfriend Kate (Phoebe Cates), inviting her to his apartment with the tagline: "I'm talking cable." It's a very 1980s experience in that and other ways, such as when the gremlins don leg warmers and start flashdancing. But for too long a time, "Gremlins" seems to be in a holding pattern, doing nothing much at all except presenting these red- herring story lines that never get resolved while the monsters themselves wait in the wings.

It's a very goofy film. One secondary character has a consuming hatred for all foreign things, which he talks about non-stop. A science teacher runs late-night tests on a caged gremlin in a middle-school laboratory. Both father and son Peltzer are walking Murphy's Laws, where anything that can go wrong does. Once they run amok, the gremlins often wear fitted caps and coats, as if they happened upon the little people's section of L. L. Bean.

"Gremlins" kicks into a higher gear with that attack, though it never again achieves anything like the sustained brilliance of the kitchen battle with Mrs. Peltzer. The film posits at one point that the gremlins are subtle creatures who creep into machinery and make the resulting carnage seem like an accident. This would have made for an intriguing idea, but Dante and Spielberg never do anything with it. They are making a gimmick movie, and striving for audience impact in the cheapest way possible.

It's fun for young people, I suppose, and those who first saw it when they were children. Give me the sequel instead, where the comedy is much stronger and the story more engaging.
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10/10
An Honest Review
generationofswine5 April 2017
If it can be old and you don't judge it on age...you will like this movie.

If you don't care that the movie doesn't take itself seriously...you will like this movie.

And if your body has aged but your soul has not...you will like this movie.

Like "The Goonies," The other Columbus/Spielberg collaboration there is a very clear lines are drawn in the sand.

"/" Marks the divide between the folks that loved it as kids and still love it because it is a fun movie that doesn't take itself seriously..."/"...and the folks who, as adults, don't seem to care for anything that isn't serious. You know, the folks who will ONLY watch a comedy if it is done by Wes Anderson or is muted and dramatic.

And that is fine, it's just a shame they lost all sense of childhood fun and adventure. You know, the folks that can't get excited about building pillow forts with their kids anymore.

"/" Also marks the divide between '80s kids and adults that assume anything more serious than "paw patrol" will mortify a child under 16.

And they are forgetting that, when they were kids, their folks took them to see "Robocop" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "The Goonies" and "Gremlins" on the big screen and they were NOT traumatized for life by them.

You know, idiots that forget that children are humans too. Not as developed, but certainly not butterflies.

And the last "/" line in the sand divides the folks that care about how long ago the '80s were and want everything made 5 seconds ago...and the folks that can still watch "A Christmas Story" and not feel that it needs to be updated, remade, and rebooted to reflect the style and technology of 2017.
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9/10
What a blast!
tymooda1121 January 2017
Joe Dante's "Gremlins" is an absolutely, amazingly fun time. The concept of the Gremlins themselves being so intriguing and fun, and face it, Gizmo is one of the cutest creatures in cinema history. While this movies first 20 minutes are a bit boring, once the story and absolute fun insanity begins you'll be having such a good time that the run time of the film will completely slip by. I have loved this film since a young age, and sure it may be nostalgia, but god do I really love this movie. I highly recommend watching this on a cold winter night, with hot chocolate, and a warm bowl of popcorn. I guarantee that you will have a fun time with this. It's not a thought provoking film, it won't change your life, but it is a fun ride , completely worth it's length
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8/10
Fun Film
Christmas-Reviewer19 December 2016
BEWARE OF FALSE REVIEWS & REVIEWERS. SOME REVIEWERS HAVE ONLY ONE REVIEW TO THEIR NAME. NOW WHEN ITS A POSITIVE REVIEW THAT TELLS ME THEY WERE INVOLVED WITH THE FILM. IF ITS A NEGATIVE REVIEW THEN THEY MIGHT HAVE A GRUDGE AGAINST THE FILM . NOW I HAVE REVIEWED OVER 200 HOLIDAY FILMS. I HAVE NO AGENDA. I AM HONEST!

This film was one of the best films produced by Steven Spielberg that he did not direct. This film was written by Chris Columbus (Future Director of Home Alone) and directed by Joe Dante.

In this film a would be inventor brings home a strange creature. Its a "mogwai" but he is Billy's pet and he names him Gizmo. Now there is 3 rules he has to follow however all the rules get broken and now Gizmo has new off spring and they are not friendly. The Christmas Eve Setting is brilliant set up because it sets up the contract of two different environments. It is "Good Vs Evil"

This film is not for small children, In fact the violence is so intense that it ushered in the PG-13 Rating.

Released in 1984 the film still is a crowing achievement in the pre- cgi era. In fact I don't think CGI would of improved the film.

If it has been a long time since you have seen this film then please watch it again and see how well it holds up.

FYI Today films get released on DVD no more than 6 months after a theatrical release. "Gremlins" did not come to Home Video Until 18 Months later.
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8/10
Makes the 80's feel as classic and classy as the 50's...
ElMaruecan827 March 2016
It's quite fitting that Joe Dante's "Gremlins" features many scenes of people watching black-and-white classics on mini-TV sets, one is "It's a Wonderful Life" (of course, it's Christmas time) and another is "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" ("they're here already, you're next!). It's fitting because in a way, "Gremlins" is like a Christmas movie victim of schizophrenia, trying to swim in waters that couldn't have been more different, a Capra-like Family Christmas film and a Sci-fi/Fantasy monster B-movie, appealing to kids and moms with so many 'ow'-inducing moments and to teens and young adults with gross violence, only redeemed by its wicked sense of humor.

But as twisted as it sounds, the film works and now, it exudes the same classic vibes as these very classics I mentioned, now that the 80's are like the 50's in the 80's. And that's "Gremlins" greatest accomplishment in my opinion, it takes me back to a time that will never be again, and it has nothing to do with chronology, but with a sense of innocent fun that I feel has deserted movies and TV programs as well. It's the kind of film that constantly reminds you of the first time you saw it, and your emotions when you discovered this strange big-eyed creature named Gizmo, perhaps the cutest cinematic creation since R2D2, an improved version of the Ewoks with a Disney-eque touch.

I'll never forget that winter morning when I was having my breakfast, my father had just recorded the film the previous night, and before going to school, he was in a hurry to show me the first part, and it started with the gift-moment, which till now, remains one of my favorite Christmas scenes ever. It has everything: a family reunion, the lights being turned off giving it a strangely ominous atmosphere, and the little noise inside the package adding to the suspense, not to mention that haunting whistle tune that will never fail to shed a few tears whenever I hear it. Little Gizmo's entrance is one of the most defining moment of the 80's, and most irresistible too.

And Gizmo didn't need any computer support, looking like a cute puppet with lips and eyes movements, so well done that you were convinced you were watching a living creature, so the film doesn't overplay the special effects on that level. The gift scene goes on as the mother (Frances Lee McCain) takes a picture of the creature but the bright light startles Gizmo who immediately seeks refuge into Billy's arms, which is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. The father (Hoyt Axton) just remembers there are three rules to respect regarding the Mogwai, and I still see my father telling me to pay attention, rising his index finger as if I was the one to take care of Gizmo, so I religiously listened to the rules: no bright lights, no water and of course, no food after midnight.

I was young enough not to tell the 'absurdity' of the midnight clause, but smart enough to guess that each of these rules would be broken sooner or later and things would go out on control, yet I didn't finish the film until the year after. My father told me the movie was creepy and after another viewing, even as an adult, I can tell that the little one I was would have been scared by the film. It's a pity that a story that has so much charm and delight to offer in the first part, gets so hideously violent after, even in a fun way. Yet there is a scene where a kid played by Corey Feldman is first amazed by Gizmo but then he quickly loses interest and starts reading a comic-book, there had to be some horror and the cute material was only the set-up (although it's what I love the most about "Gremlins").

All the horrific events are still enjoyable and were cleverly sugarcoated by Chris Columbus' script, but I just love the non-violent parts, starting with this opening scene in the China Antiques store where the father's discovery feels like a moment borrowed from Indiana Jones (not a surprise when you know who produced the film). I love the Capra-esque look of small snow-covered town Kingston Falls and her Mr. Potter-like figure, an old hag who's the only human antagonist. And then you have Zach Galligan as Billy, and that was a perfect casting, there's so much likability conveyed by his wide-eyed naive eyes and his timid smile that his bonding with Gizmo feels genuine and real, and their interactions contribute to the film's best moments.

"Gremlins" is full of tenderness and that little piano moment remains my favorite one. There is also a great friendship between Billy and his girlfriend played by Phoebe Cates, and what is more interesting than these two characters (certainly less flashy than the Gremlins) is that they remain as vulnerable and human at the end of the film as when it started. They never turn into some last-minute super heroes, and the last scene takes us back to what makes the film such an endearing classic, it's the perfect emotional reward and it's done in a simple and clever way, letting the final voice-over introducing that "Gremlins" so Un-Christmas-like score.

"Gremlins" owes its existence to the monster-premise, no one would have cared about cute little creatures otherwise, but it's for the cute moments that I'm sure the film is still appreciated and beloved. It also reminds of the 80's where even monsters-films could afford to be cute, and special effects could be amazing without CGI, and when we could come up with new inventive creature and amazement to the eyes without rebooting or remaking old stuff. And to twice the nostalgia effect, the film doesn't just remind me of this time, but of that first time I saw it. And both were good.
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2/10
Not Underrated, Just Underdeveloped
NxNWRocks10 August 2004
It's strange how some films become not just successful, but hugely successful. Revisiting this movie recently, it's apparent that not only is it obviously dated two decades later, but it's very much a film which is remembered as being better than it is.

It requires an obvious suspension of disbelief to accept the very arbitrary rules of keeping a Mogwai (WHY does feeding it after midnight turn it into a Gremlin?) That's par for the course for a blockbuster, and not a problem in itself. The Mogwai's mechanical movement can't help but make it look fake, but we can overlook that too. The real disappointment here is that the script, having crawled somewhat in the first half, falls away in the second, almost as if the Gremlins themselves had gotten to it in their chaotic manner. Sure, we see scenes of havoc, but to what ultimate purpose? The movie got a PG rating, but the Gremlins display the kind of behavior you wouldn't want kids to associate with, especially in the rowdy bar scene, during which Phobe Cates is behind the bar, inexplicably serving them drinks when most people would have high-tailed it out of there as soon as the little devils showed up.

The film also struggles to maintain a consistent tone. Yes, it's a comedy foremost, but with some horror thrown in. The comedy doesn't entirely work, even and especially in the scenes where the monsters run amok, and the film's lack of real tension undermines any attempt at a darker quality. It is not aided in the least by the totally nondescript Zach Galligan in the leading role. He is so bland that if he didn't keep moving you would lose him in the wallpaper. Hoyt Axton is also ineffective in a stiff, monotone performance as the hapless inventor father, whereas Francis Lee McCain gets to add some beef to her role as typical American Housewife with one of the movie's best scenes as she defends her house, most notably the kitchen, from the Gremlins. Cates and Reinhold are pedestrian in their supporting roles. The writing is such that the characters pretty much sidle up to an underwhelming resolution, putting the cap on a movie that, like one of Peltzer's inventions, promises much but soon goes haywire.
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Silly but fun horror movie for teens with a mean streak running alongside the cartoon violence
bob the moo4 January 2007
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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I Blame My Youth
tayster12-522 February 2003
I grew up in the 80's. I look back at that time with great memories. From the clothes to the cars to the music and movies, my life was pretty decent back then.

I sometimes like to 'relive' my youth and watch some movies that I remember liking as a youngster. Some of the movies still hold up as being great movies...Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, Star Wars, Die Hard to name a few.

Others are not so great...Crocodile Dundee, Mannequin and Gremlins fit into this category.

The concept of this film is fairly great, and I give thumbs up to Chris Columbus for writing a decent script...well, half a script.

The first half of this movie isn't too annoying, but when the Gremlins start their wicked ways, I feel like I'm watching an overblown SNL skit. The amount of juvenile humor is just plain annoying. This is one of those movies that was well talked about back in 1984, but cannot stand the test of time.

The highlight of this movie for me this time around was seeing the Back to the Future set being used. Granted, Gremlins came out first, but the clock tower will forever be known for Back to the Future.
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4/10
Too scary for kids, not clever enough for adults
maraudertheslashnymph14 April 2009
"Gremlins" starts out well enough, as an inventor looking for a Christmas present for his son buys a strange little creature from a Chinese boy, despite the boy's grandfather's warnings that taking care of a "mogwai" requires a great amount of responsibility. Gizmo the mogwai goes home with the inventor to a small town where a mean old lady tries to make everyone's life hell and the inventor's son, Billy, has a crush on a girl. There are three rules to taking care of a mogwai: never get one wet, never expose one to sunlight, and never feed one after midnight. Of course, we know that by the end of the movie, all of those rules will have been broken at least once.

"Gremlins" goes downhill once it becomes clear that it's a movie without any kind of intended audience. Gizmo, the only good gremlin, is as adorable as a stuffed toy and the characters are portrayed in a broad way children can easily understand, but shortly after Billy's friend accidentally breaks the "no water" rule, the movie turns into something between satire and horror. It's too scary for kids, but not clever enough, scary enough, or sharp enough to hold the interest of adults. Kids will be the ones eager to see the mean old lady get her comeuppance, but the way in which she does will probably give them nightmares. Likewise, Billy's girlfriend's story of why she doesn't like Christmas is completely out of place for a movie geared at children. The movie doesn't know whether it wants us to laugh at the gremlins or to be truly afraid of them. The whole thing might have worked as a campily over-the-top shorter film, but there's not enough substance for a full-length movie, and after a while it grows tiresome waiting for the gremlins to be defeated and the movie to end.

I kept thinking of another 80's movie in which buying something strange from an old Chinese man leads to chaos, "Little Shop of Horrors." Unlike "Gremlins," "Little Shop of Horrors" knows what it is (a satire) and knows who it was made for (teenagers and adults). Its twists and turns are capable of holding the audience's attention and it's genuinely funny. "Gremlins" could have been a children's movie about a cute gremlin named Gizmo, a horror film, or a tongue-in-cheek sendup of horror films. Trying to be all three at once doesn't work.
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6/10
Cynical, cleverly-made horror parody, marred by occasional mean spiritedness.
barnabyrudge22 August 2007
Warning: 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.
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6/10
This is Not A Cute Little Kids Film!
ccthemovieman-128 May 2006
When this came out, the amazing special-effects helped make this film a big hit, along with an interesting story with a likable little creature ("Gizmo") who got the viewers involved in the story, rooting for him.

However, this isn't some cute little animal picture. His offspring are anything but cute and lovable. They are downright nasty, and scary at times. Because of that meanness, violence and some profanity I do not recommend this movie to kids. The sequel I would recommend instead. That has much more of a comedic tone with less language.

There is humor here, too, though, such as the clothing and actions of some of the gremlins. The film is entertaining all the way through, and very intense in spots. On my last viewing of it, several years ago, I was shocked to hear the Lord's name in vain several times by Dick Miller and once by a little kid! That did it for me; now I stick with the sequel.
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6/10
Has it's Moments
pc9512 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Used to watch this movie fairly often as a teenager after it's release. It's got a pretty good re-watch-ability factor for being a mid-80s flick. The puppeteers, make-up, and costuming, have done a great job throughout the production while the animation and effects are maybe passable. The story is streamlined and focused and the pacing very good. The acting is satisfactory and passable, but nothing splendid except for maybe Hoyt Axton who helps bring some gravity and grounding to the whole cast. Of course the gremlins are the stars of the show. They have their moments and get plenty of screen time. Some of the gags work, while others fizzle. I liked the word-play and vocals done for the gremlins - you can notice some high profile voice actors in the cast like Peter Cullin and Frank Welker. It's not a great movie really, but it has some entertaining moments and did well enough to "spawn" a poorer sequel. Mildly recommended for nostalgia's sake.
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10/10
This was THE movie in 1984
jkcanewton23 November 2010
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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One of the best Horror/Comedies of all time!
TheCinemassacre23 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
It follows a somewhat conventional monster movie plot. An ordinary guy witnesses his unusual but cute cuddly pet spawn a horde of evil Gremlins. He tries to warn the authorities, but they don't believe him until the creatures show up and go on a rampage throughout the town. Like in many monster movies, a plan is devised to destroy them, which works, but then there's still one left which needs to be defeated.

Every monster movie convention in the book is used, including all the famous shocks such as something jumping out in the foreground and something jumping out in the background, but what makes this film original is the Gremlins' silly personalities. They don't eat people or kill them in order to survive in any way. They just want to have fun and cause chaos! Their personalities are almost human and seem to represent a side of us that has no morals and just wants to let loose in a world without regulations. At times, you are cheering for the monsters, which makes this movie so unique.

Two major highlights are the bar scene and the movie theater scene where all the gremlins gather together and have a great time!
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7/10
Infectiously funny
mjw23059 January 2007
Zach Galligan plays Billy a young bank clerk, when his father (Hoyt Axton) brings him a some what unusual Christmas gift, a creature known as a mogwai which they name Gismo; his life changes dramatically. After a series of accidents Gismo multiply's and the cute furry offspring soon become little green beasts that terrorise the town, leaving Billy and his girlfriend (Phoebe Cates) to find a way to get rid of these gremlins, before everyone winds up dead.

Gremlins is infectiously funny and effortlessly entertaining with its blend of cutsie charm and comic book horror. The creatures themselves are excellently brought to life with some masterful puppetry and Joe Dante's direction really does the film justice.

This movie is crammed with memorable scenes, subtle parody and excellent, yet quite humorous horror.

7/10
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5/10
Nasty.
Chrissie25 July 1999
It's disturbing that this film is supposed to be fun and amusing -- the poor befuddled snowplow driver's home being destroyed; the tavern being trashed while the girl is being terrorized, the science teacher viciously attacked, the murder of the town meanie. It would have been quite possible to make the gremlins pesky and troublesome without urging the audience to laugh at horrible misfortune.

The characters were all cookie-cutter cliches: wise old oriental, bungling inventor dad, sad-eyed tragic love interest, perky and resourceful kid, and the resurrection of Elvira Gulch, who was a much better character in the Wizard of Oz.

Sure, Gizmo was cute, and the scene where the monsters all gathered to watch Snow White had its charm, but overall Gremlins lacks anything endearing or enduring.
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