Gremlins (Review by Jessie Seitz)
Back in ye old 1980’s kid movies were not the watered down, non-offending, piles of crap that they are today. Goblins stealing baby brothers, mice trying to save their offspring from pneumonia and children tasked with saving a parallel universe stuck in a book … all of this happened in one magic decade of entertainment. And we loved it, named our pets after the characters, played with the toys and ate the breakfast cereal. Life was good.
With all of these things under consideration, it’s easy to see how a movie about a family pet that spawns evil monsters, during Christmas, got made. Gremlins was unleashed upon the world during the holiday season of 1984. The film opens with a very Polanski inspired noir shot of Randall Peltzer, inventor and proprietor. Rand, finds himself searching for a Christmas gift in the middle of the night while out on one of his many “business trips”.
(Personally, I feel that Rand suffered from some sort of personality disorder and was prone to wandering.) As fate would have it, he stumbles upon a fury little creature called a Mogwai in a crusty gift shop nestled in Chinatown.
The opium smoking shop owner is reluctant to sell but his grandson strikes a deal with Rand outside the shop.
(Hey times are hard and you gotta put bread on the table, even if it means releasing an unholy evil on an unsuspecting small town.)
Enter the delightful little town of Kingston Falls. Here we find Billy Peltzer, a fine young lad just trying to get by. He has the good fortune to work at the bank with local hottie Kate Beringer, a woman not easily impressed with cable television or the Christmas holiday. (Score!) After a particularly hard day at the office, Billy’s father, Rand, returns home with the Mogwai who now has been given the ever-so-cute name of “Gizmo”.
Rand now relays the rules impressed upon him by the Chinese kid in the back alley:
1. Don’t expose the creature to bright light. Sunlight will kill him. (Just like a vampire.)
2. Don’t ever get him wet. (Dust baths from here on out!)
3. Never, EVER, feed him past midnight. (Not timezone specific.)
No self-respecting 80’s movie is ever truly complete with some role being filled by actor Corey Feldman. Gremlins is no exception. In this movie, Corey plays the plucky character of Pete Fountain. This lovable little scamp is earning extra holiday cash by work a Christmas tree lot and is infatuated with Billy. When Pete stops by the Peltzer home to drop off a tree, he is introduced to Gizmo and accidentally dumps a glass of water on the poor thing. Several Mogwai pop out of Gizmo’s back and before Rand can sell them off as the “Peltzer Pet”, those evil little Mogwai chew up Billy’s alarm clock and trick him into giving them food after mid-night.
The Mogwai are transformed into “Gremlins” and begin to unleash the terror on the otherwise peaceful town of Kingston Falls. It’s up to Billy and Kate to save the day, ensure Gizmo is safe and fall in love!
I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone who may have missed this gem but highlights include: B-movie veteran Dick Miller setting the record straight about the origin of the creatures, booze-swilling Gremlins taking over a local pub, and local mean lady, Mrs. Deagle, getting blasted out of the second story window of her cat filled house.
Yes, this is still a kid’s Christmas movie and it would never be made this day in age.
Gremlins, in all it’s silliness, is a brilliant film with a strong moral undercurrent. What’s also great about this era in children’s movies is adults can enjoy them just as much as kids. I think that Gremlins is one of those movies that people have just embraced over years. It’s easy enough to fixate on with all the toys, games, and other memorabilia that came out during it’s release. Come to think of it … they’re still making Gremlins toys after 27 years of it’s first release. Pretty amazing when you stop and think about it.
I grew up watching this movie as a child and it scared the shit out of me. I was convinced that a Gremlin lived under my bed and always leaped from my doorway to the mattress to avoid being snatched up by it. It ruled.
You see, being scared at silly things is fun … especially when you’re a child. Facing your fears in the comfort of a film can be an exhilarating experience and teaches us how to be brave in the face of real life trauma. It really bums me out that I no longer see these darker elements in children’s programing.
Perhaps one day we can stop pretending we live in a perfect world and once again embrace strange, violent kid’s movies.
- Jessie Seitz