I know it’s April, but for some reason, a coworker was whistling Jingle Bells today which got me to thinking about Christmas movies. Now when most people think of Christmas movies, they probably think of the classics like It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, or Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer. And while I do enjoy watching most of those movies, I tend the favor the more atypical style of Christmas movie. For instance, Die Hard is a great Christmas movie to watch, as is Santa’s Slay. Then you have today’s movie, Gremlins, which most people don’t think of as a Christmas movie but it is a great one to watch.
The plot: Inventor Randall Peltzer is trying to find a gift for his son Billy when he comes across a strange shop in Chinatown where he finds a strange creature called a Mogwai. Although the shop owner refuses to sell it, the owner’s grandson sneaks it out and after telling Randall the rules in caring for it, sells it to him. Randall returns home where he gives the Mogwai, which he named Gizmo, to his son and he explains the rules; keep it away from bright light (especially sunlight), never get it wet, and never feed it after midnight. However, as Billy is showing Gizmo to his friend Pete, Pete accidentally spills a glass of water on Gizmo, resulting in 5 hairballs popping off of it’s back and growing into 5 new Mogwais. Billy takes one of the new Mogwais to his former high school science teacher, Mr. Hanson, where he uses a drop of water to create another one for him to study. That night, the 5 new Mogwais, led by Stripe(named for the white mohawk on his head), trick Billy into feeding them after midnight. Billy awakens to find all 5 of them have turned into a bizarre cocoon. as has the one Mr. Hanson was studying. Later that day, Mr. Hanson calls Billy to tell him that the cocoon has hatched but when Billy gets to the school, he finds Mr. Hanson dead and he is attacked by the Gremlin. He tries calling his mom to warn her but she is attacked by the 5 Gremlins in the house. Mrs. Peltzer kills three of the Gremlins and Billy kills a fourth but Stripe manages to escape. Billy and Gizmo track Stripe to the local YMCA but are unable to prevent Stripe from jumping into the pool. As Billy goes to the police to try and warn them, Stripe leads hundreds of Gremlins into town where they proceed to go on a destructive rampage throughout the town. Billy manages to rescue his girlfriend Kate from the bar, where dozens of Gremlins had overrun it, and manage to hide in the bank. As dawn approaches, they discover that the Gremlins are all hiding in the movie theater watching Snow White. Billy breaks a gas main in the theater and causes an explosion which kills all the Gremlins but Kate sees Stripe inside a department store. While Kate tries to turn on the lights, Billy tries to track down Stripe and winds up getting attacked several times by the Gremlin. Stripe manages to make it to the garden section and stands in the fountain in order to start producing more Gremlins but Gizmo drives up in a toy car and manages to open the shades from the windows, exposing Stripe to the sunlight which winds up causing the Gremlin to melt. As Billy, Kate, and Billy’s parents relax that evening, the shop owner appears and, after chastising them for what they allowed to happen, takes Gizmo back with him.
Gremlins was well liked by the critics, earning an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While some criticized the violence and deaths in the movie, others liked the various imagery found in the film as well as the contrast between the Christmas setting and the dark comedy elements. Gremlins opened at #2 behind Ghostbusters and would go on to make over $153 million, making it the 4th highest grossing film of 1984.
This is a fun movie to watch and while it will probably always be considered a classic, it did have it’s faults. The acting was a little weak at points and there were some parts that really seemed weird, such as Kate’s depressing story about her dad’s death. The puppetry and animatronics were pretty decent for the time but there were some scenes where they could have been done better. The special effects were pretty decent, in fact the scene with Stripe jumping in the pool and all of the light and smoke coming from the pool was really cool. The story was decent and I did like the comedic aspects in the film which, while they were admittedly a bit dark at times, fit in well with the horror aspects of the film. So a good movie to watch during Christmas, or Halloween, or anytime really.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5