It’s Christmas time in Kingston Falls and Randall Peltzer has the perfect present for his son Billy. A cute little creature known as a mogwai. The mogwai comes with a certain set of rules. 1. Keep him out of light. 2. Don’t ever get him wet and 3. Don’t feed him after midnight. That’s it, three simple rules any person can manage. Follow those rules and you’ll have a happy mogwai. But what happens if one of these rules are broken?
Directed by Joe Dante, written by Chris Columbus and starring Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates and Hoyt Axton; Gremlins is a little horror flick released in 1984 and is one of my most favorite Christmas horror films. Let me start off by saying 1984 was an awesome year for movies. We had greats like Ghostbusters, Nightmare on Elm Street, Terminator and Temple of Doom. But let me tell you something, Gremlins is a top five film of that year.
Much like The Monster Squad, Teddy Ruxpin and Ecto Cooler Hi-C. Any 80’s kid sees Gremlins as a great nostalgic memory. I grew up on this film and when it comes down to it; Gremlins and The Monster Squad are my two first actual “horror” films I watched as a kid. There’s a deep place in my heart for this movie. But being on my list of films has nothing to do with nostalgia. Gremlins is a sincerely good film.
You have to appreciate that this is a horror film set in a Christmas setting. Christmas is great for any horror film. It’s such a joyous and peaceful season. Everyone tends to be happy and the music is full of splendor. So when little monsters attack a town and people are being killed off one by one; it adds a distinct contrast to the tone. One minute everything is joyous and eggnog abounds! Then a group of Gremlins drive a car through the living room!
What I love most about Gremlins is how such a cute little fuzzy creature can technically can make such terrible and ugly monsters. It’s kind of like the monster version of the Hulk. To me it sets a theme to the film that in nature there are gentle and wonderful things yet make a mistake and it will turn viscous. I don’t think there was a great environmental or animal rights kind of agenda behind the film but I think that is a cool premise.
From what I’ve read online, Gremlins had a big problem with people not fully understanding it was a horror film. I guess parents brought their young kids to the theater and abruptly left during the kitchen scene with Mrs. Peltzer. If you watch the trailer above, it is a little misleading. What you see is just a cute little creature that just seems to cause a little trouble. There’s no death or chaos. Plus it was rated PG. I could imagine a mom and dad bringing their kids to Friendly’s one night for a nice meal, then heading over to the movie theater for a nice family flick!
It’s also mentioned that Chris Columbus meant for the film to be more graphic and violent. There are deleted scenes where the Gremlins eat Billy’s dog Barney. Then the Gremlins kill Billy’s mother and throw her head down the stairs! I guess there was another deleted scene of the Gremlins invading a McDonalds and eating all the customers but leaving the burgers untouched. I don’t know about you, but that is the most horrific and hilarious thing I have ever heard. This is some sick stuff and I wish they made a special writers cut of the film. But like all films the higher voice comes in and they toned the film down. It was a film that was very responsible for the new rating system in films. Instead of PG the film was later re-rated to a new PG-13 due to it’s violence.
Gremlins is a classic film that although has some issues like sub-par acting, has a strong/straight to the point story. It was a success financially and spawned a sequel that was pretty bad. Gremlins 2 was more comedy and lost the violent scary nature of the first film. I couldn’t get into the humor of the film. The first one does have some funny moments but it’s never over-the-top and it doesn’t seek attention over the horror or Christmas tone. Gremlins is just fine will always remain a favorite of mine.