I’m Dreaming of a Monster-Infested Christmas…
Yo, this be Reuben. 1984 must have been a great year. Not only was the world graced with Ghostbusters, a film greatly appreciated by most everyone in their right mind, but it also let Gremlins loose. Both considered classics, although Gremlins was considerably over-shadowed by Ghostbusters. The thing is, only Ghostbusters would so easily beat Gremlins to film of the year, because the latter, on first watch, is absolute quality watching.
There is so much to love about Gremlins. The whole aesthetic, let’s say, knows what it’s doing. There is something so genuine and light-hearted about the film’s shtick, but at the same time there is a sinister and gruesome knife-edge to behold. This melding of bright and Christmassy fun with the weird-lookin’-blood-splatterin’ horror violence is masterful, as at first the film seems like a nice ol’ Christmas film, but as it goes on it becomes a quality horror flick, the transition being progressive and sharp. There is always a sinister feeling brewing underneath the cover of the lightness, and so the progression is made more natural.
This general mood of the film is emphasized by the fantastic score, with a mix of fun 80’s tunes and spiky, horror influenced tracks, which are put in a blender to make a really in-your-face and entertaining soundtrack. The cinematography, too, seems to be influenced by horrors, even when the mood is fun, with looming shots, lurking shadows, and wacky shots that would later by replicated in The Grinch — this wacky and dark camerawork really helps put the mood across. It’s got a fun and roller coaster-like screenplay, to boot, by Chris Columbus. All these things make Gremlins a twisted, hedonistic, yet festive Christmas classic that I’m sure I’ll make a traditional viewing.
This whole aesthetic of Gremlins is nailed into the ground by a solid, simple plot, where an odd bloke is buys his son a last-minute Christmas present in Chinatown, a cute looking Mogwai, which musn’t see bright light, be touched by water, or be fed after midnight. Of course, all three of these rules are broken, and all hell breaks loose as they multiply into green monsters and reek havoc on Christmas Eve night. This easy to follow plot means that the film can stay mad, but not so mad it goes all over the place, remaining funny, intriguing, but not mental: it means we can enjoy the magic of the Gremlins without having to use our brains — and that’s a good thing, because this isn’t a thinking man’s sci-fi, and I don’t always want a thinking man’s sci-fi, especially at Christmas…
Billy Peltzer is the guy who gets given the Mogwai in the first place, li’l Gizmo. Billy’s a very solid protagonist, as a scatty and geeky comic nerd with an affectionate side. He’s a character that audiences can route for, because he isn’t perfect but he’s likable — a great performance by Zach Galligan.
However, Gremlins isn’t quite perfect. Although the direction of Joe Dante is admirable, some sections are prolonged slightly too much, so a little more editing could have helped. There a few moments scattered around that are a tad ridiculous and maybe even predictable, but I suppose the former can be forgiven considering the fact that Gremlins aren’t exactly realistic in the first place and the overt mysterious feel the film presents; however, predictable moments can mar scenes a little.
In conclusion, if you count Gremlins as a Christmas film, it’s easily better than The Polar Express (sorry Milo…), and comes toe-to-toe with Elf and The Grinch, even considering those two’s nostalgia value for me. On the other hand, as an 80’s classic, it’s admittedly weaker than the elite like Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back or Ghostbusters, but it’s better than E.T, The Shining, and Back to the Future Part II/III, to name a few. It’s a twisted Christmas roundabout and a fantastic turn from Joe Dante — I can see why it’s held its place in pop culture so well.
Basically, it’s right good. Oh, and Merry Christmas!
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