Directed by: Joe Dante
Writing credits: Chris Columbus
Plot: A screwball inventor buys his son a special pet for Christmas, but after failing to observe the rules to care for it, it multiplies into a horde of wicked little creatures that wreak havoc on an idyllic American town.
Review: Gremlins is a classic Christmas movie that I recently watched for the first time in about twenty years, and I'm pleased to report that it holds up about as well as I remember. Sure, the puppetry looks a little worse to my adult eyes than it did when I was a child, particularly on Gizmo, who is far creepier looking than I ever realized, but the gremlins themselves still look fantastic, as long as they're not shown moving across screen in a full body shot.
All the gremlins in the first film look pretty much the same except for Stripe, but most of the ones that have any kind of screen time have little gimmicks that set them apart from the pack (i.e. the flasher, the aerobics gremlin, the cool jazz guy, etc). There are plenty of gags involving the gremlins in the first movie, but they still come across as fairly threatening creatures, unlike in the far-too-slapsticky sequel, which is too goofy for its own good. These classic gremlins look far better than the individually-designed ones in the sequel anyway. When you have a good thing going it's usually best not to mess with it.
It's kind of sad that the only person in this film that really went on to do much of anything worthwhile afterward was Corey Feldman. If you look at Zach Galligan's IMDB page it shows that he's gotten a lot of work, but not in anything I've ever heard of. And Phoebe Cates all but dropped off the face of the Earth after doing the sequel and Drop Dead Fred in the early 90s. The actors do an okay job, but the real stars of this movie are the puppets anyway, and they're very entertaining to watch.
One thing I was quite surprised by was how violent this film was--much more than I remembered, but then I shouldn't have been surprised, because this and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom are the two films that came out in 1984 that resulted in the creation of the PG-13 rating, after parents got a little upset after scarring their children for life by taking them to these movies. Of course, I saw the movie back then and I was only seven, and I turned out just fine, so maybe they were worried for nothing.
If you've never seen Gremlins you owe it to yourself to check out what is not only a classic holiday film, but a classic 80s film as well. Sure, some of the special effects may look a little cheesy here and there, but you can't tell me that the shots of the gremlins (REAL puppets!) don't look far better than any CGI creature you've seen. That is, unless they're trying to walk. Since this film represents a fondly remembered part of my childhood, I'm very glad that it didn't disappoint upon a more recent viewing.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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