It’s been a while, but the vault is rolling out it’s old chestnut series, You Decide… Sequel Suicide? Although Kai feels the Christmas element of Gremlins is purely superfluous, it’s a holiday movie I love to revisit every year much like folks who plop down in front of the tele to watch A Christmas Story or It’s a Wonderful Life.
The quaint little town of Kingston Falls is about to have a Christmas it will never forget all because its resident inventor, Rand Peltzer (Hoyt Axton), has brought his son Billy (Zach Galligan) home a unique gift he uncovered in a Chinatown junk shop. The gift, a mogwai, an adorable, furry little creature he’s taken to calling Gizmo (Howie Mandel). Billy only need follow three simple instructions to care for Gizmo; keep it away from bright light, especially sunlight, never get it wet, and never, ever feed it after midnight. By Christmas Eve, two of the three rules have been inadvertently broken, unleashing a diminutive destructive horde of gremlins lead by Gizmo’s devilish, Mohawk-sporting offspring, Spike (Frank Welker).
It seems there was cinematic magic in the air in 1984. Many all-time classics dot its landscape, including this gem which we owe to the writing of Chris Columbus, the directing of Joe Dante, Steven Spielberg’s talents as executive producer, and most importantly the creative vision of special effects artist Chris Walas. Thanks to Walas, every kid, and adults such as myself,? still long for the chance to have our very own mogwai, gremlins-hazard potential be damned!
As you might have noticed, I’m a huge fan of Gremlins. Even though I’ve lost count of how often I’ve seen it, I’ve watched it enough times to recognize the intrinsic issues with Columbus’s story. I’ve questioned the logic of the three rules. You can never get it wet, but does Gizmo need to drink? Billy’s mom (Frances Lee McCain) mentions making soup for Gizmo, but broth is mainly water so what effect would it have had on him had he eaten it? I assume none since gremlins practically bathed in the beer Kate (Phoebe Cates) was serving. And if they multiply with water, how is it gremlins can run through the snow-covered streets and not be constantly reproducing? How does changing time zones affect mogwai and gremlin digestion? Would their digestion be affected by jet lag? How is it gremlins are only affected by two of the rules, i.e. how can they feed after midnight without metamorphosing? I know, nerd alert, but I could really use Rand’s help to make the illogical logical.
You can easily set the plot-debunking aside, because Gremlins is so damned entertaining. The story has an excellent setup and is narrated by Rand as if it were both a classic holiday bedtime story and cautionary tale, which it sort of is. It’s cute, it’s funny and it’s horrific at the same time. Gremlins vacillates from Gizmo humming cutesy melodies to him squealing and writhing in moistened agony, from gremlins caroling to them mangling Santa Claus, from gremlins flashing, flash dancing, and yucking it up at Dorry’s Tavern to Stripe bludgeoning, shooting, and chainsawing an outmatched Billy. Though the chaotic sequences are often set to Jerry Goldsmith’s wonderfully playful The Gremlin Rag composition to add levity, I can see how the more graphically violent moments can be a little disturbing to the more sensitive viewer.
The juxtaposition of these darker elements with the usually cheerful Christmas season makes a stellar black comedy. It’s Christmas in reverse; the wonderful, perfect gift which would normally positively punctuate a tale of holiday hardship is the exact thing which unravels the magic and wonderment of the season. Gremlins makes you appreciate the things you do have, like a delightful movie such as it to watch every Christmas.