Release year: 1984
Director: Joe Dante
Screenwriter: Chris Columbus
Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Frances Lee McCain, Corey Feldman, Dick Miller, Jackie Joseph, Keye Luke
Ratings: 5 Saturn Awards: Best Horror, Best Supporting Actress (Polly Holliday), Best Director, Best Music, Best Special Effects.
When Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) discovers the cute creature Gizmo in a Chinese store he decides it is the perfect Christmas present for his son Billy (Zach Galligan). But Gizmo is much more than cudly cuteness; he is a disaster waiting to happen. Because if you don’t follow the rules concerning his care all hell will break loose.
With Spielberg producing, Chris Columbus writing and Joe Dante directing this was always bound to be a hit, but I wonder if anyone expected the succes Gremlins would become when it came out right at the height of the popularity of mixing horror with comedy. With its incredibly dark humour and occational gore set in the idylic small town around Christmas, Gremlins is a perfect combination of the two genres: at once an effective monster movies but also a charming Holiday comedy with coloured lights and candy canes. Galligan (Waxwork, 1988) and Cates (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1982) were both quite unknown but brilliantly casted due to a great amount of chemistry, as the young love-struck couple who finds themselves in the middle of monster mayhem; however, the movie also has its fair amount of well-known talents with the renowned Polly Holliday (Mrs. Doubtfire, 1993), Glynn Turman (Super 8, 2011), and Keye Luke (Phantom of Chinatown, 1940 and Kato in the original The Green Hornet TV-series), as well as a nod to classic horror comedy by reuniting Dick Miller and Jackie Joseph from The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) as the Futtermans. The special effects is mainly created by using puppets, created by Chris Walas who won an Academy Award for his amazing work on The Fly (1986), meaning they still hold up today. As adorable as Gizmo, who screamed for a merchandise campaign, is, as nasty are the green monsters that lend their name to the title and as the wreck the town in what appears to be chaos, but must have been strictly controlled, you can only be amazed by what they pulled off filming the movie. Though there is gore in the movie, the green blood from the creatures lighten it a bit, but despite the childish appearance of the monsters make no mistake: the humour in Gremlins is pretty dark with nods to urban legends (microwawes and chimneys) and a tendency to hold nothing back. Together with an amazing score by Jerry Goldsmith perfectly hitting the playful and annoying Gremlins while conveying the mounting suspense of the movie, the great creatures and dark humour as well as pure and delightful fun ensures this remains a beloved classic that will stand the test of time.
The notion of gremlins was first conceived during World War II, when mechanical failures in aircraft were jokingly blamed on the small monsters. The term “gremlins” also entered popular culture as children’s author Roald Dahl published a book called The Gremlins in 1943, based on the mischievous creatures Chris Columbus found the inspiration to write his script from noisy mice in his loft at night and initially didn’t intend the story to be filmed. But Spielberg saw the potential and bought the script.
Picture copyright: SF Film