By Warner Bros Films


When was the last time you went to see a horror movie that seemed specifically created to be fun, rather than the more usual creepy and/or disgusting vibe? Gremlins is one such horror, directed by Joe Dante and from that golden era of cinema when new movies were just, well, good.

The story revolves around a furry little creature called a Mogwai. All American inventor Ron Peltzer stumbles into a Chinese junk shop and buys it, but it comes with three rules. Don't take it into the light. Don't get it wet. And most importantly, don't feed it after midnight. Something I immediately loved about this set of new responsibilities that are herewith bestowed upon the Peltzer family, is that Ron just dismisses them all with a cackhanded "Sure thing," whereas I do get the feeling I personally might have asked exactly why.

Anyway, it's only a matter of days before all three rules are broken. If you get the Mogwai wet, it gives birth to more Mogwais, sort of in proportion to how wet you get it. It's not long before Ron's son Billy has five new Mogwais living in a cardboard box. Taking any of them into bright light results in them pulling manic facial expressions and whining but they seem to be ok if you turn the lights off. However when the new Mogwais sabotage Billy's alarm clock, he accidentally breaks the most dangerous of the rules and finds the Mohwais have mutated into gooey, slimy cocoon eggs all over his bedroom. From these hatch the "gremlins", which are evil, scaly little monsters. Although they're evil in a sort of Wile E. Coyote type of way.


The film is set in the town of Bedford Falls, which you may be familiar with if you've seen the Christmas movie It's A Wonderful Life (and if you haven't seen this lovely old movie it is well worth watching). There are several shout-outs to this movie throughout with Billy being employed seemingly in Mr. Potter's bank, and struggling to pacify its obnoxious owner Mrs. Harragan, who takes great delight in snarling at anyone who crosses her path. There's also a pretty large number of totally ancilliary characters who only have two or three scenes. Judge Reinhold for example is one of the first names in the film's billing, and initially, as Billy's smarmy, brownnosing co-worker, seems destined to play some significant role. However, after a mere two or three scenes he just seems to disappear completely. Even when a thousand-strong army of gremlins begin a murderous rampage we don't get to see him so much as cowering in a corner, which would have been a lot more satisfying than some of the scenes we do get, such as two gents being terrorised by a gremlin in a mailbox.

However, I am probably being hyper-critical. Dante was clearly going for a collection of disparate scenes that show the idyllic pace of life in Christmas 1984 before the Peltzer's disregard of the "rules" leads to many of its residents having a very unhappy Christmas indeed. But what's remarkable about the movie is how it manages to straddle the line between silliness and schlock-horror with considerable style. The action never drags and, although there are one of two 'iffy' effects as well as this pervasive feeling that it's all being done with puppets, it's actually the amazing soundtrack that really makes the movie shine.

The signature theme of the gremlins singing wawawawawawa is pretty iconic in its own right; everyone who's seen the movie instantly recognises it as The Theme From Gremlins. When you've got police cars being flipped on their roofs, Gremlin-controlled snow ploughs demolishing houses, Mrs Harragan cartwheeling into a snowdrift and countless other horrors, it's the sprightly score which allows this to be hilarious rather than horrific. Of course it also helps that the gremlins themselves do not often conduct themselves with any regard for their own safety let alone the safety of the residents of the town.

Anyway, in summary Gremlins is one of the most perfect comedy horrors I've ever had the pleasure of watching. It's all completely stupid, obviously, and there are a few scenes that don't quite seem to fit, but for the most part you'll be too entertained to care.

Dave E

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