Last night I watched the old 1980’s horror/comedy classic, Gremlins, via Netflix. I grew up in the ’80s and I can still remember how obssessed I quickly became with the movie after seeing the trailer on TV and even having a Gizmo and Stripe action figure prior to even seeing the movies. I bugged the crap out of my parents to go see it, but unfortunately the near bye town I lived near only had two movie theaters and a total of three screens between them. So, for me the wait for it to arrive at one of them was sheer torture.
Once I finally saw the movie it became an instant classic in my mind, along with Ghost Busters and Poltergeist. So, when I saw it on Netflix I jumped at the chance to watch it again. Overall I enjoyed the movie, and not merely because of nostalgia.
I’ve always been a fan of phsyical/pratical effects in movies rather than CGI. Puppeteering, claymation, etc are what I love to see. I’ll take buckets of fake blood over digital blood spray any day. Over all the effects in Gremlins stood the test of time for me. In particular there’s a scene with Billy’s mom fighting off the gremlins in her kitchen. The kills made via a microwave, and blender are brilliant and mordidly funny. The gruesome effects of exploding gremlins and blood splatter is visceral and effective. I think that the kitchen scene is the strongest example of great effects and pupeteering in the movie.
At times there are a few shots where the gremlins look really fake/awkward but these were few and far between. Gremlins may not be as slick and detailed as CGI these days but its visual appeal is great and has a distinct feel to it.
The overall plot was good, I liked that they spent a decent amount of time establishing the character Billy along with the supporting characters prior to the ensuing chaos of the gremlins. Once the gremlins started spreading chaos across the town the pacing moved at a good clip and the plot was simple but kept the tension levels fairly high. I also liked that the budding romance subplot was put on the back burner rather than fixating on it giving the situation Billy and the town found themselves in.
The majority of the characters didn’t stand out to me nor did I feel connected to them. Billy was a rather bland character and his love interest didn’t really have much of an impact on the storyline. His parents were there to carry the plot forward, ie giving Billy the present, etc.
Billy’s neighbor, an old man named Murphy(?) was the most interesting to me and I would’ve liked to have seen him play a much bigger role. He was a WWII vet, and knew about gremlins from the war which could have been an asset to Billy later in the movie. He also had a grumpy personality with a sardonic humor to him which could have led to some great scenes. I could see him chomping on a cigar while delievering some solid one-liners as he whooped some gremlin arse.
The old man at the shop where Billy’s dad bought Gizmo seemed interesting as well, considering his knowledge about mogwai and his mannerisms. He could’ve been the equivlant of Obi-Wan or some other wise old sage to Billy, but instead is left with a limited role in the begining and end of the movie.
I’m not sure if it was mediocre acting or writing, but either way it seemed like at times Billy and his mother and father were far to underwhelmed or casual about what was going on with Gizmo and the other mogwai/gremlins. Even when the other mogwai turn into slimy cocoons everyone seems indifferent almost to it. I think the strongest reaction is the mother screaming but quickly composes herself as if it was completely normal. There are other times throughout the movie where the characters seems dazed/underwhelmed too. I would say the strongest performance was by Billy’s old man neighbor ‘Murphy’.
There were a few things in the movie that made me wonder just what the hell was going on. The biggest one to me was the fact that Gizmo, and the other mogwai/gremlins, had the vocabulary of a toddler, yet no one picked up on this or even made mention of it. At one point one of the gremlins is playing a video game and another is playing a toy trumpet yet everyone seems to treat this as perfectly normal and treats them like they’re nothing more than a house pet. Seriously? WTF. If someone gave you a pet that could talk and do stuff like a little kid wouldn’t you be surprised/curious?
The other one was the science teacher that Billy gives a mogwai to for ‘research’. After the gremlin hatches and runs loose in his class room, the genius teacher tries to track it down in the darkened room, instead of turning the lights on, and then meets his demise by reaching under a desk where the gremlin lays in wait for him. His actions made no sense to me.
Regardless of its flaws, Gremlins is still a classic for me. It manages to balance the horror aspect fairly well with the dark humor to deliver an entertaining story. If you’ve never seen it or haven’t seen it in years, its worth checking out.