Friday, 21 December 2018

Movie Review: Gremlins

Directed by Joe Dante, 1984

Pros: decent special effects

Cons: cheesy acting, limited plot

Billy Peltzer’s early Christmas present is a pet his dad got in Chinatown. There are three rules, and as the days pass and rules are broken, the cute furry mogwai turn into horrible gremlins.

I saw this movie - once - as a child and loved it. I had a stuffed Gizmo and action figures of Gizmo and Stripe. So I was somewhat apprehensive about watching it as an adult. As with some other films, it was surprising what I remembered and what I didn’t.

The special effects work on the mogwai and gremlins is surprisingly good. There are a few moments when they look fake (especially when the gremlins are jumping), but for the most part they’re very convincing as living animals.

Some of the music is fantastic, especially the ending theme song that sticks with you.

Billy’s mother (Frances Lee McCain) has nerves of steel. She probably gives the best performance. I loved her side-eying her husband’s inventions that never work (which she keeps using because she wants to support him) and I loved her dealing with some of the first gremlins that show up.

I’m not sure what to make of the Chinatown scene and the grandfather. It’s definitely a stereotype, but not a caricature. And his words at the end retain their bite.

There’s very little plot beyond kid messes up rules and havoc ensues once the gremlins get loose. Having said that, it is entertaining. There’s a measure of gore but the mix of humour and horror work well. 

One thing I did remember was the story of what happened to Kate’s father, though I was kind of shocked by how little attention Billy paid her as she told this traumatic story.

I’m glad I watched it again for the sake of nostalgia. Not sure I can recommend it otherwise.

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