Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Nostalgic Film Reviews: Gremlins

Directed by Joe Dante and Written by Christopher Columbus

"First of all, keep him out of the light, he hates bright light, especially sunlight, it'll kill him. Second, don't give him any water, not even to drink. But the most important rule, the rule you can never forget, no matter how much he cries, no matter how much he begs, never feed him after midnight." 
Hands up if you remember these rules?

Gremlins remains one of my favourite films to watch around Christmas time. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed it just as much as I did when I was a kid while watching this just before Christmas last year. I found myself quoting lines along with the characters and mimicking Gizmo's warbling sing song voice throughout the film and cheering when Billy's mother took out the majority of the little Gremlin bastards using common household devices. She was pretty awesome and I have never looked at a microwave nor a blender the same way since.

For those who haven't seen this amazing piece of cinema I recommend you have a movie night pronto. In the meantime here is a quick synopsis. Billy Peltzer's father returns from a trip with a Mogwai, a cute little critter, for him. He gives Billy Gizmo and informs him of the three rules mentioned above. As per any good film Billy manages to break all three rules - albeit accidentally and with help from a neighbourhood kid (played by Corey Feldman of the Two Coreys fame...) and the Gremlins. The creatures quickly over run the town and destruction, death and comic relief ensue.

Gremlins is one of those films that stands out to me as it was, technically, the first 'horror' film I saw as a kid. As I was two when it first came out I didn't actually see it until I was ten but I loved it from first broken rule to the very end. And, like many kids, when Furbys came out I desperately wanted one so I could name it Gizmo. In a way, I was glad that my parents weren't able to afford the toy because Furbys now have this amazing ability to give me the creeps.

What's even better is that, in my opinion, it stands the test of time. Of course it's not as slick as any of today's films but it aced that dark humour and comedy that is missing from many of today's films. In fact, I wonder what rating it would get if it had been made today because there are some dark moments in that film. I mean, Stripe is a right homicidal bastard and his death at the end of the film is sufficiently gross and 'icky' and I love it. There there are the animatronics. Sure Gizmo looks fake but I am still holding on tight to my rose tinted glasses. (I don't want a remake of this, thank you very much).

The scenes that stand out to me are the scenes with Mr Futterman and with Mrs Peltzer. There is actually a kind of tragic sadness around Futterman's character. He is the town drunk and, upon re-watching this film, I picked up more on why he was the drunk. Obviously he was a war veteran but when I was listening to what he was saying it made me think about how he was almost talking over what happened to him. Drinking to forget is an easy thing for him to do but he also came across as a genuine guy who happened to like Billy and also seemed very lonely. I know that he was used for comic relief but he was one of my favourite characters in the film.

Mrs Peltzer was just a bad ass. Well, for her scenes with the first batch of hatchlings. After Billy comes in to save the day she suddenly reverts to a near hysterical state, which was kind of sad, but still - when she manages to microwave that gremlin I found myself cheering and laughing. This could possibly say more about me that it should.

Then, of course, there is Gizmo. I remember getting a colouring in book of him based around the second film. He was a cute little guy who stole my heart as a child. I truly hoped that there were creatures like him. There is something about the puppetry in this film that makes it truly stand out in my mind as a classic. Parables and metaphors aside, this film is just delightfully dark and, in some places, Burtonesque in it's colour saturation and dark humour.

I did have a couple of gripes - nothing serious but still enough just to irk me a little. Kate's character was underdeveloped and, when she shares that story about her father, sad as it is, it just seemed tacked on to give us an explanation to why she doesn't like Christmas. Then there was the treatment of Roy Hansen. The high school science teacher. You'd think he'd be capable of listening to instructions but no, he leaves a sandwich in easy reach and treats the Mogwai poorly. He just doesn't follow proper science procedures. (Well, what I think procedures should be...I guess greed played a part?) And one final gripe - seriously Billy, the amount of times that Gizmo had to remind you of the 'bright lights' ...!

Anyway, rose coloured glasses and all this film is a definite classic and should be on everyone list for great Christmas films. It has everything one would want for for Christmas time viewing: a scrooge, a daft old man, a bright eyed kid and a fluffy companion.

My rating: 8.0/10 - may it live forever as a classic. (I also have the damn theme song stuck in my head as well...)

Question: What is your favourite film from the 80s?

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