Zach Galligan is the young man whose inventor father (Hoyt Axton) gives him an odd Christmas present: a tiny, furry creature that comes with a set of rules: don’t get him wet, don’t feed him after midnight, and keep him away from direct sunlight. But Galligan breaks the first rule and the damp little critter pops out a dozen little offspring. Then the offspring break the second rule and, overnight, turn from cute furry guys to malevolent scaly guys with world domination on their mind. The only way to stop them: rule three. But it’s an anxious (and extremely funny) battle to make it to daylight—and the bad gremlins find ways to multiply over and over. Great special effects and a gruesome sense of humor make this a wild (if occasionally dark and scary) ride. –Marshall Fine
Joseph Dante Jr. was born on November 28, 1946 in Morristown, New Jersey, and raised in the nearby borough of Parisippany. His parents were professional golf players and his father wrote some books on the instructions of playing golf some of which included Four Magic Moves to Winning Golf, and Stop that Slice. After a bout with polio that nearly crippled him at age 7, he slowly recovered and decided to take up drawing rather than athletics as his parents did.
Dante studied at the Philadelphia College of Art after graduating from high school. As a teenager, he contributed to Castle of Frankenstein and Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines with various drawings, and upon graduation from he College of Art, he became a film critic for the Film Buletin newspaper for which he later became the managing editor. With a friend, named Jon Davidson, Dante cut together a series of movie clips and film trailers and edited them into his first short film which was titled The Movie Orgy (1968… read more
A middle ground between Dante's goofier work and his forays into darkness, on rewatch I wish he had embraced the latter more. I never found Billy's hero's journey that compelling. The best segment of the film being Billy's mom's encounter with Gremlins, the bit where she first picks up the knife is truly suspenseful moment and Dante morphing the fireplace's glow into something nightmarish is masterful.
You can read many of Dante's films as satirical responses to Spielberg. Here, Gremlins subverts the relentless adorability of E.T. Starting from a similar premise--cute alien companion--Spielberg is content to let ET just be our buddy while Gizmo spawns murderous grotesques. The film then takes great delight in torturing our pal Gizmo for the duration. ET is a celebration of cuteness, Gremlins a violence against it.
No film this year opens more promisingly and ends more dismally than J.J. Abrams’ Super 8. Promising not only because the first shot
Joe Dante has earned the right to be called a survivor, with a substantial career in which he has ping-ponged from big-budget sci-fi spectaculars
Above: Dante's The Howling (1981). Joe Dante was kind enough to grant interview time during his visit to the Edinburgh International Film