Don’t get him wet, keep him out of bright light and never feed him after midnight. When Billy Peltzer inadvertently breaks the three rules of thumb concerning his new- strange but adorable- pet, he unleashes a horde of mischievous gremlins on a small town.
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A wonderful slice of morbid genre anarchy from Joe Dante, who lovingly borrows all the mid-century smalltown American kitsch he can get his hands on just so he can have fun blowing it up. A synthesis of Corman, Spielberg, Looney Tunes, and 50s sci-fi that adds up to an affectionately campy horror movie for innocent kids, best appreciated after they become warped adults.
The rare childhood favorite that becomes even more enjoyable as an adult now that I'm able to truly appreciate the film's subversive quality. Here, the usual Amblin sense of wonder is tempered by Joe Dante and Chris Columbus' anarchic streak: we watch as a picturesque suburban town right out of "It's a Wonderful Life" descends into sheer chaos once the lovable but lethal gremlins are unleashed. A live-action cartoon.
There was never a movie like this, and never again. Bold enough to blend fantasy, horror and sci-fi in a children story. Like a good classic children story is meant to be. With monsters and fun. (Oh, I remember, Neil Gaiman does it so well, too! Oh, and he was the one that said that "fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.")
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.
Loved this as a kid and having not seen it in 15 years or so I can say that it still holds up. The blend of goofy comedy and gruesome violence is well handled and there are few movies that can balance family-friendly and downright-nasty. The acting is quite good and the effects are stellar and still works better than CGI probably would have.
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.
2-3. My feelings on this are really mixed. The gremlins soak up almost all of the writing and directorial attention to the point that the main characters feel like (perhaps overly) simple foils to the violence playing out onscreen. The movie is also unable to smoothly counterbalance the 'evil foreigner' implications, especially given the 'patriotic' association attached to Gizmo's benevolence.