a critiQal film review Gremlins (1984)

Plot: Billy (Galligan) receives a strange little creature named Gizmo as an early Christmas present from his father. But, when Billy doesn't follow the rules associated with his new pet, he inadvertently unleashes a horde of malevolent creatures on his small town.

Reviewed
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  • ...while it's definitely starting to show it's age, this classic is still a "creature feature" worthy of some nostalgia.

Now that we’re really getting into the swing of our Christmas Movie Marathon, we’ve decided we’re going to watch a new Christmas film each day up to – and including – Christmas itself.

For our latest, we went back a few years to a film I had forgotten was a Christmas movie at all – Gremlins. Since I hadn’t seen the film in years, this “creature feature” didn’t even enter my mind as a choice when we were looking through our movies for Christmas films. Last week, however, a few people were talking about how some TV station was playing the film over and over to gear up for Christmas, and I knew we had to add Gremlins to our Christmas Movie Marathon.

Since it has been so long since we’ve seen the film, however, would it still stand up today as a fun “creature feature”, or have the advances in special effects since ’84 been so great that even cute little Gizmo would be rather ridiculous looking by this point?

Part of the fun of looking back at 80’s movies is seeing the surprise bit parts played by now well-known people, and Gremlins is no exception. While lead Zach Galligan turned into just a bit part player on TV, cast members Phoebe Cates and Judge Reinhold (both previously in Fast Times at Ridgemont High) are more well-known, as is a very young Corey Feldman (noticeably absent: Corey Haim).

While each of these actors does a decent job in the roles they’re given, there are not any real stand-outs – that honor falls to Gizmo, the still adorable little Mogwai. He steals the show, as does his evil offspring Stripe, despite the both of them looking a bit dated by this point.

The plot is a basic one for a “creature feature”: cuteness turns evil and terrorizes a small town. But, thanks to some inventive death sequences for the evil gremlins involving kitchen appliances and Gizmo’s cuteness, this film still manages to rise above similar “creature features”, remaining popular to this day.

True, by this point the special effects are showing their age, especially Gizmo’s Furby-like appearance, complete with noticeable mechanized motions, but they don’t really seem to detract from the film. Instead, it gives the film a bit of nostalgia normally reservered for classics like Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and the like.

The dialogue, on the other hand, has definitely not stood the test of time. In fact, as Phoebe Cates’ character tearfully relates her father’s untimely demise, the viewer may find themselves holding back an unexpected burst of laughter at the absurdness of her story. Other lines have held up a bit better, but overall, the dialogue has gotten to the cheesy point.

So, while Gremlins is definitely starting to show it’s age, it’s cast – lead by the still loveable puppet that is Gizmo – helps make this one “creature feature” that, despite the rather cheesy (by today’s standards) effects and the hokey dialogue, still manages to be worthy of a little nostalgia.

But, until Gremlins is remastered for the new millenium, seeing this one on TV or renting it might be a better idea – after all, with even the Special Edition DVD offering very little in the way of extras, there doesn’t seem like there’s any real reason to own this one.

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