Executive producer Steven Spielberg teamed with horror director Joe Dante (The Howling) for this comical shockfest, written by Chris Columbus (Mrs. Doubtfire) in his Hollywood breakthrough. A Capra-inspired Christmas classic -- bizarro-world Frank Capra, at least -- Gremlins gleefully straddles the line between funny and frightening, as an army of animatronic creatures wreak havoc in a small town before the human residents figure out what's hit them and strike back. The story follows precocious Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan), who receives a cute-and-fuzzy (pre-Furby) "Mogwai" named Gizmo (voiced by Howie Mandel) from his inventor dad (Hoyt Axton). Gizmo comes with three strict, if cryptic, rules of pet care: no bright light; no water; and, most important, no midnight snacks. But rules are made to be broken: Soon enough, the winter wonderland of Kingston Falls catches a bad case of the Gremlins, and we have a monster movie on our hands. Ugly, green, and extremely mean, these Mogwai transmutations are the polar opposite of cuddly Gizmo. They seek only to torture and humiliate, which results in some shockingly crude physical comedy. From Billy's sweetly sarcastic coworker Kate (Phoebe Cates) to mean old Mrs. Deagle (Polly Holliday), no one escapes the depredations of these creepy critters. In 1990, Dante directed a sequel, which concentrated more on comedy than fright, but it's the original Gremlins that stays in moviegoers' minds.
Chock full of wide-eyed furry creatures that were being aggressively marketed as stuffed animals, Gremlins undoubtedly sent a misleading message to a lot of parents. The affiliation of executive producer Steven Spielberg, who was fresh off the success of E.T., surely encouraged parents further, but many were left shielding their children's eyes as a gaggle of reptilian gnomes burst forth from a swimming pool and began smoking cigarettes, wielding chainsaws, and killing off townspeople. Gremlins is not appropriate for kids, and it drew a lot of complaints, but it has some jokey pleasures and plenty of satirical bite, as a Capra-esque small town is turned inside out on Christmas Eve. The film was a box-office smash and a cultural touch point, with the viewing public quickly learning the three steps to avoid transforming the impossibly precious Mogwais into the all-id gremlins. The violence against humans is mostly cartoonish and bloodless, but the gremlins don't get off so easy; in a memorable kitchen sequence, featuring a terrified Frances Lee McCain, a pair of pursuing baddies get offed in a microwave and a blender, their orange guts splattered hither and non. Although directed by Joe Dante, the film features the undeniably Spielberg-ian theme of imperiled innocence in middle America, as well as his love for imaginative creatures. And the special effects crew has a grand time bringing it all together, making for a taut horror fantasy with lasting appeal.
|Source:||Warner Home Video|
|Sound:||[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]|