Underrated Classics: ‘Gremlins’

This was filmed on the same set as “Back to the Future.” (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

Owen Johnson
Connector Staff

Like last year’s “Krampus,” “Gremlins” is a strange mix between horror and comedy, as well as Christmas and Halloween themed movies that manage to blend together surprisingly well.

For a Christmas present, Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) receives a Mogwai named Gizmo from his father. The Mogwai comes with three very important rules that cannot be broken: do not expose it to bright light, do not feed it after midnight, and do not let it get wet. Billy inadvertently breaks these rules, resulting in a horde of vicious Gremlins to run amok in his small home town.

Along with Billy and his family, the town is filled with an array of colorful characters that work to get the audience invested in the town as a whole for when the creatures start their attack. Among these characters is Billy’s slightly xenophobic neighbor Murray Futterman (Dick Miller), mean-spirited Mrs. Deagle (Polly Holliday) and Billy’s coworker and love interest Kate (Phoebe Cates).

However, there is some sloppiness with the script. A couple of the characters are introduced, and while they are enjoyable on screen, do not really do much. Mrs. Deagle’s character has nothing to do in the movie other than to taunt Billy about wanting to harm his dog, and one of Billy’s co-workers (Judge Reinhold) just vanishes from the movie completely after the 30 minute mark. The sloppiness is not just with the characters. Even the rules themselves, one of the most iconic aspects of the movie, make no sense. For example, it is technically always after midnight, so when can you feed the Mogwai?

While there is some mild sloppiness here and there, there are also a number of good ideas that are present in the script. For example, when Billy’s Mogwai multiplies when he accidentally spills water on it, he smartly takes the creature to the most experienced science-figure in his town for help.

The best part of the movie, though, are the Gremlins themselves, as they are unique in many ways. Not only are they visually creative and a creature design that has not been, or at the very least prevalently, shown before, but they are also very unique in their personality, managing to be both menacing and belligerent. The usage of the creatures is also well handled, where the filmmakers took a que from successful creature features like “Jaws” and “Alien,” and decided for there to be buildup before the monsters are revealed.

“Gremlins” also manages to balance its conflicting tones and movie types very successfully. The comedic and Christmas nature of the movie never downgrades the horror elements of the movie, and vice versa. They even play well off of each other in some scenes, like when the recording of a typically happy holiday song is used as mood music to build suspense.

“Gremlins” is an occasionally sloppy movie that makes up for its problems with its creativity, levity and intelligence when it comes to mixing two conflicting tones and moods.

Final Grade: A

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