Logan J. Fowler remembers the rules…
When most people think of Christmas movies, they usually reminisce about the clear cut ones. They either have the actual word “Christmas” in the title, or the movie has the holiday at its core for storytelling (i.e. Home Alone).
During this season, I do like to partake in watching all the classics. But there’s always one that doesn’t have such a general festive feel per se, it doesn’t use Christmas as a spring board for its tale, but I make sure it’s in the library anyway; Gremlins.
Gremlins is not a happy holiday movie, it’s very dark but also tons of fun. Released in 1984, the film focuses on Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) a very average bank clerk who has a crush on a girl, Kate (Phoebe Cates). Billy also has a friendship with a Christmas tree delivery boy (Corey Feldman in his 80s heyday) and a pretty good relationship with his parents, his dad being a failed inventor. When Mr. Peltzer returns home from a trip in where he picks up a creature in a back alley in Chinatown, he hands off the brown and white “mogwai” to Billy as a present for the surrounding holidays. Billy is warned that he cannot get him wet, not put him in the way of light (sunlight especially due to the fact it would kill him), and most importantly, don’t feed him after midnight, Dubbing him “Gizmo,” Billy and the mogwai begin to bond, but the heartwarming stuff soon drops off, as the Christmas theme takes absence and hilarious horror begins to ensue as Billy becomes closer with Kate as they have brushes with death due to Gizmo’s “offspring.”
Gremlins involves violent mogwai deaths, very gruesome but very creative. Blenders, microwaves, it’s pretty nutty. For a kid growing up, it could scar you, but I viewed this movie with a wide eyed bewilderment as I consider it my first real horror film. Back in ’84, the movie was slapped with a very simple PG rating. The movie caused controversy due to its horrific abuse of the creatures within, and the house that is Spielberg (he produced the movie) was caught under fire for the kid friendly rating. Due to Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom pushing the rating to the brink, Spielberg suggested that the MPAA create a new rating for this type of material. Two months later, the PG-13 rating was put into motion.
The screenplay for Gremlins was written by Chris Columbus, whose name should be familiar to many hardcore holiday viewers, as he’s directed both Home Alone movies (the only ones that matter anyway), and the first two Harry Potter flicks which have an air of Christmas about them as well. Joe Dante was in the director’s chair for the movie and Mr. Dante helped the 80s decade in film become what it is with his library of imaginative features, most notably Innerspace, The Burbs, and Explorers.
You can still see the impact of Gremlins here and there; Gizmos are still lining toy shelves (along with the bad guy counterparts), people are making the creature with his Santa hat their facebook default photos, (I just did), and horror enthusiasts as well as Christmas movie enthusiasts make it tradition to make sure the movie hits dvd players this month.
It’s not a heartwarming holiday tale, it’s not a cheesy Christmas movie, rather it’s just something different feature a bit of green blood, a nice little love tale, and an adorable questionable creature named Gizmo. It’s not classic fare for this time of year, but is it a classic? Without a shadow of a doubt.