WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Young Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) receives an extraordinary X-mas gift from his ne’er do well inventor father (Hoyt Axton); a cute creature, called a mogwai, that he names Gizmo. Warned not to get Gizmo wet, feed him after midnight or expose him to sunlight- which will kill him, Billy breaks the first rule and Gizmo multiplies into dozens of Mogwais- who are more mischievous than the sweet Gizmo. After fooling Billy into feeding them after midnight, they turn into vicious Gremlins and wreak deadly havoc on the town. Now it’s up to Billy, his girlfriend Kate (Phoebe Cates) and Gizmo to save the town.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Ah GREMLINS- a film that’s no doubt considered a classic to any child of the eighties. I remember watching this on the Canadian equivalent of HBO as a young lad, covering my eyes during the scary scenes, and clutching my Gizmo stuffed animal. Decades (!) later, I still love GREMLINS, with it being one of the classic Steven Spielberg-produced Amblin’ films- which are seeing a revival thanks to the modern-day Amblin’ SUPER 8. Alongside POLTERGEIST, E.T, BACK TO THE FUTURE, the INDIANA JONES films, and THE GOONIES, GREMLINS is one of the classics.
A protégé of Roger Corman, director Joe Dante- who up to 1984 was best known for THE HOWLING, brings an anarchic- Looney Tunes vibe to the surprisingly dark and violent GREMLINS- which shocked so many parents in ’84 that it helped lead to the creation of the PG-13 rating. It still holds up remarkably well, and other than Billy’s sweater-vests, isn’t really that dated. It has everything- eighties retro charm, potent action, thrills, chills, and surprisingly strong writing by Chris Columbus (who went on to direct the Amblin’ style ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING, and the HOME ALONE films) - including a monologue by Kate about her father’s death that became a classic and spawned an urban legend.
The special features are all ported over for the 20th anniversary DVD. There’s 10 minutes of deleted scenes some of which popped up in TV airings of the film in the eighties. There are two commentary tracks - both featuring Joe Dante. His first is a technical track with the producer (not Spielberg) and FX guy, the second is with the cast, including Galligan, Cates, Dante-stalwart Dick Miller, and Howie Mandel- who did Gizmo’s voice. There’s also a vintage EPK which is a letdown, as a retrospective featurette would have been nice.
GREMLINS still holds up like a champ, and it’s sad that Dante’s never quite been able to match its success- as he’s a talented guy. The odd sequel, GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH was off-kilter and more of a spoof than a true follow-up to the first film, but it’s better than people recognized at the time (it’s just come out on Blu-ray as well), and his GREMLINS follow-up INNERSPACE was excellent (where’s the Blu-ray WB?).