Release: June 8th 1984
Director: Joe Dante
Writer(s): Chris Columbus
Starring: Zach Gallican, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Polly Holliday, Frances Lee McCain, Howie Mandel
*Warning, this review may contain spoilers
Alright, hear us out. We know that Gremlins is yet another highly debated film regarding its “Christmas movie” status. However, we here at Modern Neon love this weird sub-genre of alternate Christmas movies that are so highly debated by those in the film community. Yes, Gremlins is more of a comedy horror movie than a Christmas movie. At the same time though, the story’s framework says otherwise.
For those who haven’t seen Gremlins, let’s wrap the story in a nice little bow. We follow the story of Randall Peltzer a struggling inventor who is on a desperate journey to find the perfect Christmas gift for his son Billy. His journey leads him to an ancient antique shop in his local Chinatown, where he discovers the mysterious Mogwai creature and settles on buying it. While the shopkeeper won’t sell it to him, his grandson willingly makes the sale but warns with incredibly important Terms and Conditions attached. Billy loves his Mogwai, now named Gizmo, and accidentally violates said conditions to utter chaos. Gizmo creates more Mogwai/Gremlins, including the evil Sprite, and chaos/murder ensues.
Just Follow the T&C
I absolutely love these rules laid in effect by the shopkeeper’s grandson. The conditions are simple to follow:
- Don’t show the Mogwai in direct sunlight.
- Avoid contact with water.
- Hesitate feeding the Mogwai after midnight.
They essentially play into the concept of science fiction that I love yet everyone violates, if you follow the rules for this exotic item then nothing bad will happen! This time the rule violations are initially triggered in an avalanche of accidents instead of someone tweaking the rules, but nonetheless if people didn’t know any better then we wouldn’t have most of the greatest screw-ups in storytelling today.
An Alternate Christmas
Before we move further into the core of Gremlins, I want to touch on the film’s alternative nature. If you take a realistic look at the movie, you can see why people would argue that it doesn’t earn the Christmas moniker. The city is adorned with Christmas decorations, the streets filled with festive cheer, and the core concept centers on the hunt for a Christmas gift. IF you remove these elements from Gremlins however, it would be essentially the same film. Randall could easily be looking for a birthday gift for Billy instead of a Christmas one. Even though it was a stylistic choice, this setting has sent Gremlins headfirst into the endless pit of Christmas movies.
Despite not having the exact blend for being a traditional Christmas movie, Gremlins has one of the most important themes down to a T, family. Hell, the entire film begins with simply a story of a father just trying to find the perfect gift for his son! At the same time, the movie laughs in the face of America’s perspective on foreigners and materialism and creates a rather interesting stance. It’s like a look at our left hand celebrating the joy of family, while our greedy right hand steals the watch right off of your wrist.
Why Gremlins stands out to me is that it can be genuinely a scary movie, especially your first time around. Gizmo is all cute and cuddly but as soon as those rules are violated, the horror factor is increased to at least 7. The movie’s antagonist Stripe is mischievous and silly, but once the murder starts Gremlins crosses the line into adult territory. The Gremlins’ rampage is one of the most cheeky yet terrifying things I have seen from a 1980s classic.
Find the Original
If I can give you one piece of advice, just try to find a VHS or DVD version of Gremlins and avoid the 4K HD version. The 4K adds essentially nothing to the quality of the film, even going so far as to degrade it because of the film’s original quality. The images lose detail in its darker elements, even devolving into a flat and darker image that not even more HDR could save. The audio can’t avoid the same fate, as it virtually sees no improvements. The original movie features a rather restricting 5:1 channel surround and doesn’t allow for many enhancements.
That’s a wrap! Another one in the books! If you are looking for yet another “alternative Christmas movie” to fill your holiday viewing madness, Gremlins is a fine addition. We need more horror to balance out the Christmas cheer anyway.
Thanks for reaching the end of the article! This piece is apart of our Modern Neon Christmas Bonanza, where we are looking at 25 of our favorite or well-known Christmas movies. So click through to see the previous and next movie, or go back to the home page to find your favorite movie!
Who am I? Just some guy who decided to start writing on the Internet years ago and now operates his own brand and site. Owner/Operator of Modern Neon Media, I make all kinds of niche content to suit my interests at the time. DIY Enthusiast, Brewmaster extraordinaire, and avid freak for geek culture. Follow on my socials for a more “on” version of me.