Thursday, August 22, 2013

MR Gremlins

Don't get him wet, keep him out of bright light, and never feed him after midnight.

Why don't these protagonists ever follow their own movie's rules...?

Movie: Gremlins
Directed by Joe Dante
Release date 1984
Genre Horror comedy
Country USA

If there was a genre the cinema loved in the 1980s, it was horror comedy.

Popularized by movies such as Ghostbusters, a lot of films started exploring blending the horror genre with humor with different kinds of results. Ranging from films with  pure horror roots with lots of humorous bits to simple comedy films with partially horror-inspired scenes like the Evil Dead series explored.

Gremlins is Joe Dante's own contribution to the genre, which has since become a timeless classic and developed its own cult following.

The film was produced through Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment.

Despite some might think it wasn't inspired by any mythological creatures but by World War II's myth that "gremlins" were sometimes responsible for aircraft failures.

This same notion of "gremlins" was then popularized by the Looney Tunes through a couple of short animated features.

It is Christmas time.

The story opens with a quirky inventor named Randall Peltzer who went searching for a present for his son Billy in Chinatown.

There he found a small antique shop that quickly got his attention. The owner, an old man, didn't want to sell him a little Mogwai creature, a mysterious ancient creature. But his son sold it discretely later, outside the shop.

But there are 3 simple important rules that come with a Mogwai - "Don't feed it after midnight", "Don't give it water" and "Don't let it near bright light"!

Randall ends up giving Billy his "new pet". And at first everything seemed perfect.

They name the adorable little creature "Gizmo" (hey, dad's an incentor, so...). They play with it. And all things seem to go fine and dandy.

But accidentally, they drop some water on Gizmo and more creatures spawn from Gizmo...

The new Mogwais are nothing like sweet Gizmo.

Their leader dubbed Stripe acts very hostile towards Gizmo.

Billy takes Gizmo to his teacher. They produce another Mogwai so the teacher can study it later.

Later on the other Mogwais trick Billy into feeding them past midnight. They turn into cocoons (while that other Mogwai kills the teacher and eat something past the time as well).

And that is when all hell break loose!

The Mogwais turn into Gremlins!

They spawn all over town and wreck havoc wherever they go.

They bite, they eat, they even kill!

Billy and Gizmo team up to defeat these awful little critters. They ran over the small town to get in time to help Billy's girlfriend Kate Beringer.

Will Billy by able to defeat these Gremlins, get the girl and save the day?!

The movie is part-horror film and part-affectionate parody of the genre. Very self-aware. With tongue-in-cheek dialogues and playing with the monster/invasion genre (think Tremors).

It's all mostly thanks to Joe Dante's B-movie background.

The Mogwai's mysterious origins are never brought up or even explained (the novelization explained they were engineered by aliens, although that seems a bit too far fetched even for Gremlins, it was probably ditched an early stage rather than not mentioned).

Everything happens because these character let these things go out of control. Why did the old Chinese man had a "Mo-Gwai" for sale to begin with ("devil" in Cantonese). Why did they try following these rules more cautiously.

And what are those rules actually? It's always after midnight (although one could interpret those as to "not feed Mogwais at night"), there's plenty of light around the Gremlins even go to a theater to watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs(!) and they didn't appear to have any problem with running around the snow or drinking alcohol although that's not exactly "liquid water".

But then this is kind over-thinking what wants itself as a black comedy/parody/tribute to campy creature features of old.

Our main characters Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates are great in their role but it's really the puppetry that takes all the attention.

Well detailed, fantastically animated, the Gremlins really come to life in an amazing memorable scene near the end, in a bar.

The little Gizmo was voiced Howie Mandel while famous voice actor Frank Welker provided the voice for Stripe.

Gremlins is accompanied by an outstanding score, a solid theme provided by Jerry Goldsmith. Starting slow and well confined in the horror genre it then goes to a more zany pace once the creatures hijack this Christmas tale.

Overall, perfect. Classic. Timeless.

A great example of what special effects ingenuity and long gone-Hollywood magic was able to produced "back then".

They offer us three simple rules and neither the characters nor the script end up following any of those.

And since this is also partially an horror movie, let's not forget the great purely creepy moments. The fantastic microwave scene. The fact several characters' fate is left unresolved for the audience nor mentioned again at the end (nor seen in the sequel). Or Kate's traumatic story of her father.

The movie wants itself both funny and creepy enough.

It became an instant huge success, which warranted several tie-in merchandising, video games, toys and whatnot. As well as a rather completely drastically different in tone sequel.

It's a classic from the 80s! Highly recommended!

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Necronomicons!

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