Scary/violent/grisly enough to help usher in the PG-13 rating, shows it’s age 30 years later, but still a great movie. Effects pretty good.
What an amazing time the 1980’s were. Gremlins was originally to be a Christmas release (hence the Christmas setting) but the studio moved up the date to 6/8/1983 to directly compete with Ghostbusters, released on the same day. Can you imagine anyone doing that now? Studios flee from competition and avoid other tentpole release dates.
Writer Chris Columbus came up with this highly original story after being creeped out at night by the noise of animals running around in his loft apartment. He actually wrote it on spec, just as a resume of sorts. It obviously launched his career – big time.
It’s a seriously dark story. This movie could have been much more a straight-up horror film. While producer Steven Spielberg, who instantly saw the value in this property, sometimes cheapens serious subject matter with his amusement park ride approach, it seems to have been necessary here. If he didn’t lighten this thing up and drive down the body count, we wouldn’t be talking about it today, or probably even 30 years ago.
As it is, it’s really grisly, violent, scary and mean. The kitchen scene alone was probably enough to force the creation of the PG-13 rating, and frankly, this thing might still have been flirting with an R. I’m not sure this movie is any less brutal or graphic than Alien, when you think about it. If you haven’t seen it in a while, I’m sure you’ll be surprised just how intense Gremlins is. And that’s after they decided not to decapitate the mom, eat the dog and turn Gizmo into a gremlin. Can you imagine?
Joe Dante directed the film. He’s an old-style director of the type that Spielberg seems to like. By that I mean very good at focusing on the important “must-have” shots and story beats, but sort of sloppy and unconcerned with details. There are a ton of continuity errors and characters that are introduced and then completely disappear from the film. The rough cut of this movie was well over 2 1/2 hours. They lost about an hour of film for release. That’s quite a haircut. Reportedly the producers considered giving this to Tim Burton for his directorial feature debut. I would have very much liked to see that. But Dante certainly does a good job.
Placing the story in a Rockwell-esque setting was a great idea and helps the story not seem so dated. Except for the fact that it’s so obviously backlot. It’s a little hard to not notice that you’re in Hill Valley waiting for Marty McFly to show up in a DeLorean.
The film also, frankly, looks terrible. It’s a really ugly picture. It certainly needs to be cleaned up, but I’m not really sure how much that would help. Dante and his DP John Hora are used to making dark, horror pictures and I suspect this was the look they were going for. I’m sure they needed to go quite dark to hide some of the puppetry and other effects, but the dated film stock itself is just really flat and bland.
While this isn’t really a horror movie, it would be hard to explain why or come up with another genre for it. The effects are pretty good, but the character design is fantastic. It’s a great, original story with some welcome appearances by long-time character actors. Gremlins really grabbed attention in 1984, and it had to do so in the face of some other really good movies. The movie is constantly rumored to be in the process of a reboot, and it’s easy to see why. It’s far from perfect, but it is an excellent, thrilling movie.
The Representation Test Score: C (6 pts)
|Main Cast||Zach Galligan Billy Peltzer, Phoebe Cates Kate Beringer, Hoyt Axton Randall Peltzer, John Louie Chinese Boy|
|Release Date||Fri 08 Jun 1984 UTC|
|Plot||A boy inadvertantly breaks 3 important rules concerning his new pet and unleashes a horde of malevolently mischievous monsters on a small town.|
|Tagline||Cute. Clever. Mischievous. Intelligent. Dangerous.|
|Writers||Chris Columbus (written by)|