With summer coming to a close we begin the slow march towards Christmas, it really does get earlier every year, as such I want to write about my favourite Christmas/ Holiday movie of all time; Gremlins.
The idea of a Christmas film is usually something happy and upbeat, enjoyable by the whole family, things like Home Alone and the Santa Claus spring to mind. In that parameter, Gremlins doesn’t really fit in; it is a horror-comedy film, unusual Christmas movie fare. However, that’s what works so well about it; it subverts all the stereotypes about what defines a Christmas movie, while still being set at Christmas, coming across almost as a homage.
To give some background to the film, it was released in the summer of 1984; it was a considerable hit commercially and critically and, this along with Raiders of the Lost Ark lead to the creation of the PG-13 rating. The plot of the film revolves around Billy, (Zach Gilligan), as he receives a Gremlin, here called a Mogwai, from his father as a Christmas present. Upon receiving Gizmo the mogwai, Billy has to learn and keep to the stringent rules of ownership; otherwise, there will be disastrous consequences, to spoil it, he breaks the rules and chaos ensues.
This film portrays Christmas, not as this sweet idyllic time of the year, but rather as this crazy manic time where everything is continuously moving, a move which I find refreshing. Furthermore, the relationship between Billy and Gizmo is very relatable to anyone who has ever got a pet on Christmas morning, with this relationship being the beating heart of the film.
Gizmo himself is easily the cutest puppet in film ever; he has a distinct look that makes him easily recognisable and iconic. Furthermore, the facial movements of the character convey emotion to significant effect, leading you not only to root for Gizmo but also viewing him as somewhat of the main character. Comparatively, the evil gremlins, because yes, there are more gremlins, and some of them are or, become evil, actually inspire fear. The puppetry of these gremlins conveys malice and menace as their different design comes across as ugly and monstrous, which the film uses to great effect, showing us the difference between cute happy Gizmo and the evil other gremlins.
The humour in this film is also incredibly well done being funny and very endearing; the gore of the film also works to this extent. With a lot of the kills towards the end of the film, being quite comedic in their brutality, in almost a Zombieland esque kind of fashion.
There is so much charm and heart to this film that it quickly makes it’s self one of the most memorable films of the 80s, having a legacy that lives on way over 30 years later. The sequel, while still entertaining couldn’t live up to the heights of the first film and fell short in many ways. However there is now talk of a Gremlins series coming to the small screen, so there is clearly still demand after all these years.
In my opinion, the first Gremlins is a must-see and one of the best films to watch at Christmas, if only as a palate cleanser to all those sickly emotional Christmas films that plague the holiday season, like ghosts that refuse to die.