Gremlins (1984)

Directed by Joe Dante
(Written by Chris Colombus and with a heavy producing hand from Steven Spielberg )
(number 318)

I pushed this one forward on the list because of Corey Feldman’s biography mentioned it and I don’t think I’d ever realised he was the young kid, Pete, who accidentally spills the first water on Gizmo and I was curious. Besides, it’s been a bit of a Corey Feldman week so y’know.

Gremlins is another one of these movies where I just have no idea how many times I’ve seen it. I do remember there was a huge gap though, between me watching it as a kid and a screening they did at the Embassy a few years back which I attended with some workmates and it was excellent fun. One of those whole audience involvement things and a couple of the Embassy staff dressed up for.

This movie was initially meant to be a pretty straight horror film, ruthlessly tearing apart the perfect suburban America that you’d see in movies like It’s a Wonderful Life . Stephen Spielberg reportedly put his oar in when the test screenings weren’t great, and insisted that the cute little Mogwai was a main character all through, and that more people survive. The result is an amazingly black comedy with hilarious action sequences. I suspect if it had remained a straight horror that it would have been relegated early on to the other schlocky beastie horrors of the 80s which everyone pretty much forgets about.

I love that the first fight scene with the gremlins is between the mom character, Mrs Harris and the gremlins in her kitchen. She kicks some serious ass, Ellen Ripley styles with the various kitchen gadgets. I’d say the microwaving of the gremlin is one of the more iconic moments from the film too, it’s certainly an image that stuck with me!

I like the evident fun they had with the scenes of the inventions conference, where the time machine from The Time Machine appears in the background (and vanishes in a subsequent shot) and Robby the Robot from Lost in Space is walked past. Also spot the ET doll in the department store sequence.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah the first part of the movie is dedicated to setting up the good people and the bad people, and the things that happen are generally by accident. The gremlins are definitely the real bad guys and they are literal monsters. Anarchy in the USA or whatever. You’re definitely rooting for Billy and Kate to win against the Gremlins.

Bechdel test: Yep, Ruby Deagle and Mrs Harris talk about needing more time to be able to pay the rent. Mrs Harris is a name, and it’s better than just being called ‘mom’ so I definitely am counting this as a win. Ruby is the mean old cranky cat lady who gets her come uppance on her chair lift thingie.

Best line: Well, it is tempting to put in the whole thing about how Kate hates Christmas, but it’s pretty bleak and depressing. This one’s pretty good though:

Kate: What’re they doing?
Billy Peltzer: They’re watching Snow White. And they love it.

and the subtle message of the film….

Grandfather: You do with mogwai what your society… has done with all of nature’s gifts. You do not understand.
[entire Peltzer family is speechless with guilt]
Grandfather: You are not ready.

State of Mind: Bright light! Bright light!!!


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