Catching Up: “Gremlins”

This particular series will be about films from the past. More or less, something that isn’t recent. By recent, I’m thinking at least films that are over 10 years old. That, to me, seems like a reasonable start. Also, they’ll be films I haven’t yet seen before; and there are plenty. Time to discover something new.

The first entry comes courtesy of the 1984 Warner Bros. film “Gremlins”. This classic film, directed by Joe Dante (“The Howling”, “Piranha”) and executive produced by Steven Spielberg, also happens to be turning 30 years old on June 8, which is kind of a big deal, as is any 30th anniversary. But, that’s another days discussion.

I’ll admit, I hadn’t actually seen this film before, even in my childhood. How could I miss out on something so silly, especially when I’ve seen “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” enough times? I cannot say actually. I never had this intense urge to sit down and actively watch this film. Fortunately for me, this film just happened to be showing on one of those cable channels, pick one, it probably was it, and I had the time. I’m sure glad I did choose it over a rerun, in a marathon, of “NCIS” episodes!

For something that is this old, you’d think the word, “dated” would start factoring in a lot. It mostly applies to the set decorations, props, and costumes the actors wore. It being the early -almost mid-eighties- is clearly seen. Setting that aside, there’s nothing stopping one from enjoying the horror comedy.

This film was originally labeled, in part, a horror film, and depending on how young you first see this, it could be. But, I really don’t see it as that. Now, it could be the timing and the fact that some horror films have gotten a lot more gruesome, genuinely scary, or plain frightening, than “Gremlins” is, or was when first released. This was certainly not worthy of the label “horror”.

The dark comedy, which was ever present, is what made this film that much more fun to watch. From first glance of Gizmo, and his absolute adorableness, that instantly made me think of Furbies, to the titular crazy characters, Gremlins, there was never a shortage of chaos and laughs. Of course, you have to deal with some mildly slower moments with the principle cast as their characters contribute to the story overall and some of the best moments from the film.

Once the Gremlins hatch, and the mayhem begins, the laughter starts to come through That, for me, other than just watching Gizmo be adorable, was the best! And it should’ve been.

Two scenes stand out, among so many, for me. When the Gremlins start to cause mischief in the house, and worry the mother, I wasn’t aware I’d have so much fun. Watching as they ransack the house, like any curious creature would, but only then to be killed. My first reaction, as she defended herself and took care of the little monsters, was shock. I wasn’t expecting any of that to happen. And yet, it was quite entertaining to watch. First into the juice blender thing, second exploding in the microwave! When she defended herself with the tray table and lastly the Christmas tree. Yes, there’s a tiny bit of fear, but the comical way in which this all plays out wins over, and I stick with the film.

The second scene just follows the Gremlins as they have way too much fun. They’re in the bar and just having as much diabolical fun as is allowed, which apparently, is a lot. The scene comprises of small segments with varying Gremlins. First at the bar itself, where they can be found just drinking and eating, even smoking. Then there are the few that are sitting at various tables and just doing what you may find some do at a bar; playing cards, smoking, being drunk, or something like it. Granted, this is called “Gremlins”, but I never thought there’d be sole scenes with them causing problems.

There’s several other instances of hijinks, which complete this film and make it absolute fun! Interestingly enough, it stops short of just being some cheesy creature or sci-fi film, like those on the SyFy channel, or direct to DVD films made by The Asylum.

Another factor for this films continued success, lies in its special effects. As opposed to doing some big digital effect like in “Poltergeist”, which, even at that time, weren’t that bad, the practical effects still last. I think the Gremlins and Gizmo may be animatronics and controlled by people, like the bigger ones used in “Jurassic Park”, the Alien in “Alien” and for Chucky in “Child’s Play”. Some special effects in movies from a long time ago just look bad, or make it hard to take a film seriously. Others, manage to last years later; take “Hocus Pocus”, for instance, 20 years old and they still hold up. The problem, if and when, the studio decides to do a remake, is the special effects will probably look worse than in the original. Something that still baffles me when seeing any blockbuster films that rely heavily on special effects.

Lastly, there were two other things that made this film so much fun watch. The score and the little voices given to Gizmo and the Gremlins. The score was created by Jerry Goldsmith (“Poltergeist”, “Alien”, “Planet of the Apes”), and had a more playful and lighthearted feel to it. When the Gremlins are wandering around making trouble the score just added to it. The first film I can think of, off the top of my head, is “Jumanji” in which it has that same type of playful score. If it weren’t for the voices for all the creatures, then most of the silly would’ve been lost. Take, “Eight Legged Freaks” as a prime example. The spiders in that film had strange little voices, or just made noises, and that made the giant spiders more than just menacing.

For something I merely stumbled on, I can proudly say I’m ready for the sequel! Also, picking up a copy of the DVD from the local Wal-Mart.

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