Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
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Yesterday I wrote a review on a touching, heartwarming, holiday film, Prancer. Today, I am turning the tables and posting a review on a film that goes in the opposite direction, the kitschy 1984 classic Gremlins.
This is also my contribution to fellow Epinions member mfunk75's Spawn of Scrooge Write-Off. The rules are to review a movie, book, CD, etc that in some way, shape, or form, trashes Christmas or spoils the holiday spirit. I don't think I've ever seen a film that more fittingly meets this criteria.
From the opening scenes, Gremlins creates an ominous mood as Rand Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) enters the red tinged, cluttered, backstreets of Chinatown in search of a Christmas gift for his family. He winds up in a strange curio shop and leaves with a mogwai. The cute, fuzzy, exotic animal is named Gizmo; most likely a reference to the fact that Peltzer is an inventor by trade.
From there, we are introduced to Peltzer's grandson, Billy (Zach Galligan) a bank Teller, who is on the receiving end of a scathing lecture from a grumpy Real Estate Agent, Mrs. Deagle, (Polly Holiday) who complains that Billy's dog damaged her expensive holiday lawn ornament. On the way out of the bank, Ms. Deagle is accosted by a young mother who begs her for a break on the rent, invoking the holiday spirit, to which Ms. Deagle responds with a "Bah humbug" dismissal. A few days later we see Billy's dog tied to a street lamp with a strand of blinking Christmas lights.
Peltzer brings Gizmo home in a gift wrapped box, and presents him to Billy. Initially, charmed by the cuddly new pet, Peltzer finally remembers to repeat the warning given by the curio shop owner; the animal cannot be exposed to sunlight or water and is not to be fed after midnight.
When Billy's little brother accidentally spills a few drops of water on Gizmo, he spontaneously reproduces several likenesses of himself. The entrepreneurial spirit in Peltzer sees this as a marketing goldmine, another way to commercialize the holiday, with visions of selling these furry little creatures to every middle class home in America.
Before he can hatch his scheme, however, the mogwai trick Billy into feeding them after midnight by cutting the cord on his bedside clock, and the Gremlins are spawned. After spending a short time in a pupae stage, they are transformed into ugly, violent, monster-like critters that smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and destroy everything in their path.
One of the more darkly humorous scenes occurs when Billy's mother is attacked by a swarm of Gremlins, and she manages to fend them off with murderous household appliances like a blender and microwave oven. In another scene, a couple is relaxing at home when the wife exclaims " Don't you just love the holiday spirit?" Her cranky husband is more concerned about interference with the television antenna (caused by the Gremlins). When he goes outside to check into the disturbance, the Gremlins bulldoze the house, and bury the unfortunate couple. A similar fate befalls Ms. Deagle, as the Gremlins attack her home and send her hurling through the window.
Billy's girlfriend Kate, (Phoebe Cates) works at a pool hall that is invaded by the ever increasing heard of Gremlins. After barely escaping with her life, Kate expresses her loathing for Christmas as she relates an absurd tragedy that occurred one Christmas many years ago, that left her emotionally scarred.
In the climactic sequence, the Gremlins are gathered enmasse at the local theater for a viewing of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, as they are seen completely demolishing the place, while singing "Whistle While We Work." Billy and Kate are finally able to hatch a plan to end the Gremlins' destructive rampage with Gizmo's help.
The plot in this film is actually mostly a series of chaotic action and comedy sequences rather than a fully developed story. It comes across as a bit contrived, with a harmlessly twisted sense of humor.
One of the more interesting features of Gremlins is that it is, to some degree, a parody of the ultimate sentimental Christmas favorite, It's A Wonderful Life. The setting, Kingston Falls, is the same type of quaint small town as Bedford Falls. At one point early in the film, scenes of the classic 1940's film can be seen playing on the Peltzer's television screen.
The performances by the actors are for the most part pretty average. Singer. songwriter Hoyt Axton delivers a surprisingly credible performance as the haplessly ineffectual inventor, Peltzer. Polly Holliday makes the most of her brief scenes as the nasty Ms. Deagle. The animated creations steal the show with their lifelike movements and vile craftiness.
The most unique quality of the film is the combination of the elements of dark humor and horror. The last half is a seemingly endless sequence of the Gremlins singlehandedly terrorizing the Kingston Falls community. The slow pace of the fist half of the film is suddenly transformed into a horrid onslaught, comparable to the attacks by the birds in the Hitchcock classic.
As Executive Producer, Steven Spielberg's mark is all over the film, with eye popping special effects of mechanical creatures that could come out of Jurassic Park, merged with the fantasy and charm of E.T., in the enchanting Gizmo character. Most of the credit, however, should be given to Director, Joe Dante for creating an effective, if somewhat overstated, tragicomedy.
In the end, good triumphs over evil and Gizmo is returned to the curio shop owner. In the words of the philosophical Chinese proprietor, the Peltzer's have no idea how to treat a treasure like the mogwai. They misused him in same way they misuse all of their other bountiful resources; the perfect final pot shot at consumerism, in this entertaining, Christmas bashing, spectacle.
Please be on the look out for contributions by the other participants in this write-off: artbyjude, atchesonate, BeastieGirl, beckytcy, BigJack, darkofnight, dedemw, d_fienberg, ingysdayoff, JackSommersby, Kidnykid, lemon_lime, lisaffire, millinocket, mfunk75, panguitch, pmills 1210, Simply_Crispy, st_patrick, Vormancian, Wierdo_87 and Wokelstein.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older