A timeless classic – Boy gets pet, pet spawns evil monsters, boy and pet have to save town from evil monsters. A tale as old as time 😉
It’s Christmas in Kingston Falls, a small town in America with kooky but lovable residents where nothing ever really happens. This Christmas is going to be different though as the residents are going to get a glimpse of what happens when a nightmare comes to town.
Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) is gifted a new pet at Christmas by his father. It’s a Mogwai – a cute little creature that looks like a teddy bear. Looking after a Mogwai is simple as long as you adhere to 3 simple rules; (1) keep it away from bright light, (2) don’t get it wet, and (3) never feed it after midnight. If somebody had of explained where the name Mogwai comes from (Cantonese for “devil”) then maybe extra care would have been taken regarding the rules. One by one they are broken, resulting in the Mogwai multiplying, creating evil copies of itself. These copies gradually turn from cute little fuzzy things, into scaly and slimy monsters with a penchant for chaos and destruction. Before the town knows what is happening, it is overrun with Gremlins. Thus the horror is in full swing and the town is in the middle of a nightmare. Billy and his Mogwei (which he calls “Gizmo”) are helped by his love interest Kate (Phoebe Cates) to try and stop the Gremlins from destroying the town and it’s inhabitants.
This is a fun film and because it’s staged over in the festive period you are likely to encounter it year after year at Christmas. Yes, it is a Christmas film despite having themes of mild horror. I originally watched this as a child in the 80’s and unless modern children have become really soft this is a film which is likely to entertain and not cause an offense. It’s a family movie and the scariest part, the pantomime villain of the piece, is old Mrs Deagle who wants to put Billy’s dog “to sleep“. Some of the effects and animatronics look a little dated now, but they still look a little better than some of the expensive CGI that’s pushed on us today. I’d happily enjoy practical effects over most of the CGI – but perhaps that’s because I’m a produce of the 1980’s myself.
This film is simple, charming, entertaining. Much like the people in the film who are watching nostalgic black and white movies in the background; this film is one day going to be the nostalgic film in the background as you enjoy Christmas yourself.
A typical 80’s family comedy horror film, Joe Dante’s film is fun for the family.
Random fact: You might think that gremlins originate from folklore or nursery rhymes. In fact they are the invention of the Royal Air Force from the World War. They used to joke that gremlins were responsible for machinery failure and all sorts of random mishaps. They evolved in popular media and were used in literature by Roald Dahl, and also in cartoons like Bugs Bunny. Famously “The Twilight Zone” used gremlins too in 1963. The Richard Donner directed episode called “Nightmare at 20,00 feet” saw William Shatner go insane thinking that a gremlin was destroying the plane he was a passenger in.
If you enjoyed this, why not check out my review of Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)