Gremlins doesn’t look like a Christmas film from the outside and it’s a film which isn’t really talked about much anymore (except by those who have watched it). It’s an oddity and would influence numerous films going forward, but mainly films in the horror genre. Its one of the first Christmas horror films that I feel is accessible to more then just the ‘slasher’ crowd (which the likes if most Christmas horror films in the past seemed to aim for, such as Black Christmas and Silent Night, Deadly Night) here we have an adult family film which doesn’t ever take itself too seriously.
The basic plot consists of Billy being given a Mogwai for Christmas (Think a cute living teddy bear with big ears.) He is told 3 rules;
- Keep out of sunlight
- Do not get wet
- Do not feed after midnight
The sunlight one works but the other two are a little confusing as Gizmo is fine when kissed or licked by the dog, thus getting moisture on him. Yet this has no effect. Also, the feeding after midnight always annoyed me from an early age. In theory, every second is after midnight as time progresses in 24 hr cycles.
If we get past that. He ultimately gets Gizmo soaked and in turn, creates lots of baby Mogwai who then eat after midnight. With both the last two rules broken you can expect bad stuff to go down. And it does… big time. The babies transform into gremlins who set about causing havoc in the town. It’s up to Gizmo, Billy and an interesting group of townsfolk to stop them.
It’s brilliant fun and has so many memorable characters and moments. The cinema scene is one that always lingers in the mind long after and will make you see Snow White and the Seven Dwarves on a new light.
With a fantastic script by John Hughes alumni Chris Columbus (who directed the first two Home Alone and Harry Potter films, as well as countless other highly regarded family films) and brilliant direction from Joe Dante, Gremlins delivers a darkly funny yet very rooted family film. At its heart, it’s about family and the connection people have with one another. The Christmas setting helps generate the warm feeling of everyone getting together and relatives rebuilding these connections. It even works on this level for Gizmo who just want a loving place to be accepted as the life he once had was stolen from him.
As a tale of Gizmo, we get to watch this timid scared creature become a strong character who fights to protect who he loves. He also seems to accept the gremlins are his problem as it was he who created them. (I keep referring to Gizmo as he, but I don’t think sex is ever confirmed?) His problem, his responsibility. The character progression in Gizmo is quite remarkable and works far better than in a lot of films.
There’s not really any other films quite like Gremlins and what few there are, don’t work particularly well. This succeeds in not only being a great Christmas film, but also a great film in general.
For me it’s a must watch every year (along with its sequel) and is easily up in the upper echelon of Christmas films.