Prime Picks: Gremlins
We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you a special Halloween-theme movie review. Check back in tomorrow for my recap of this week's Timeless.
Somehow I have managed to live 31 years and 61 days having never seen the 1984 classic Gremlins. I'm not quite sure how I've survived, but here I am.
Gremlins is awesome. It may be a stretch to call it a legitimate Halloween movie, especially since it actually takes place at Christmas, but this story of a small town (the same small town, by the way, used for the set of Back to the Future) beset by little furry creatures called the mogwai definitely pulls from some classic horror movie tropes. It's one part horror, one part Muppet-like zaniness, and all around fun.
The story centers on Billy Peltzer, the son of a struggline inventor, whose father comes across a mogwai on an international trip. Billy's father takes the Ferbie look-alike back to his son, who names the affectionate creature Gizmo. The man who originally held the mogwai ominously states that there are important rules for caring for them: They hate bright lights, Don't let them eat after midnight, and you should never, ever get them wet.
Of course it's only a matter of time until Billy spills some water on Gizmo, who sprouts five more mogwai, and, well...you can imagine where this is going. As it turns out, the mogwai have different stages of development not unlike butterfly, and cute and cuddly phase is only the first.
This movie is solid camp, and it does have some genuine scenes of suspense and even horror. Along with the second Indiana Jones film, Gremlins is generally credited with warranting the creation of the PG-13 rating since it has some scenes that were too intense for a PG crowd but not severe enough for an R. It's clever and tight storytelling as well, following Chekhov's gun rule to a T: the minute Billy comes home early in the film and fiddles with a sword that his father has hanging in the front hallway, you just know that sword is going to make a comeback.
Oh, it also has the single best story about the discovery of Santa Claus not being real that I have ever heard. Like, ever.
Gremlins may never be a monster hit (see what I did there?), but it certainly deserves its cult-like appeal. After all, it had some very talented people behind it: Steven Spielberg produced it and it was written by Chris Columbus, who went on to direct Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, and the first two Harry Potter films.
Halloween may be over, but if you're looking for a low-stakes "horror" film to watch with your family (provided your children are older), Gremlins is a surefire hit.
Gremlins is available to stream now on Amazon Prime video.