Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Gremlins (1984)

WARNING:  This movie gives away some details.  I don’t feel that they’ll ruin the movie-going experience, but not everyone might agree.

There was one scene I remember from Gremlins more than any other from that movie.  Kate Beringer (the love interest) is telling Billy about how her father died on Christmas.  She even goes into detail about how he was found a few days later, ruining the holiday for her.  Apparently, there was some controversy when the movie was first released, but it encapsulates the feel of the movie pretty well.  What can be joyous for many can be horrible for a few.  We’re not even talking alone for the holidays horrible.  Christmas is about to get very scary for one small town.

The movie starts with Randall Peltzer looking for the perfect gift for his son.  He finds it in a gift shop in Chinatown.  Alas, the furry little creature, called a mogwai, is not for sale.  Mr. Peltzer manages to get the shop owner’s grandson to sneak the mogwai out the back for a few bills.

There are three rules that the shop owner imparted to Randall.  First, no bright lights.  Sunlight can even kill them.  Second, don’t get them wet.  Third, do not, under any circumstances, feed them after midnight.  The mogwai comes to be known as Gizmo.

Billy is somewhat careful about the first rule.  Gizmo reacts to almost any light, so Billy is always being reminded to be careful.  It doesn’t take long before the second rule is broken.  Billy’s friend spills some water on Gizmo, causing Gizmo great pain.  A few second later, five hairballs pop off, with each forming a new mogwai.  If Gizmo is a well-behaved angel, the five new mogwai are those demon-spawn children you come across every so often.  They always want attention and are harassing Gizmo whenever the get a chance.  It isn’t long before they trick Billy into feeding them after midnight.

Billy’s mother is able to kill four of them, but the group’s leader, named Stripe, manages to escape.  Stripe manages to find his way to the local YMCA where he finds a pool filled with water.  Now, Stripe has an entire army of little troublemakers to help him wreak havoc on Kingston Falls.  They take over a bar, where they drink and smoke and make trouble for Billy’s girlfriend, Kate.  They eventually gather in a movie theater to watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, thus leading (hopefully) to Billy’s endgame.  If you know anything about comedies or horror movies, you know it can’t be that simple.

There are several clichés in the movie, although I’m not sure if they were intentional or not.  The most obvious, of course, is the disregard for rules.  Given some of the dialogue, this is commentary on the human tendency to want to be defiant.  Tell someone not to do something, and they’ll have an uncontrollable urge to do it.  There’s also the tendency to have one of a group of antagonists escape and cause more trouble.  Stripe does this twice.  I’ll admit that there was a larger group of Gremlins the second time; it was impressive that Billy managed to get as many as he did.  Still, why always one?

I’ve always found it odd that timing is always so precise.  You can’t feed a Gremlin after midnight.  What if your clock is off?  Am I supposed to take time zones into account?  If Mogwai predate modern timekeeping, how did people know exactly when to stop feeding them?  For that matter, when can you start feeding them again?  Isn’t it really always after midnight?

It’s also strange that they reproduce by getting water on them.  How did a species evolve like that?  For that matter, when a little fur ball pops off, how do we get the sudden increase in mass?  Where does the extra matter come from?  Also, are we to assume that the water is consumed?  When Stripe enters the pool, could we have ended up with an infinite number of Gremlins?

I suppose that might not have been a bad thing, plot wise.  The Gremlins are the main draw here. The humans are mostly caricatures.  You have the hopeless inventor for a father.  There’s the well-meaning kid.  There’s even the mean old lady who threatens to have Billy’s dog put down.

This is not a movie for young kids.  It was part of the first batch of movies to get a PG-13 rating because it was worse than PG, but not quite R territory.  Much of the proposed violence was taken out, but it’s still pretty scary.  I could see some of it giving small children nightmares.  (Consider the story I led with.)

The movie is a solid horror movie.  I imagine a few people, like myself, will watch it because it’s a classic.  If you haven’t seen it before, you might want to watch it anyway.  The effects are pretty good and the storyline, such as it is, works.  I don’t remember much of the sequel, but word is that a third installment is in the works.  It’s supposed to be a continuation of the same storyline rather than a reboot, so you might want to head over to Netflix while you can get streaming.

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