Sunday, April 19, 2015


"Gremlins" (1984)
Directed by Joe Dante
    In the audio commentary of "Gremlins", director Joe Dante explains that this was originally intended to be a horror film. He cites examples from the original screenplay of how this easily could have been an R rated film. Although, I really like "Gremlins", knowing how this could have been a wild horror film, makes me wish that it were.
   As it stands, "Gremlins" is already kinda scary. I regard it as: "horror for kids". The gremlin attack scenes carry a degree of tension and terror that some horror films have. Until the film gets to the part where the gremlins are in the bar, it pretty much plays like a straight forward horror film with light gags here and there that foreshadow the wacky sequel.
   The major shift in tone that "Gremlins" takes is the bar scene. As a kid, I loved this scene. I found it hilarious. Now, not as much. I still find it entertaining, but by the time this happens, they are no longer scary to me. It seems like they are just meant to be seen as funny. They smoke, drink, play cards, hang from the ceiling fan, one even dresses in drag. In 80's film and television, just being in drag was considered a joke.
   Are these whimsical little monsters, the same tyrants that were hellbent on killing people earlier in the film? Now they sing Christmas carols and attend a screening of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" while singing "Heigh-Ho". By the way, how do gremlins know the words to songs? Aren't they like, a day old? Do they evolve that fast?
   There is one moment that suffers the most from this comedic shift. A gremlin is dancing to the song,"Maniac" mimicking Alex from "Flashdance". This dates the film. If you have to explain an over 30 year old film reference to a younger viewer, the joke has lost it's impact.
   Although it sounds like I am picking on "Gremlins", I'm not. I am an actual fan in love with the design of the mogwai and the gremlins. I love the performances of the cast and the story of a bunch of little monsters let loose on a small town. I just wish that it would have picked whether or not it wanted to be a comedy or a horror film. This is the reason that, believe it or not, I prefer it's sequel, "Gremlins 2: The New Batch". It picks one genre and sticks to it: a cheesy comedy. It never pretends to be anything else. I find a lot of the jokes in it to be funny, but I'll save singing it's praises for a different blog piece.
   Now, I ask you to do this: Picture "Gremlins" as a horror film. Don't picture the same movie, minus the singing and dancing, but a gory R rated horror film. You don't even have to re-design these monsters. Picture those same gremlins attacking someone and viciously tearing them apart. It's easy to do because they look capable of it. They look scary. Even the cocoons they hatch out of, are scary. They remind me of the eggs that the facehuggers come out of in the "Alien" films. I would love a horror version of "Gremlins".
   Imagine this: a prequel! Why do three specific broken rules make a mogwai transform into a gremlin? What if the film begins in a village in China where a witch puts a spell on all of the mogwai, thus turning them into gremlins and slaughtering the community? The last of the living mogwai that will later be named, Gizmo is saved by a friend who smuggles him into America to protect him from the witch's spell. THAT could be an interesting film.
   A "Gremlins" reboot has been in the works for awhile now. It's unlikely that horror would be the direction that this reboot would take. It will most likely be a PG rated 3D film, starring CGI gremlins. Is the real plan here to sell more breakfast cereal and plush dolls?
   Because a horror version of "Gremlins" will most likely never happen, I would prefer a sequel over a remake. I would pay money to see "Gremlins 3" starring Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates and directed by Joe Dante in a heartbeat. But PLEASE, use good ol' fashioned puppets as the gremlins. Yoda still looks a little weird to me in those "Star Wars" prequels.
   Although we never got a "Gremlins" horror film, a hand full of Gremlins-inspired horror films popped up throughout the 1980's. Those films are nostalgic to me, but I feel they do not reach their full potential. We could fix that though. Throw me a bone and remake "Ghoulies"!

(Artwork by Isaac Keith Martinez)


Brandon Early said...

I also prefer the "purity" of the sequel more, but the first is an ideal starter horror movie for kids. Also, I admire the big brass balls it took for Dante to keep in the bit when Phoebe Cates shares her story of the worst Christmas ever. Dante is obviously a talented enough filmmaker that he knows that bit brings the movie to a complete standstill. That's true commitment to the gag.

Isaac's Haunted Beard said...

That Christmas story that Phoebe tells is intense. I love when they parody it in Part 2.