“Keep him out of the light, he hates bright light, especially sunlight, it’ll kill him. And don’t give him any water, don’t get him wet. But the most important rule, the rule you can never forget, no matter how much he cries, no matter how much he begs, never, never feed him after midnight.”
One late summer night in 1985, a young man took his pregnant wife to see the re-release of the hit film Gremlins. His wife would later recall finding the film “gross and dumb” and would not rent it for her young son a few years later. “You already saw it once,” she would say, as he was present in the womb when she saw it. That unborn child, I have on good authority, loved it and considers it “the first movie I ever saw in the theater.” The good authority is me, because I was the fetus! Anyway, good writing should feel personal, so that’s why I told you that story about me being a fetus. Let’s talk about Gremlins.
It goes without saying that this is a beloved movie by many, which makes sense because it’s tons of fun. The practical effects are pretty incredible and hold up better than a lot of the CGI laden blockbusters of the past few years (I’m looking at you specifically, Star Wars prequels). It’s also unabashedly dark for a family movie, which is something I miss terribly. Apparently, the original screenplay was gruesome as all hell, with characters that survive in the theatrical version getting beheaded and dogs getting killed, even a scene where the gremlins invade a McDonald’s and start eating the customers. That might have been a very fun movie, but it probably would have been harder to make money off of merchandising for children, which wound up being a big part of this movie’s legacy and successes.
Let’s talk about Phoebe Cates’s character’s backstory for a minute. She hates Christmas, and for most of the movie we’re not entirely sure why, but surely she must have some reason. Well, we do find out, and boy is it a doozy. SPOILERS: it turns out her dad decided to surprise the family by dressing as Santa and coming down the chimney with a bag of presents. While inside, he slips and breaks his neck and they don’t find him until they light a fire and discover a very disturbing burning smell. It’s great macabre humor and also extremely upsetting, and a lot for a kids movie. I kinda see why my mom didn’t like it, but I love it.
The cast is a pretty solid collection of great 80’s actors, from Phoebe Cates and Judge Reinhold, both relatively fresh off the classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High, to Dick Miller (Chopping Mall!) and Hoyt Axton (he cowrote “Joy To the World” by Three Dog Night and showed up in a lot of things). Even little Corey Feldman shows up, a big year for him with this and Friday the 13th Part IV where he plays young Tommy Jarvis. Though this will likely be what Joe Dante is best remembered for, and it is great, I think The ‘Burbs and Gremlins 2: The New Batch are a little bit better (Gremlins 2 is especially wild). Joe Dante is one of the best at mixing horror and comedy and it’s a shame he’s fallen off a bit over the last 20 years.
Should I Show This To My Five Year-Old?
As I said, I saw this as a fetus, and I turned out great. It seems like you can’t even cross the street without running into someone talking about how well-balanced and put together I am. I suppose my question for you is, why haven’t you already shown this to your child? This is a family Christmas classic. Perhaps the best Christmas movie ever released in June, and definitely the best family movie ever released on the same day as Ghostbusters. This movie is a great object lesson for your child about the responsibilities that come with raising pets and the trouble that you can find yourself in if you don’t care for them properly. The benefits to showing this to your children are almost impossible to count, Mom, so definitely rent it for your young son when he asks. Don’t make him wait until he’s in junior high and he has to find it taped off of HBO at his grandparent’s house and watch it at night. Why not rent Edward Scissorhands for your child too, so he doesn’t have to see it for the first time as soon as Gremlins finishes on the same VHS tape.
I would be surprised if you hadn’t seen this yet, so there’s not much more to say. Yes, it’s partially responsible for the PG-13 rating coming into existence. Yes, it’s still pretty gruesome for a family movie. Yes, it’s a lot of fun and deserves to be on rotation as much as A Christmas Story, Elf, It’s A Wonderful Life (which cameos here), Shrek the Halls (the Shrek Christmas special from TV), and whatever else you people watch. Check it out, and if you already have, check it out again. Get your neighbors together and put it on, strengthen your ties to the community. You’ll be the fun Gremlins neighbor. Everyone loves that neighbor. Do it. You’ll love it. Okay, bye until next time.
Greg Orme is a comedian/writer based out of Salt Lake City, where he lives with his five plants. You should follow him on Twitter if you aren’t already.
There are a million Gremlins branded items to buy, but if you haven’t seen the movies in awhile you can get both, plus Goonies, below. 80s Baby may receive a commission.