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Christmas Horror Comedy / English / 1984

It's the "family friendly" horror comedy that teaches us that Santa isn't real and to exterminate the ugly.

Dogs, Cats, Chicken.

This movie may have one of the most earwormy theme songs of any movie from the 80s and the movie's pretty memorable as well.

Some inventor with no substantial relevance to the story buys his son a "Mogwai" as an exotic gift from a half-blind mystical salesman in Chinatown (as you do). The Mogwai is basically a furry baby Yoda, but it comes with the caveats to keep him away from bright light (sunlight can kill him), don't get him wet (water causes him to multiply), and don't feed them after midnight (this begins a metamorphosis that changes the mogwai into a gremlin).

I've always questioned the rule about feeding after midnight. The "evil" mogwai that spawn from Gizmo (the original mogwai) are shown to scheme amongst each other, enough to deliberately sabotage a clock so Billy is fooled into believing it's before midnight when he feeds them. If they're intelligent enough to do that, why even go through the trouble? Can't they just legitimately ask for food, keep some of it around until Billy goes to sleep (as he does anyway), and eat it after midnight?

I suppose there's no reveal showing how intelligent they can be in that case, but it seems like a plothole.

Billy's mom also whips out the knives and starts stabbing awfully fast once she sees what the gremlins look like. She kills 3 of them in a row and the most they've done is eat cookie batter and throw a couple plates? Evil Makes You Ugly is played awfully straight here.

Before long gremlins are rampaging the town and we see them doing all sorts of absurd and dangerous things, from smoking and shooting guns, to 80s workout routines and crossdressing. There are a lot of cartoon stock sound effects which I don't think are necessary to soften their antics and the visual gags don't really make me laugh or anything. They would eventually go overboard with this is Gremlins 2.

Ultimately this movie excels in it's creature effects. The mogwai are presented to be cute like Furbys, but their transformation process shows little furballs growing and pulsating before turning into big slimy green cocoons that put the Alien facehugger eggs to shame.

The end result are bigger, creepier, cackling little monsters that cannot help but **** with every electronic that they can stick their claws in. It's all practical effects and puppetry from beginning to end and it's incredibly impressive, even today, despite the occasional bad shot where you can see Stripe on a skateboard or something.

After the initial fight at home, the escape to the YMCA where the lead gremlin Stripe jumps in he swimming pool, and a montage of the resulting gremlin invasion taking over the town, we have a scene where the protagonists blow up most of the gremlins in a movie theater then track down Stripe to a department store.

The department store fight is the most memorable to me, mainly because this where the creature effects become the most horrific and the creatures themselves are shown to be the most violent. Stripe throws a saw blade, shoots Billy with a mini crossbow, shoots at him with a gun, and even runs out of nowhere with a revving chainsaw, cutting almost entirely through a baseball bat to get to him.

That's some scary shit where you're a kid.

But it's also a fun watch, and even though the plot beats seem too-brief as I describe them, the whole movie is paced really well. Introducing Gizmo, showing the consequences of not following the rules, and even the subplot about the Gremlin who escapes the science lab at school (which I don't think is ever resolved) ties the whole experience together in a coherent developing narrative which peaks with some of the most gruesome practical effects and violence.

I consider it a classic, albeit not a favorite. Very good movie.

Final Verdict:
[Pretty Good]