*** ½ Out of 5
Tagline- Cute. Clever. Mischievous. Intelligent. Dangerous
Release Date- June 8th, 1984
Running Time- 106-Minutes
Screenplay- Chris Columbus
Director- Joe Dante
Starring- Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Frances Lee McCain, Corey Feldman
Released in 1984 Gremlins is a film I saw as a kid, but than it was years and years until I finally saw the film again. I’ve seen it on TV and watched a few minutes here and there, but it wasn’t until I bought the blu-ray I finally saw the film again in its entirety and that viewing came 30-years after the original release. There are those films you haven’t seen in ages, but as you watch it scenes start coming back to you, but than there are those films that you haven’t seen in so long that when you see it again its almost like seeing it for the first time and that’s what my reviewing of Gremlins was like. There were a couple of scenes I remembered, but I was surprised at how little memory I had whereas Gremlins 2, which I probably only saw once and that was the theatrical release, but I had more of a memory of that film. Gremlins is a film that features horror aspects, but done more in a family viewing kind of way, but there are scenes that might be a little tense for kids. Horror films that aimed to attract families were a little common in the 80s and outside of Gremlins, the Monster Squad and the Goonies are the most notable.
Gremlins was rated PG and while the film isn’t exactly graphic there is some decent amount of violence as well as I mentioned scenes that might be a little intense for kids. Apparently, Gremlins is one of the films that helped create the PG-13 rating. The Flamingo Kid was the first film to receive a PG-13, but Red Dawn would be the first film released as PG-13, which like Gremlins also came out in 1984. When Gremlins 2 came out 6-years later in 1990 it would be rated PG-13.
Billy Peltzer (Galligan) receives a Mogwai named Gizmo as a gift from his father, but there are 3 important rules. The Mogwai must be kept out of bright lights, isn’t to be fed after midnight and he must not get wet. After an accident, which water spills on Gizmo suddenly more Mogwai’s appear, but soon they turn into ugly gremlins that wreak havoc around town.
The screenplay was written by Chris Columbus who also wrote the Goonies and would direct such films as the first two Home Alone films, Mrs. Doubtfire and Adventures in Babysitting (which was his directorial debut). The script by Columbus is well written with solid characters, but the only real flaw is it does take too long for the plot to get going and despite some solid character development in the first half, Gremlins doesn’t really have a direction until the film gets going. Regardless of the issue I have Chris Columbus does deliver a highly entertaining script in particular the 2nd half with great characters.
Gremlins was directed by Joe Dante who got his start working for Roger Corman and directed the Corman produced Piranha and than would direct the Howling, which is why he got he directing job on Gremlins since producer Steven Spielberg was a fan of the Howling. I can’t say I’m the buggiest fan of Joe Dante, but he’s made some terrific films and Gremlins by many is considered his best. At 106-minutes I personally found Gremlins a little overly long, but with that said I was never bored as the pace is fairly strong, but the first half does have scenes that feel more like filler scenes. However the 2nd half is quite excellent and is filled with some truly hysterical scenes as well as some solid suspense. The highlights include the gremlins running amok in a bar where they drink beer and smoke cigarettes and another classic scene finds them being obnoxious while watching Snow White.
The cast for Gremlins is excellent with the highly underrated Zach Galligan and of course 80s dream girl Phoebe Cates. Corey Feldman also appears in a bit part as does cult actor Dick Miller. And Howie Mandel is the voice of the adorable Gizmo.
Overall Gremlins is an entertaining film that provides plenty of fun moments and while in my opinion the film doesn’t quite hold up as well for me I still enjoyed it. And come on who doesn’t love Gizmo?