[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B00BMVD04O][/pullquote] Joe Dante is a director who has always understood the link between comedy and horror. In his 2009 film The Hole, the scariest moments often have an element of the ridiculous about them, which was a craft that he perfected in the anarchic 1980s Christmas horror comedy, Gremlins. Released in 1984, Gremlins was a massive box office success, taking over $153m off of a budget of $11m. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, based on an original idea by Chris Columbus, with Dante at the helm, Gremlins had everything needed to make an exceptional film, and that’s exactly what the audience got.
Gremlins begins at Christmas with an inventor looking for a unique gift for his teenage son Billy (Zach Galligan). In an old Chinese-themed shop he discovers a cute and cuddly creature called a Mogwai. Initially the shop-keeper refuses to sell the creature to him, but the son of the owner agrees as they need the money. He gives three instructions to the dad. 1. Do not expose them to direct sunlight. 2. Do not get it wet. 3. Do not feed it after midnight. With these rules memorised, he gives the Mogwai, named Gizmo to Billy and slowly and surely, each of the rules gets broken to horrific and hilarious effect.
Horror-comedies were an increasing popular film genre in the early 1980s after the success of films like Ghostbusters. It’s a shame then, that people often forget that Gremlins is a Christmas film. From the setup, to the blanket of snow and the chilling Christmas carol singing, Gremlins drips with Christmas anti-spirit and revels in the chaos and anarchy that the gremlins themselves, cause. There’s even a nod to It’s a Wonderful Life in the form of a clip from the film. Like the opposite of that classic, no holds are bared in Gremlins with the transformation scenes remaining as scary and memorable as anything in any standard horror films.
The idea behind Gremlins is unique and rather neat, and aside from the ˜Do not feed them after midnight’ rule (seriously at what point does it stop being ˜after midnight?’) the film has a nice structure, which works on the basis that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. People are terrorised and put in serious danger, which creates a great sense of threat throughout. It’s a wonderfully scripted horror-comedy, creating real chills, something that similar films fail to do, concentrating as they are on the comedy, i.e. Shaun of the Dead.
A good idea, with a great producer and a talented director lead Gremlins to become a fondly remembered comedy-horror from the 1980s.