Plot: In a small, but mystical curio shop in Chinatown, Randall (Hoyt Axton) has found the perfect Christmas present for his son Billy (Zach Galligan), a strange, but cute little animal known as a Mogwai. But the shop’s owner refuses to sell, no matter the price, as he claims the little creature requires intense care. But the owner’s grandson is willing to do a back alley deal, as his family needs the money. He warns Randall about the Mogwai and lists three rules, no water, no bright light, and most importantly, never feed the tiny guy after midnight. Billy loves the Mogwai, names him Gizmo and soon, the two are all but inseparable. But when an accident spills water on Gizmo, Billy learns why the rules are so important, as Gizmo spawns a handful of clones, thanks to the water that soaked him. Now Billy has to watch over five new Mogwai, but these new ones don’t share Gizmo’s sweet nature, not even close. When the new arrivals trick Billy into feeding them after midnight, he once again learns why the rules are so crucial and the entire town could be in danger.
Entertainment Value: An 80s classic, Gremlins brought us the lovable Gizmo and a pitch perfect blend of scares and laughs. A horror comedy is no simple feat, let alone one aimed at a wide audience, but Gremlins is able to walk that line quite well. A couple moments come close, such as Kate’s hilarious/sad tale of her father dying in a chimney dressed as Santa, but I think even those instances are passable. I found that moment to be ridiculous and hilarious, but some might find it a little dark, but that is true about much of Gremlins. That dark humor is what drives the movie, in my opinion, not to mention almost all the humor is effective. The narrative is brisk, fun, and inspired by the old school b movies, which explains the wealth of movie references that are sprinkled all over the movie. So despite the dark humor, Gremlins always has a fun, b movie feel to it, even in those darker moments. Gizmo was a phenomenon that captured the world’s attention, thanks to his super cute visual design and the practical effects used to bring the little guy to life. A little dated now perhaps, but Gizmo and the gremlins still look eons better than the CGI plague of the decades to follow. I think the effects have aged pretty well overall, especially given the number of characters involved and the wide scope of their actions on screen.
The gremlins and Gizmo might be the real stars of the movie, but the human cast is also up to the task. Zach Galligan is fun as the awkward, goofy co-hero, but Phoebe Cates steals most of the scenes she’s in. She is fantastic in the tavern scene, where she tries to serve a bar full of gremlins. Also in fine form are Dick Miller, Hoyt Axton, and Francis Lee McCain, as Billy’s ass kicking mother. No sleaze in this one and minimal blood, but we do get some fun goopy effects work. A microwave, chainsaw, blender, knives, and more are brought into play to fend off the gremlins, who are brought to life through some terrific practical means. So it does have more gross goop than you might think, including a really gross set piece in the finale. The dialogue offers up some fun lines, with Dick Miller and Hoyt Axton as treasure troves, but Cates’ tragic Santa story likely takes the cake. I also love the conversation between the police officers, when they head out to see what all the commotion is about. On the craziness scale, this one has that offbeat b movie vibe, but never feels out of control or too over the top, so it isn’t all that off the deep end.
Overall Insanity: 2/10