Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Horror Countdown 2016: Gremlins (1984)

Gremlins (1984) dir. Joe Dante, Amblin Entertainment

One of the first films that I remember watching, sort of. Back in the day one could get records packaged with storybooks, with the film reenacted with either actors from the film or just some guy they grabbed. I listened to Gremlins a dozen times before I ever saw it.

Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) is a inventor. Finding himself in Chinatown near Christmas, Randall is hunting for the perfect gift for his son Billy. Ignoring the fireworks and knock-off electronics, he is lead through the backstreets to a small shop run by an enigmatic old man (Keye Luke). The shop is special, but there is one item that captures Randall's attention: a small fury creature called a 'mogwai'. He offers the old man anything, but the man refuses to sell. The old man's grandson (John Louie) lacks his grandfather's scruples and sneaks the creature to Randall for a few hundred bucks. He lays some ground rules though, none of which can be broken:

1. Keep him out of bright light
2. Never get it wet
3. And most important of all, no matter how much he begs, never feed him after midnight.

And so, with the newly dubbed Gizmo in tow, Randall returns home to Kingston Falls, a picturesque slice of heaven that looks like Frank Capra is shooting something around every corner. Billy (Zach Galligan) holds down the fort as a bank teller, although he has to contend with the town matriarch Mrs. Deagle (Polly Holliday), who for fun closes on people's mortgages and wants to put down Billy's dog Barney. He does have a bright spot with fellow co-worker Kate (Phoebe Cates), but also has to contend with smarmy corporate climber Gerald (Judge Reinhold). Billy is amazed by Gizmo and promises to obey all the rules.

He breaks the second one rather quickly. Hanging out with the younger Pete (Corey Feldman) ends in the youth spilling a cup of water on Gizmo. The result? Gizmo gives birth to a litter of mogwais. The this new group is a bit different though, as they seem more malicious. Chewing through Billy's alarm clock, they trick him into feeding them all after midnight. The result of that? Large cocoons...that soon hatch; and what comes out of them isn't nearly as cute as they were before.

The gremlins soon multiply and run amuck. The police are quickly dispatched and with the chaos growing, can Billy and Kate stop the monsters and save their town?

A perfect blend of comedy and horror. Dante's sensibilities have rarely been this good. He can have a wonderful bit of comedy mixed with blood chilling often in the same scene and it still holds up.

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