Of all the features that left you unreasonably terrified as a small child, Gremlins is undoubtedly the most ridiculous.
It all begins with Gizmo, a cute and creepy creature that comes with “great responsibility.” Those responsibilities being: It can’t get wet, can’t be exposed to sunlight and, above all, cannot be fed after midnight.
These instructions seem ludicrously simple, so naturally you know someone has to mess them up. Enter Billy Peltzer (here played by Zach Galligan).
Billy’s just your typical ‘80s American teenager—bad perm, unrequited crush and sugar-sweet manners. So, in his infinite wisdom, Billy’s father decides that the perfect Christmas present for his typical American son is a complicated exotic creature called a mogwai.
Sure, they snuggle and watch Clark Gable flicks, but Billy swiftly drops the ball and gets Gizmo wet. This results in a mitotic-like reproduction of five more mogwai.
Unlike Gizmo, this bunch is far more interested in mischief than movies. So they sneak a midnight feast, morph into mohawked, leather-skinned gremlins and proceed to wreak havoc on the holiday.
This contrast of a classic white Christmas with microwave murders helps to solidify Gremlins’ standing as one of the finer black comedies in existence. Plus, the fact that it was produced by the infamous Steven Spielberg helped to catapult the film to success.
And if you add a magnificent mixture of campy acting, mischievously wacky fanfare and physically painful wardrobe, it becomes just an all-around entertaining feature.
If you wanted to be analytical about it, you might consider the gremlin to be a symbol for man’s inner, hedonistic id—needing structure and laws to function in society. You might muse that their destructive behavior, tastes for non-nutritious food and propensity for vengeance is the propagandized depiction of anachronistic youth.
But then, it might be harder to truly appreciate the sight of Billy’s mother juicing a mogwai to the whimsical tune of “Do You Hear What I Hear?”
Of course, the special effects are a little painful, and considering that creatures are the foundation of the film it’s a little hard to forget. Fortunately they abandon all thought of producing menacing monsters though, and settle for laughably nasty.
So while you know it’s just a swarm of puppets reenacting Flashdance in leg warmers and murdering Santas left and right, it’s done with so much exaggeration that you almost believe it.
So if you find your holiday flick list in desperate need of some feel good horror, give Gremlins a thought. It’s only cerebral when forced, only painful for the fashion police and likely to give you one of the most surprisingly valuable pieces of holiday advice imaginable.
When you’re mining for the perfect gift for your loved ones, also consider whether you’ve chosen the perfect loved one for said gift. Because sometimes socks are wonderful, occasionally a crème brûlée kit is amazing and a puppy is always preferable to a city-leveling mogwai.