Welcome back to the second entry of Dread Central’s Six Slays of Christmas feature! We’re now just five little days away from the year’s biggest holiday season, and to celebrate the coming of Saint Nick (or whomever you believe in), we’ll be taking a look at a different yuletide horror flick each day until the 25th! Think of it as a cinema crazed Advent calendar!
I know Christmas is right around the corner and many of you are out there doing some last-minute shopping. Let me give you one piece of advice. Whatever you do, do not buy some weird looking animal you’ve never seen before from a guy in Chinatown with the worst cataract you’ve ever seen. If you need a gift, just buy a copy of Arkham City or something skimpy from Victoria’s Secret (unless it’s for your mother, then neither of those gifts seems very appropriate unless she’s a big-time gamer or ‘mature’ adult film actress). Either way … just stay out of Chinatown.
From the intro of the film, as the mellow voice of Hoyt Axton welcomes us into the movie, you can’t help but fall in love with Gremlins. And how can you help it when they bring out the face of uber-cuteness, Gizmo the Mogwai (voiced by Howie Mandel), right off the bat. It’s as if the filmmakers said, “We need a personification of cute…” and Gizmo was created. Cute look, cute voice, cute name … as long as you follow the rules.
As we all know, Billy (Zach Galligan) does his best to follow the rules for taking care of the Mogwai (avoid bright light; don’t get them wet; and never, ever feed them after midnight), and he’s doing a good job until the young Corey Feldman comes in and spills water all over the thing. That’s when the trouble begins. Is it so hard not to get a Mogwai wet? The old man in Chinatown didn’t seem to have a problem doing it. Perhaps some clothes for Gizmo wouldn’t have been a bad idea. Maybe a rain slicker to wear around?
Regardless, we soon meet Stripe, who has to be the biggest dickhead puppet since Oscar the Grouch. With nothing but bad intentions in mind, Stripe and his merry band of asshole Mogwais begin to make life miserable for Gizmo, Billy and the neighborhood in general. And this mayhem leads to one of the most memorable scenes from the film. After the big change, Billy’s mother (played by Frances Lee McClain) is being attacked by gremlins and she’s forced to fight back (and she proves to be quite efficient at eliminating the gruesome little creatures). In the span of just a few moments, Mrs. Peltzer jams one gremlin in a blender, stabs the holy hell out of another with a butcher knife and (the piece de resistance) stuffs one in the microwave and…splat!
As enjoyable as Gremlins is, I’m sure you’ve never thought of it as a ground-breaking film, but in fact, there is something you see every time you go to the theater that Gremlins had a big hand in creating. Very much due to that gremlin exploding in the microwave, some moviegoers complained that the film’s PG rating was a bit misleading. In response to the issue, producer Steven Spielberg suggested the MPAA reform their rating system to account for a film that was too intense to be rated PG but not R material. Two months later PG-13 was born.
And, of course, we all loved the great details of the film. Like Polly Holliday (Flo from “Alice” … anyone remember that show?) doing her best Mrs. Gulch impression as the completely bitchy Ruby Deagle. She was involved in another great scene when the gremlin Christmas carolers showed up at her house and she attempted to escape in a lift chair that had been “modified” by the little green beasties, launching her up through the roof of the house. Classic. The flasher gremlin, the break-dancer and the entire Snow White scene were all awesome. Hugely entertaining.
And if you need a little disturbing family drama to complete your holiday viewing experience, Gremlins throws in the twisted story of how Kate’s (Phoebe Cates) father got himself wedged in the chimney playing St. Nick and died there. If Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch…but I guess Kate’s dad was a bit too wide.
Gremlins is a great holiday film for all ages (at least ages 13 and up according to the MPAA). While you’re watching, check for a couple of nods to Indiana Jones and appearances by Spielberg and Tom Bergeron.
There you have it, The Six Slays of Christmas – Number Two … Gremlins.
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