Directed by Joe Dante
Distributed by Warner Brothers Home Entertainment
In all honesty, I approached this Gremlins review with a good deal of trepidation. Well, perhaps not the review itself, but revisiting the film in question. As a child of the 80s, I watched Gremlins over and over, holding it up as something of a classic. Of course, I did the same thing with a number of other films from that era which haven’t exactly stood the test of time. Surely there must be movies like that for you, dear Reader. Movies that you adored as a child, that reveal themselves as being less than great when you get older and mature a bit. I’ll be honest, there have been certain films I’ve avoided for the longest time for fear of besmirching my good memory of them, and Gremlins was certainly one of them.
How nice then, to watch the film for the first time in well over a decade and find it to be, if not exactly a classic, then certainly a strong, kid-friendly horror comedy which deserves the love and reputation bestowed upon it. The story should be familiar to most Dread readers: lovable, bumbling inventor Randall Peltzer (the great Hoyt Axton) buys an unusual pet for his son, Billy (Zach Galligan). This cute little creature, called a Mogwai and nicknamed “Gizmo”, comes with a set of rules: no bright lights, don’t get him wet, and no food after midnight. Of course, all of these are broken pretty quickly, causing Gizmo to spawn a handful of mischievous Mogwais which eventually mutate into the scaly, reptilian “gremlins” of the title. Horror and hilarity ensue, both for the Peltzer family and their entire hometown.
The set-up is fantastic, the actors all great, and the special effects and cinematography are all top notch. But even though the film has that 80s, Spielbergian feel to it (he did produce and present it, after all), the screenplay doesn’t quite hold up as well as those for other films of its type from that era. Some of the supporting characters are barely more than sketches, the middle act drags a bit, and the ending, while somewhat surprisingly downbeat, lacks a satisfying resolution. Had the script’s quality been on par with the other aspects of the production, this film would inarguably be hailed a classic. As it is, it’s still a delightfully scary and fun film, one well worth watching with younger siblings or family members who might enjoy the film’s safe scares and goofy humor.
The 25th Anniversary Blu-ray release of the film comes with a solid collection of bonus features, including additional scenes, a vintage Making-of, two audio commentaries, a photo/storyboard gallery, and a set of theatrical trailers. The additional scenes are fun to watch, but are mostly pointless (with the exception of a brief scene with Randall that further explains the naming of “Gizmo”). The Making-of actually comes from the era of the film’s production, and is worth the price of admission alone, featuring lots of great behind-the-scenes footage with director Joe Dante and the charming Axton. The commentaries are probably must-listens for die-hards (one featuring Dante and his cast, the other the director, the producer, and the special effects artist), while the photo/storyboard gallery is a lot of fun. Rounding things out are two theatrical trailers for the film, and one for its sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Blu-ray review here).
Now, I should note that this Blu-ray has been out for some time, and has garnered some less than favorable reviews for its picture quality, with some folks noting that it’s hardly better than the DVD release. That may be true (I’ve never owned the DVD), but I’ll say that I found very little to complain about here. The print does have some speckling, is soft at times, and does have a considerable amount of grain in the darker scenes. Overall, though, the image is still quite sharp and beautiful, displaying Dante’s garish colors well. The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was flawless to this reviewer’s ears, as well.
While the film may not be the classic I’d always remembered it to be, Gremlins is still one helluva fun movie, and stands as a shining example of the type of edgy kids movies the 80s produced. It may not be perfect, but it’s a blast, and as such it’s gotten the Blu-ray release it deserves.
3 1/2 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5