30 years is a long time ago. Lets face it some movies age well and others fall by the wayside. In 1984 a little gem called “Gremlins” hit the big screen and took movie audiences of all ages by surprise. If you think about it how many movies are made that the whole family can enjoy? Well the good news is that the arrow has been rising on the graph for years, in large part thanks to one man. Steven Spielberg if you think about it in the 1980’s and even today the man has his name attached to more projects as an Executive Producer than probably any other man or women in Hollywood. He changed the game in 1982 with the release of “E.T The Extra Terrestrial and hasn’t looked backed since. As a producer alone Spielberg has presented such hits as “Back to the Future”, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, “Casper”, and “Monster House.” After seeing that ET had made it home just fine at the box office, Spielberg took a risk with screenwriter Chris Columbus and director Joe Dante to create a movie that combined Comedy and Horror, but more importantly could make you fall in love with a little Gremlin.
The movie opens in a dimly lit section of Chinatown where one night on the hunt for a different kind of Christmas present, inventor Randall Peltzer comes across a mysterious creature known as a Mogwai. The owner of the shop carefully tells the man the Mogwai is not for sale, fearing it is too great of a responsibility. Thankfully for all of us the owners grandson reluctantly sells the funny looking creature to Mr. Peltzer and gives him three very specific guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety. More on that later. Upon returning home to his family the Mogwai is named Gizmo and is given to eldest son Billy. Here is where the fun begins. The family like the audience are sucked right in by Gizmo. he has the ability to make you laugh and slowly gross you out. Whenever you set up rules or conditions in a movie, it is a law that no matter what they will be broken. Even though it is a cliché, this movie handles it with such fun and excitement that you can’t help but smile. What are the rules that were stated to Mr. Peltzer you ask? First off no bright lights, second do not get any part of the creature wet, and third never ever feed the little guys after midnight. After these conditions are clearly explained to Billy and the rest of the family, the accidents start happening. What starts off accidentally as five little Mogwais, overnight spawns several evil little Gremlins. At the center of it all is Billy trying to go from place to place and stop the outbreak. If I could only tell you two things about this movie it would be the superb job of making the Gremlins feel like real creatures, not fake looking puppets, and Zach Galligan’s performance as Billy Peltzer.
Billy is an average suburban kid slugging it out at home with mom and dad, and frustrated by the annoying customers at the bank. Billy however does have time for one girl Kate Beringer. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that these two like each other as more than just friends. Along with the special effects of the Gremlins which are impressive, the other key to the movie is Galligan. He gives this movie instant credibility from the moment he appears. Every kid knows the special feeling of unwrapping a gift on Christmas morning and Billy has that same excitement the first time he comes face to face with the strange-looking creature. Galligan strikes just the right note with this character which in a movie like this with the wrong actor would be laughable. Gailligan seemingly goes through every emotion possible with the Gremlins, whether its being in awe, surprised, frightened, and even some sympathy.
Along with Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” this film was responsible for the birth of the PG-13 rating. After hearing several complaints that both films were too violent for the family oriented PG rating, Spielberg approached the “Motion Picture Association of America” and suggested they alter the rating system. Two months later “Red Dawn” starring Patrick Swayze was given the first ever PG-13 rating. For Director Joe Dante “Gremlins” was the highlight of his career. Dante would go on to direct “The Burbs” starring Tom Hanks, and the hit film “Small Soldiers” in 1998. However neither film would rank the dough the way “Gremlins” would. For screenwriter Chris Columbus this was only the beginning. Columbus would continue his collaboration with Spielberg a year later when he wrote the screenplay for “The Goonies.” As a director Columbus would be responsible for some of the biggest box office hits of all time including “Home Alone”, “Mrs. Doubtfire”, and the first two installments of the “Harry Potter” franchise.
Released on June 8, 1984 “Gremlins” would become the 4th highest grossing film that year, beating out some stiff completion that included “The Karate Kid”, “Footloose”, and “Splash.” Judge for yourselves if you think this movie is too violent for little kids, I feel as a family movie this is one of the better ones made in the last 30 years. Don’t be scared check it out, it’s even better after midnight!