DECEMBER 3, 2011

Somehow amid Christmas season rituals like decorating the house after Thanksgiving and the countless television stations playing “A Christmas Story” and “Elf” all day on Christmas Eve, a new ritual was born in the form of a little fuzzy creature named Gizmo. Produced by Steven Spielberg, “Gremlins” has become as Christmas as “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street,” and the reason for this is simple: people got sick of the typical Christmas film.

In all reality, “Gremlins” is more of a horror film than a feel-good seasonal film. Billy (Zach Galligan) is an average teenager with an average teenage life. Even his average adolescent love interest, Kate (Phoebe Cates), hates Christmas. Gizmo, the magical Japanese creature given as a Christmas present to Billy at one point, wears a Santa hat, but aside from that, this film is pure horror-comedy. “Gremlins” gives its viewers a way out of the holiday season while still developing their rituals.

Gizmo is cute. A blend between a purring kitten and the Ewoks from “Return of the Jedi,” there are specific rules to follow when handling the little bugger. No bright lights, absolutely no water, and no food after midnight; these are the unbreakable rules. Going into any film that sets rules, you know damn sure those rules are getting broken. It is when the new gremlins are born that the film gets interesting. One green bubbling high school pool later and the entire charming town of Kingston Falls becomes infested with cigarette smoking, biting and clawing, gunslinging varmints. The pace from then on is that out of any horror-slasher film you may have encountered.

The look of the gremlins rivals most prosthetic creature movies, including that of Spielberg’s own “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” to which “Gremlins” gets compared. The rubbery, scaly nature of the creatures makes even their most gruesome deaths in a microwave and a blender that much more grotesque, ending up half the film’s fun. Their antics in the town bar and movie theater make up the other half.

“Gremlins” is an anti-Christmas movie. The only actual holiday portions of the film are brief, and the horror-comedy side takes off where that seasonal element ends. Though the characters leave much to desire, the creatures more than take on a life of their own, creating a truly unique Christmas movie alternative.

June 8, 1984

Joe Dante

Chris Columbus

Warner Bros. Pictures


106 minutes

John Hora

Jerry Goldsmith

Tina Hirsch

Zach Galligan
Phoebe Cates
Hoyt Axton
Polly Holliday
Frances Lee McCain
Judge Reinhold
Dick Miller
Glynn Turman
Corey Feldman
Howie Mandel

Michael Finnell
Steven Spielberg

$11 million

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