"On the seventh day of Creepmas, Krampus gave to me:
A unique take on a classic movie!"
- Channy Dreadful
Gremlins. You say “the greatest Christmas horror movie ever”? I say “Bah, Humbug”!
In 1984, when I was 10 years old, I imagine I ate Gremlins up with a spoon. I imagine my mother taking me because, as had so many other parents, she’d seen Gizmo’s cute little face and producer Steven Spielberg’s name and associated the film with ET the Extraterrestrial. What a bait and switch THAT was.
It’s been years since I’ve seen Gremlins, and, having pounced on the title when Channy Dreadful requested holiday-themed reviews, I was really looking forward to watching it.
Once the film started with Hoyt Axton’s narration, I settled in to have my cockles warmed. Dear old Dad buying a mogwai for his son was sweet (even if he did rip off Ancient Chinese Grandpa and conduct a back alley black market transaction with a 12 year old boy). The rules for the new pet’s care seemed simple enough. What could possibly go wrong? Well, everything, which is, after all, why we bought the tickets (and snuck snacks into the theater in Mom’s purse, because “single mother”).
That’s about as far as I can take you down memory lane, because I have no recollection of seeing Gremlins in the theater. Today however, is a completely different story. Writing this article will most likely keep me from forgetting again: I HATE GREMLINS.
Gremlins was written by (now) famed director Chris Columbus, produced by famed director Steven Spielberg, and directed by famed director Joe Dante. Columbus wrote it on spec, and it was originally a much darker script. Decapitation, gremlins eating people, and the transformation of Gizmo into Stripe were all thrown out and the “lighter” script went into production. (The film actually was rushed out during the summer of ’84 to compete with Spielberg’s own Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and released the same weekend as Ghostbusters.)
Anyway- back to why I want to take a flamethrower to Kingston Falls. It’s the scene where Corey Feldman spills water on Gizmo (breaking rule number 2: Don’t get him wet). Sweet little Gizmo starts screaming and writhing in pain and pieces of him start bubbling and popping off. Nobody attempts to help him; they just watch the new fur balls popping off as Gizmo lies wailing in a puddle in anguish. At the end of the ordeal, he’s crying, nose running, trying to catch his breath, and Billy Peltzer (who should never own a pet again) asks him what’s wrong. “What’s wrong? WHAT’S WRONG!? How about I just lost 20% of my body mass in the most excruciating experience of my life BECAUSE YOU’RE A FUCKING MORON!!??”
Were it not for that scene (which is exacerbated by the biology teacher’s duplicitous behavior towards the mogwai spawn Billy cheerfully offers up for experimentation,) maybe I could enjoy the rest of the movie in a Ghoulies-like fashion, but I’m already furious, so I take every bit of food processing, microwaving, stabbing and incineration of the villainous gremlins as a personal affront. I can’t detach myself from the moral outrage, so the special effects are lost on me. I do notice how poorly developed all the human characters are- Phoebe Cates serves absolutely no purpose in this movie- but not even the clips from my all-time favorite Invasion of the Body Snatchers can sweeten my sour disposition.
I’m sure you’re all quite entertained by my fury over what amounts to puppet torture resulting in a proliferation of tribbles, but knowing I was manipulated by the Hollywood machine at such a young age leaves me feeling betrayed. This isn’t the fantasy-enveloped gateway horror that is The Wizard of Oz. It isn’t the almost-but-not-quite-too-far sinister tones of The Dark Crystal. This is a movie designed to tantalize children that shows creatures marketed as toys drinking, smoking, playing with guns and murdering people- and the whole thing is predicated on animal abuse. Even with my moral flexibility, I can’t rationalize it. It’s no wonder this movie was a talking point when the MPAA created the PG-13 rating. Enjoy it if you can, but I say there’s a special place for Steven Spielberg in Mogwai Hell.