Somehow, I have made it through the best part of 29 years on Earth without seeing this Christmas classic in full. I’m glad it ended up being first on my list of films to watch/re-watch, as it is a bit of a doozy.
Where to begin? The whole thing feels like Stephen Spielberg and John Carpenter teamed up to create a satirical B-movie on the set of It’s A Wonderful Life. Whilst it didn’t take itself at all seriously, it just managed to stay out of the spoof territory. It was masterfully done, and I think it helps the films appeal.
Despite not being a spoof, it is so referential! Many films were nodded to and winked at, but none more so than E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. From the plush E.T. doll, to the use of the same circular saw blades, and even one of the Gremlins muttering ‘phone home’ – it was hilarious.
You know what also great? The mother (Frances Lee McCain) was pretty badass. In a world crying out for strong feminine characters, it turns out that we already had them thirty plus years ago. Don’t get me wrong, the tussle with the Christmas tree was daft (it is a silly film), but the kitchen scene where she takes out not one, or two, but three of the critters in quick succession is pretty darn cool – especially as we’ve literally just seen the school teacher get taken out by a solitary monster. Which was worse – the blender or the microwave?
I also really like that the main guy is actually pretty rubbish as a ‘hero’. He’s a bit of a wimp throughout. He gets his arse kicked (verbally and physically) in most confrontations and, in the end, it is his mogwai Gizmo that saves the day.
Unless you don’t get the humour of it all, there’s little to complain about. The pacing is a bit disjointed in places, and the severe cutting back of Judge Reinhold’s character is a little odd (I’ve read that he was meant to have a much larger part, but it was severely cut). The effects for the monsters are a little shaky/cheap looking, but given that is a cultish B-movie it only adds to the charm.