Who remembers the Furby? I know I do. Funny enough, I remember when that they came out, I thought they were a knock off of a mogwai. Come to find out, WB contacted Hasbro about the Furby, and next thing you know they added some arms and made a mogwai Furby. But who can blame Hasbro? Anyone who has watched Gremlins knows what Rand Peltzer knew back in 1984. A mogwai is the perfect Christmas present. So it is no wonder that Furby took over Christmas in 1998. Wait, isn’t this supposed to be a review about a movie?
Anyway, back to Gremlins. Written by Chris Columbus before he created Home Alone. Produced by Stephen Spielberg after he brought us Jaws. Directed by Joe Dante after he brought us Howling and before he brought us Innerspace. Gremlins certainly had some talent behind the picture and it was successful enough that it spawned a ton of knock offs over the years. Additionally, I’ve always loved this movie.
In the beginning of Gremlins, we start with a father who is peddling his ambitious yet flawed inventions. One day he stumbles into a store and sees a mogwai. At once, he sees this little creature as the perfect Christmas present for his son. Once he has been briefed on the three rules you must abide by in owning one, he takes the creature home and presents him to his son, Billy. Being the son of an inventor, Billy names the little guy “Gizmo” and begins to care for him, following the rules.
Eventually, they manage to break each of the rules. When a young Corey Feldman spills a glass of water on Gizmo, he begins to multiply. From Gizmo, five more mogwai spawn. Unlike the calm and friendly Gizmo, these five are all more mischievous and rambunctious. After chewing through the power for his clock, these five surreptitiously convince Billy to feed them after midnight, breaking the second rule. As a result, the five spawn transform from furry mogwai into the titular scaly gremlins.
From this point on, these gremlins go from being mischievous to violent. They wreak havoc on those who live in the town. Eventually, so many spawn that they essentially take over the entire town. Once this happens, it is up to Billy, his love interest Kate, and little Gizmo to save the town and take down the gremlins.
It is a pretty simple premise and doesn’t really have any twists or turns. Even so, it is an incredibly fun movie. While the gremlins are vicious at times, they are often just ridiculous. They party in the bar and take over a movie theater, watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Conversely, they viciously attack Billy’s mother and kill Mrs. Deagle after tormenting her. They are certainly not a totally harmless bunch.
What really works for this movie is the humor throughout. The dialog between characters is fun and snappy. The story that Kate tells Billy to explain why she hates Christmas really is quite ridiculous, despite being delivered with sincerity. The actors are all really good and work well together. As this is a Dante production, of course you get a few nice bits with Dick Miller. He sure does love that guy.
Gremlins is just a good fun comedy horror romp. Historically, the movie also had a hand in pushing for the creation of a PG-13 rating. If you enjoy the horror comedy genre, it is certainly worth your time.
Warner Bros gives us a merely okay transfer for Gremlins. On one hand there is a lot of grain, so thankfully no overuse of DNR here. On the other hand, at times the dark scenes unfortunately feel a little murky and overly dark. However, the daylight scenes do look brighter and better, so I suspect the existing master just isn’t that good. In the end I can’t fault Warner Brothers for not doing a brand new and meticulous remaster, as this isn’t a movie that is going to bring in enough to warrant the effort.
Audio Quality: 4/5
At least we get a nice TrueHD 5.1 audio track on this release. This is not the best audio track I’ve ever heard, but it is good for its age. I never struggled to hear any of the dialog throughout the movie. The surround is actually pretty solid on this disc. Also, I enjoyed the direction of the action and the underlying holiday music throughout many of the scenes. While it won’t knock your socks off, you really shouldn’t notice much about the track. Sometimes not noticing is good as it means it doesn’t detract from the viewing.
Special Features and Packaging: 4/5
For a movie of its age that really isn’t a huge name, this comes with a pretty solid set of extras. The first of note are two very good commentaries. Both of these are worth multiple watches. Of course, Joe Dante is always has good energy and recall in his commentary tracks.
Commentary 1: Joe Dante (director), Michael Finnell (producer), Chris Walas (special effects). In this commentary they focus more on how things were accomplished and the historical side of the movie’s production.
Commentary 2: Joe Dante (director) and actors Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Howie Mandel and Dick Miller. This one is like a bunch of friends recalling old stories. They seem a bit more friendly and familial in this track than the group in the other track.
Gremlins: behind-the-scenes: Featurette showing the guys behind bringing this film to the screen. Pleasantly, they shot this feature during the production of the film, so this is definitely a nice little time capsule.
Additional Scenes: We get a couple of extra scenes that were cut due to pacing or tone. Though, I wish they had kept some of these scenes as they were enjoyable. Also, these include more of Judge Reinhold who unfortunately had his role reduced in the final cut a bit. Additionally an optional commentary track accompanies these scenes for added background.
2 Trailers for Gremlins
1 Trailer for Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Gremlins comes value packaged with the sequel and Goonies for around $10-15. Also, there is a Diamond Luxe Edition that has a few more special features and a neo case, but the transfer and audio track are the same.
Gremlins Overall: 4/5
It is tempting to rate Gremlins higher because I gleefully enjoy the mayhem. In the end, it is still quite good but not great. I still believe it works quite well, so I think it is definitely worth anyone’s time. It is a classic in the horror comedy genre. The film works for fans that are a little younger (I would not recommend it for young children, though). The actors and characters are great together and the humor really shines through. The dark humor tone is great and the special effects are still pretty cool to this day. I look forward to watching it every year to celebrate Christmas. Additionally, it is a relatively inexpensive release either by itself or in a 3 pack with the sequel and The Goonies. Check your expectations at the door; evaluate Gremlins for what it is and just get ready for a fun ride.