Joe Dante’s Gremlins

Today I watched Joe Dante’s Gremlins (1984)

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I suppose this holiday’s theme is the blending of holiday cheer with gruesome genre film making.  In the case of Gremlins, Joe Dante offers us a unique twist on the monster movie and draws humour out of the festive juxtaposition.  The story follows Billy Peltzer, a young man who lives in a small town with his parents and works in the local bank.  His father, a struggling inventor, has bought him a new pet for Christmas, a strange little creature named Mogwai.  Mogwai comes with an important set of three rules though; you can’t get him wet, and you can’t feed it after midnight.  So of course these rules soon get broken; first it gets wet and suddenly reproduces by budding, then it’s decidedly evil offspring manage to get Billy to feed them after midnight, and suddenly they have transformed into villainous little monsters.

In typical Joe Dante fashion, this film offers a very off kilter sense of humour that revolves around a self awareness of the genre conventions at play.  Again, it is a juxtaposition joke mainly; the first half dripping in Spielbergian sentimentality and quirky cheer, only to be followed by a barrage of grotesque and creative slapstick.  Dante definitely has an eye for this form of genre blending as his irreverent sense of humour provides a strong connective tissue to keep the film consistent.

From a thematic point of view though, the film is the archetype of Hollywood pro-consumer anti-consumerism.  There is a running undercurrent of anti-materialist thought in the film, only for that to be packaged with some of the most marketable monster in film history.  This combined with a certain flippancy in the attitude combine to make the film feel somewhat trivial, despite the nostalgic praise heaped upon it.  What I am saying is that while this is certainly a fun Christmas movie, it lacks a certain heartfelt warmth common in it’s kin, it certainly is no Die Hard.  4/5

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