Anthony continues our “Countdown to Christmas” season with Joe Dante’s chaotic Christmas cracker
It’s that wonderful time of the year again when I look forward to my annual Christmas rewatch of Gremlins. Call me macabre, but Joe Dante’s 1984 classic about the pesky Christmas-wrecking critters is my favorite festive flick of all time. Yes, there’s Miracle on 34th Street, Home Alone, The Holiday, and The Grinch to make us feel warm and cheery, but Gremlins never fails to make me laugh.
36 years on the movie still has a lot of bite. It’s on the naughty list for a reason because it brings some mischief and high jinks to the festive season. So, why do I love it so much? To start, Gremlins is a Christmas movie with a comic-horror soul. Back in the day, it had the baubles to be something completely different. It still stands up today.
From the get-go, it makes me feel festive. The Norman Rockwellian town of Kingston Falls is covered in snow and wrapped up with festive lights and decorations. Carolers are singing on doorsteps, and people are buying trees and swapping presents. It’s also ripe for some delightfully grim Christmas carnage!
For those of you who don’t know, the plot is simple: our hero Billy receives a new pet – the Mogwai Gizmo – for Christmas. The adorable fuzzball comes with three simple care instructions. Billy then proceeds to run afoul of these rules, almost destroying Kingston Falls at the same time.
Once the evil Mogwais spawn and mutate into the sinister Gremlins, all hell breaks loose, and they begin to tear up the town on Christmas Eve. The critters have one thing in mind; to cause chaos and go wild. You’ll find little goodwill to humankind from these vile vandals. One of the best scenes is when the murderous monsters visit the local tavern to get jolly. The hedonistic drinking session that follows is sheer manic genius. It makes the cantina scene in Star Wars seem sedate by comparison.
I love watching the sinister sprites mimicking human behavior at the bar. The beer-up includes a deadly card game, and the boozers are a motley crew including a mugger gremlin, a flasher gremlin, and a break-dancer gremlin. The delinquents know how to party. Then there’s the wicked Mrs. Deagle and her grisly demise. The old hag (she makes Scrooge look cheery) comes to a grim but hilarious end at the claws of the sadistic scamps who tamper with the wiring on her stairlift.
Oh, and don’t forget the slasher scene in Billy’s mum’s kitchen where she wipes out a gaggle of gremlins using nothing but utensils. And then there’s Kate’s sad monologue where she explains her hatred of Christmas. It’s a jolt to the system when she describes how her dad died while climbing down the family chimney dressed as Santa. At that moment, Gremlins swings from cartoonish sadism to VERY dark humor, too grim for some, admittedly.
While Gremlins is fantastic fun for fans with a twisted sense of humor, there’s a moral to be found in the chaos – the movie makes fun of the crass commercialization of Christmas. It also mocks peoples’ irrational fears and suspicion of foreigners, and, ironically, our reliance on foreign-made toys and gadgets. We should heed its warning about rampant materialism.
Of course, there are many fantastic festive films to be enjoyed this time of year. Another 80s favorite of mine is Bill Murray’s Scrooged. At home with my family, Angela’s Christmas, Elliot the Littlest Reindeer, and The Christmas Chronicles are big hits with my wife and son. For me, I guess Gremlins just appeals to the mischievous devil in me.
So, with the holidays almost here, it’s time to turn on the lights and check my closets and cupboards before I relax and rewatch this Christmas classic. I hope the TV doesn’t go on the fritz at the time, because that can only mean one thing!
Happy Christmas, everyone – I hope you have a wonderful and peaceful time.
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Anthony Murphy is a regular contributor to The Future of the Force. A child of the 80s, Anthony is a Lucasfilm fanboy. A weekend watching Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Willow is considered bliss. When off duty being a dad and hubby, you’ll find him watching football, searching for the perfect Kuwahara BMX online, and writing his Star Wars website, Rebel Briefing. Find him on Twitter @Anthony08042015 trying to make sense of the world, both real and imagined.
Anthony Murphy is a regular contributor to The Future of the Force. A child of the 80s, Anthony is a Lucasfilm fanboy. A weekend watching Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Willow is considered bliss. When off duty being a dad and hubby, you’ll find him watching football, searching for the perfect Kuwahara BMX online, and writing his Star Wars website, Rebel Briefing. Find him on Twitter trying to make sense of the world, both real and imagined.