Nevertheless, the exploits of an adorable creature do not make a very exciting plot and so, in due course, all three rules are broken, and Gizmo multiplies into a group of not-so-adorable Mogwai who proceed to eat after midnight, enter into cocoons and emerge as nasty green monsters who enjoy wrecking machines and have a penchant for slapstick humor. For the rest of the movie, it’s up to Billy, Gizmo and his love interest Kate Beringer (Phoebe Cates) to stop the Gremlins from overtaking humanity.
For an ‘80s movie, the special effects are quite good, considering the Gremlins were largely brought to life via puppetry like perverse Muppets. One great scene has them overtaking a local bar, shooting pool (and each other) while getting drunk, scarfing down popcorn and terrorizing Beringer. Jerry Goldsmith — who basically composed the music for every movie in the 20th century — creates an eerie and unmistakably synthesized ‘80s sound with his score. You might also be surprised to know that the Chris Columbus (director of “Home Alone”) wrote the film’s screenplay. Columbus, who is releasing a movie about aliens invading earth in the form of famous video game characters this summer, actually got the idea for “Gremlins” from the sound of mice running around in the darkness of his home.
With more than 30 years between 1984 and now, it’s easy to see a common concept that was used a lot by directors like Joe Dante, Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper in the 1980s: incredible things happening in un-incredible places like suburbia or Small Town, U.S.A., having a profound effect on the people who live there. As the trivia on IMDB will tell you, “E.T.” is a tale of suburban dreams while “Poltergeist” (which Spielberg also produced) was about suburban nightmares. I’d say that “Gremlins” falls into the latter category.
If you’re looking for a more modern day example, check out J.J. Abrams’ “Super 8” (2011), which deals with a small Midwestern town being invaded by something not of this world, a tribute to the coming-of-age Spielberg movies the director grew up watching. To underscore that point, Abrams cast Glynn Turman as a middle school teacher embroiled in the weirdness. Much to my surprise, Turman had played the exact same role in “Gremlins” 27 years previously! Funny how things can come full circle and induce so much nostalgia.
“Gremlins” — much like its eponymous creatures — multiplied into a sequel in 1990, also directed by Dante. “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” is sillier and crazier than the first one, but it’s not bad by any means. It actually ups the self-awareness aspect to the extreme for one hell of a second foray into the world of the Mogwai. However, the first movie will always remain a classic, a cinematic gem of the decade that gave us great things like Ronald Reagan and Robin Sparkles. So what three important rules did you learn? First, Christmas time can be a scary time. Second, the 1980s were a great time for films that touched our very hearts and lastly, never trust Darlene Love.