Watching Gremlins (1984) recently I can see why as a teenager it was one of my best-loved funny horror movies of the 80s. Comparing the watching experience then to now has been interesting. It is a horse of a different colour.
Packed with many film references, homages and cameos which back then didn’t mean much to me it was an eye-opening experience. Sprinkling some of these in this article but not all, I’ve decided to mention a couple of my favourites.
Let’s take a quick look at director Joe Dante’s comedic gem.
Chinatown (Somewhere in America)
Rand Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) is narrating at the beginning of the movie. He informs us that he’s got a story to tell and that even though everyone has a story nobody’s got a story like this.
Shopping in Chinatown and looking for a Christmas present for his son he meets a young local boy. Entering into a cluttered antique shop owned by the boy’s grandfather he is asked to look around. Being an inventor and salesman Rand begins to show the grandfather (Mr Wing played by Keye Luke) his Bathroom Buddy invention. Toe nail clipper, toothbrush, mirror, you name it, the Bathroom Buddy has it and is a great piece of travel kit. “Fantastic ideas for a fantastic world,” he quips. Mr Wing doesn’t respond.
Meanwhile, a sweet childlike singing voice can be overheard somewhere in the shop.
Mogwai: He’s Got To Have Him
Turning to see where the singing is coming from Rand finds a tiny little creature slightly bigger than a can of coke. Covered in brown and white fur with big eyes and big ears the creature gives a cute wide-eyed expression. The strange creature is as cute as he is adorable. Excitedly Rand offers $100, then $200. Mr Wing finally speaks and categorically states, “Sorry, Mogwai not for sale“. He adds, “With Mogwai comes much responsibility“.
Whispering to Rand the grandson tells him to wait outside. Rand is waiting outside the shop and the boy hands him the Mogwai telling him they need the money.
Them’s The Rules
Before Rand leaves, the boy tells him that he must remember the 3 rules on keeping a Mogwai. (1) Keep him out of the light, especially sunlight, it could kill him. (2) Keep him away from water, don’t get him wet. BUT the most important rule, the one you must never forget he stipulates: “No matter how much he cries, no matter how much he begs. Never, ever feed him after midnight)”.
“Cheers and Merry Christmas,” shouts a thrilled Rand as he makes his way home for Christmas.
Snow covers cars, benches and shops in Kingston Falls and Christmas music is playing. (Homage to 1946 classic movie, Bedford Falls is the town name in It’s A Wonderful Life.) Billy Peltzer is trying to get his Beetle started but to no avail and dashes off to work with Barney (Mushroom) his dog.
Arriving at work (in the town’s bank) he stuffs Barney under his desk. Holding a huge snowman head an angry Mrs Deagal (Polly Holliday) storms into the bank and shouts at Billy. Blaming his dog for the broken snowman Barney leaps over the desk and knocks her over. She calls Billy’s father a loser and Billy goes home.
George Bailey is running down the street shouting Merry Christmas on the kitchen TV while Mrs Pulzer watches and prepares dinner. (Another reference to It’s A Wonderful Life: George Bailey is the lead character). Billy’s Mum looks worried and he notices. She starts to mention that Mrs Deagal called but she brushes it off for now as they hear Mr Pultzer arrive home.
A big welcome greets Mr Pultzer when he arrives home with hugs from his wife and son. Giving Billy the box with the Mogwai he tells him he’s got to open it now. Over joyed at his gift his Dad tells him the rules for taking care of him. Rand has named him Gizmo and smiles, “I think he likes it“. Barney thinks he’s another animal and licks his ear.
While Billy is hugging Gizmo Mrs Pultzer decides to capture the moment. Flash! Gizmo completely freaks from the bright light and jumps to Rand, clinging and shaking.
“Light Bright Light Bright”
Back in his bedroom Billy is playing notes one by one on his organ and Gizmo is singing and copying the sound of the note. Billy pops a tiny Christmas hat onto Gizmo’s head. (Awww, could you look any cuter?) It’s a sweet scene. A boy and his Mogwai. Holding a mirror up to Gizmo so that he can check out his natty new look in the mirror it catches a light reflection. Yep, Mogwai freak out again. Hiding and diving into a bin he starts mumbling annoyed sounds.
Billy rescues Mogwai and carries him to the bathroom to check him out. Turning on the bathroom light Gizmo screams, “Light bright light bright!”
(People, come on, pay attention, rule number 1.) It does not bode well for rules two and three.
Good Mogwai Bad Mogwai
When I was a teenager funny horror movies were super enjoyable. After watching Gremlins again it would appear not much has changed. I had the impulse to carry on describing the movie just for the fun of it. The re-living it after re-watching it. Of course, I stopped as this site is to give you a taster only. To let you know a little about the movie so that you can get a feel for it and decide whether it’s worth your time or not.
I mentioned one of the movies that Gremlin’s references but there are about three or four more so keep a look out. A lot of famous people were involved in this movie in one way or another. Cameos from Steve Spielberg (Executive Producer) and many others.
Shout out to the extremely popular Corey Feldman who plays Pete, Billy’s friend. He was pretty much in every comedy movie in the 80s and 90s (The Lost Boys, The Goonies, Stand By Me) and deserves a quick mention here.
Notice that throughout this post I mention Mogwai but not Gremlins, so what gives? They’re the same thing (nearly). Insight comes having watched the movie.
The moral of this story is: A Mogwai is not just for Christmas because it is not a pet!! 😉
Comment below and let me know your experience of watching this movie?
Or did you watch the remake and not this original? Tell me about that.
Respect to the Image Makers!