"I take orders from the Octoboss."


GREMLINS is a weird only-in-the-’80s mix. Like POLTERGEIST it’s a Spielberg production of a PG-rated horror movie directed by a legit horror director, Joe Dante. I mean, we can’t pretend THE HOWLING is on the level of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, but I think it’s a minor classic at least, genuinely creepy horror only overshadowed by that other even better werewolf movie that came out the same year.

But the other important factor at play here is that while Dante came up under Roger Corman he’s more of a goofball and cartoon nerd than a horror master. So his monsters are vicious bastards but also funny. Like the martians in MARS ATTACKS! they seem to live more to fuck with us than to kill us. And they plan to do both.

But of course they start out cute. Adorable little Yoda-koala hybrid called a mogwai. Pushy inventor guy Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) finds one in a little shop in Chinatown, names it Gizmo, gets it for his son Billy (Zach Galligan) for his birthday. The thing comes with a set of warnings which in my opinion the gwailos do not take seriously enough, so the mogwai immediately end up asexually reproducing. Then they break the “no eating food after midnight” rule (to be fair, how are you supposed to even know what time that means?) and all of the offspring turn into the green lizardy assholes called gremlins.

The script is by a young Chris Columbus, before HOME ALONE and all that shit. Watching it now I think I see a little bit of his hacky touch. It’s got all the broad small town characters: mean old heartless bitch lady trying to foreclose people’s houses, douchey yuppie guy played by Judge Reinhold (“C’mon, we’re talking cable!” he datedly brags in an attempt to lure Phoebe Cates to his home), old neighbor always muttering about the war, Corey Feldman. But the formulaic structure is a good skeleton for the gimmicky creatures and the enjoyable chaos they create.

At first the gremlins attack, just like any movie monsters. One of the best scenes is when a couple of them go after Billy’s mom. It’s a serious and scary section of the movie, a tense cats-and-mouse scene where the mouse fights back. Nobody beats mom in the kitchen, so she destroys the little fuckers using utensils such as a juicer and a microwave. With perfectly disgusting results.

But then they start gathering at the bar. Billy’s sort-of-girlfriend (Cates) works there and is intimidated into giving them service. Whole bar full of gremlins and she’s pouring drinks for them, trying to light their cigarettes. They have somehow found clothes and sunglasses, learned how to play cards, smoke, chew gum, dance. One is a breakdancer, another wears legwarmers in apparent homage to FLASHDANCE (which was probly playing in Chinatown, and the gremlins retain the memories of their parents?). One reminds me of Fab 5 Freddy, one plays with puppets, another sticks his finger in a light socket, gets smoked by a fire extinguisher. They throw things and laugh and one hangs from the ceiling fan until he flies off and smashes into a neon light. Another shows up with a gun and a ski mask. I don’t know which gremlin it was, officer, I couldn’t see his face.

I realized watching this scene that back in my day I would’ve probly enjoyed going drinking with the gremlins. If they don’t bite you they’re fun guys.

By far the best thing about this movie is the puppets. They’re definitely somewhat muppetly in their humor, but they look more alive, with cruel eyes and rigid, scaly bodies and sharp teeth. They come out of goopy, Cronenbergian eggs and they bubble and melt when exposed to direct sunlight. They have squeaky voices and laughs, like bullying Ewoks. They communicate like humans but mostly don’t say actual words. (I noticed Michael POLICE ACADEMY Winslow and Peter TRANSFORMERS Cullen among the gremlin voices. Howie Mandel does Gizmo.)

And this force of chaos has found an ideal place to raise hell, a small town so perfect and Norman Rockwell that in part 2 a real estate company will try to recreate it as a pre-packaged living experience. There’s an establishing shot of the main (maybe only) street in town and you see all the little shops, mom and pop family businesses, little hardware stores and things, and then all the sudden you see a Burger King, and it’s the only thing that doesn’t fit in at all. And I really can’t tell if it was intentional, but it works as a visual joke about the spread of corporate chains. Soon those things’ll be multiplying like mogwais.

Some of the jokes in here are subtle and weird. I like this scene where Billy’s mom is in the kitchen preparing food and watching IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE on a little TV. He can tell she’s upset about something, and he asks her what it is. “Oh, it’s a sad movie,” she lies. And then you realize that she’s cutting onions while she says this. She had the perfect excuse and she passed it up, tried to pin it on Frank Capra.

There have been many different versions of gremlins. Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, heard about them when he was in the service and wrote a book about them that was almost turned into a cartoon by Walt Disney. One of them did end up in a cartoon called “Fallin’ Hare” fucking with Bugs Bunny (Chuck Jones has a cameo in GREMLINS, even though he didn’t direct that one). The Looney Tunes gremlin looks nothing like the Joe Dante gremlins, but the characteristic that all gremlins mythologies share is that they like to get into machinery and electronics and fuck the things up. They are the reasons for all the problems with your internet service or whatever.

So I guess that’s why Columbus made Billy’s dad an inventor. He has all these weird machines around. I’m not sure it’s very thought out though because the machines don’t work very well anyway, and the gremlins don’t really fuck with them. So I’m not sure that aspect of the movie works as intended. Maybe there was more in an earlier draft – that would explain why the movie starts out narrated by the dad, but never comes back to that or feels like his story at all.

Despite that I personally would like to try out the Bathroom Buddy (a sort of Swiss Army knife of toiletries) next time I travel.

The story is an excuse for the puppeteers to come up with different gags and ridiculous things for the gremlins to do. It’s what makes it fun but probly a little nightmarish to some of the kids that saw this in theaters, when it was being impregnated by INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, conceiving their son the PG-13 rating. A few times the puppetry is supplemented by nice stop motion shots, like (I think) the shot of the gremlins coming over the horizon and the closer they get the more of them you realize there are. They just keep multiplying, the crowds of them keep getting bigger, until they’re filling a whole theater for a rowdy late night screening of Walt Disney’s SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS.

I can’t really ignore the troubling subtext of this thing, even though I never noticed it in the ’80s. Discussing the WWII legends of the so-called gremlins that fucked up plane engines, Mr. Futterman (Dante regular Dick Miller) talks about them as this foreign invader, sent by others to sabotage us. (He’s also very critical of Japanese cars.) It seems like the paranoid talk of a misguided old war vet, but in fact the mogwai is foreign, something exotic that dad found in Chinatown, and couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. (And he got it from a bearded old man smoking an opium pipe! I mean, shit.)

But it’s not like the Chinese are sending us gremlins on purpose. The original owner (Keye Luke) refused to sell Gizmo in the first place. It’s his grandson who misguidedly snuck the mogwai to Mr. Peltzer to get a little money. As far as grandfather knows this whitey stole it. When he finds out he comes and gets it back. He tried to tell them the rules of the mogwai, and they fucked it up anyway.

So you can’t help but read gremlins as an insidious foreign influence tainting a picturesque town of white people, but the way things turn out in the end it sort of switches to the ol’ “don’t mess with forces you don’t understand.” It’s their fault for taking it and then not being responsible enough to handle it. And there is so much joy in the gremlin mayhem that the movie comes across as a celebration of the fun of horror movies, not as a depiction of a nation’s unconscious fears. We embrace the fun of the foreign, we don’t demand to see its birth certificate and then demand to see another birth certificate and then hire experts to say that the birth certificate might be fake.

I guess I also need to broach a dreaded topic: you fuckin know this is gonna get a remake. I’m very surprised they haven’t talked about it yet. When it happens I hope they do it right. I know people are gonna be bummed when it’s not puppets, but I think respectable filmatists could do a great job with computer animated gremlin havoc. I really thought about this when I saw how good those little bastards in DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK looked. With GREMLINS I believe there is all kinds of potential to take a good, well-executed concept and well-execute it in a new and different way. I’d hope they would still keep it semi-serious. Maybe even do it more like the earlier, more horrific draft of the script where Barney gets eaten and Billy’s mom loses the kitchen fight and they throw her head down the stairs as Billy gets home. That sounds interesting. However you do it, don’t fuck it up you hypothetical assholes.

SPOILERS for PROMETHEUS: when I saw PROMETHEUS I realized… the Engineers had to’ve created mogwais, right? Put some black goo on a koala or something? Those things got Space Jockey fingerprints all over them: small creature turns into slimy pod, grows into larger, predatory creature. An excellent biological weapon. The mogwai form would be used to smuggle it into targeted societies, they would very easily grow their ranks and then they would transform into gremlins and attack. This weapon would be particularly effective on space ships, where it would sometimes be impossible to expose them to sunlight.

Okay, I’m afraid I’ve gone off on alot of tangents now with no strong way to bring it together at the end, but I guess that’s not all that different from the movie itself. They just kill ’em and there’s not much to do after that. But this is a real good time. I think it holds up well and remains a very unique movie. Even the sequel (which I remember really liking) isn’t really the same since it abandons any pretense of actually being scary.

So anyway, good movie, Merry Christmas everybody.

This review is a special dedication to Jill Shea’s boyfriend, for his birthday. She didn’t tell me the dude’s name but she said he is a big fan and asked me if I could review one of his favorite movies on his birthday. Good girlfriend – you should keep that one around, bud. Unless she’s crazy. She seemed nice in the email though. I think it’s gonna work out.

Let me know if you kids ever get married. Not unless you’re sure, though. I don’t want that on my conscience.

This entry was posted on Friday, July 20th, 2012 at 12:01 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

106 Responses to “Gremlins”

  1. First in. Loves it.

  2. Good timing, posting this review the day after the Kickstarter fundraiser for Joe Dante’s superb Trailers From Hell site got pledged! I walked away with a signed copy of GREMLINS 2, which I vastly prefer to the original. Nothing against this one – it’s every bit as fun as Vern makes it out to be – but the formless, anarchic sequel is way more insane, and will always be my fave. Like a 90 minute (2 hr?) live action looney tune. Dante’s best, along with MATINEE and SMALL SOLDIERS, closely followed by THE ‘BURBS. His latest, THE HOLE, was great too. Very old school.

  3. unfortunately I missed Gremlins as a kid, it’s one of the few 80’s classics that I didn’t see as a kid, but I did finally see it early last year on blu ray and I liked it a lot, I wouldn’t quite rank it quite as high as the other 80’s Spielberg produced movies like The Goonies and Back To The Future, but it’s still pretty darn awesome

    also, you know a totally forgotten Chris Columbus written, Spielberg produced kid’s movie from the 80’s you should review Vern is Young Sherlock Holmes, it’s basically Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom crossed with Harry Potter (and before Harry Potter even existed too) and while it’s not as awesome as it sounds, it’s still worth a watch

  4. I always loved the kitchen scene, because Billy’s mom suddenly turns into a cold blooded badass.
    “Oh hey, there are these scary looking creatures in my kitchen. Maybe they are nice, but maybe not. I better leave the house. Oh, fuck that, first I turn on the blender, haha. Then I stab the next one with a knife. Then I make the last one pop in the microwave! But NOW I leave the house! Oh, wait, what’s that in the living room? There is something moving in the sock over the chimney. LET’S SLASH THE FUCK OUT OF IT!!!!!”
    Too bad that Billy comes in a minute later, to save her from being strangled inside a christmas tree. I’m sure she could have handeld it by herself. Maybe biting the Gremlin’s head off or shooting laser beams out of her eyes.

  5. I seem to remember being the freaked the fuck out by this movie. But not by the Gremlins. They seemed like fun. A little violent, rambunctious, probably too inconsiderate to invite to neighborhood functions, but a lot of the human neighbors seem like assholes, too, so no big deal, I’ve drunk with worse crowds.

    No I mean a very young Mouth got freaked the fuck out by Phoebe Cates, talking about the holiday suicide rate spiking up and some kind of horrible story about her father dying on Christmas morning. That stuff ruined my day when I heard it, and allah knows what it did to my poor little sister watching GREMLINS with me, if she was bright & old enough at the time to comprehend the horrible things Ms. Cates was saying and form memories of it.

    My parents probably shoulda screened this movie, is what I’m saying.

    I would still be pissed at the lovely Ms. Cates for the trauma she inflicted on my sibling in this 1984 movie, but she pulled kind of a 2002-Mitt-Romney-at-Bain-in-1999 and “retroactively redeemed” herself with 1982’s FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, hubba hubba.

  6. That monologue is the definite highlight of the flick. Not surpisingly, the studio wanted to take it out, but Spielberg luckily stood by his director. There is a pretty good monologue in the sequel too.

  7. Oh, and anyone who prefers fucking GOONIES to this must simply be considered a lesser man than myself…

  8. THE GOONIES are no match for Mutant Mogwais. Seriously whats so great about THE GOONIES? I watched it when I was a kid, was no big deal then and still not when I rewatched it. THE GREMLINS has lots of funny shit that´s memorable,it has a memorable theme,Gizmo is cute as hell,its a great time at the movies. I do not understand the love THE GOONIES get,though. Can more enlightend people here..ehh..enlighten me?

  9. Great review, Vern, as always. Haven’t seen this film in years, brought back some really fond memories. Thanks man.

  10. I just saw THE GOONIES on TV a few weeks ago, for the first time in at least 10 years. It was fun, but I think it was also Richard Donner’s sloppiest movie. Seriously, there are editing goofs and plot holes galore!

  11. GREMLINS 2 is amazing. It’s so meta! I love the Hulk Hogan scene, but it’s even got Leonard Maltin reviewing GREMLINS 1 in the middle of the movie!

    GREMLINS is wheat and as a kid I didn’t even realize it was funny. I just totally bought into the drama of the gremlins. As a grown up I realized how much cleverness was going on. But still GREMLINS 2 is wonderful. Surprised it took six years to make a sequel, and even more surprised the sequel did badly. For me it was the biggest movie of the year, certainly most highly anticipated.

    Wish they’d do GREMLINS 3 with Galligan and Cates back.

  12. Fred: I had a similar experience with the Marshmallow Man at the end of GHOSTBUSTERS. I didn’t notice that it was supposed to be funny. All I could think of is how the Ghostbusters now have to fight Gozer and I totally didn’t care for how ridiculous his form was.

  13. There is nothing funny about Mr Stay Puft. In fact its even more dreadful being stomped and killed by something that looks adorable.GHOSTBUSTERS is true horror…

  14. Nabroleon Dynamite

    July 20th, 2012 at 5:39 am

    I saw Ted last night. Funny shit, but me and my boo had a discussion about Christmas movies (she loves them, I dont) because Ted begins as a Christmas Story rip off (spoiler)

    So I tell her my favorite Christmas movie is “Gremlins” and we actually got into a heated bullshit thingy over whether or not Gremlins took place during Christmas (she swore it had nothing to do with Christmas as she has seen it X amount of times) SMH…

    So with a little quick thinking I went to YouTube and found the Phoebe Cates’ “My daddy died on Christmas” story (spoiler)

  15. Nabroleon Dynamite

    July 20th, 2012 at 5:44 am

    Damn cell phone fuckery!!

    Anyway, I proved my point last night and demanded a victory blow job!! She obliged.(spoiler)

    Then I sneak my ass on outlawvern.com when I should be filling out paperwork only to find a Gremlins review. Dope!!

    P.S. Gremlins 2 fucking sucked dunns!!

  16. Jareth Cutestory

    July 20th, 2012 at 6:45 am

    I seem to remember being the freaked the fuck out by this movie. But not by the Gremlins. They seemed like fun. No, young Jareth was freaked the fuck out by Judge Reinhold. I mean, we know what that fucker does when he’s in a movie with Phoebe Cates and doesn’t think anyone is watching him. For the entire run time of GREMLINS I couldn’t help but think that any given cast member was one step away from opening the wrong door and finding the Judge in all his shame. Because you know that fucker doesn’t lock the door.

  17. This is why I love this sight. So glad to see I wasn’t the only one bugged out as a kid by both Mr. Stay Puft and the “my daddy broke his neck dressed as santa” anecdote by my childhood crush. Mr. Futterman weirded me out at times too but then by GREMLINS 2 he just felt like a crazy old uncle type.

    GREMLINS is a certified classic. I don’t think it’s possible to make such a balls out horror film for today’s kids at all. I’m so glad I was around when the movie was still kinda fresh. GREMLINS 2 gets such a bad rap I never understood that. Especially now that I have spent at least a year of my life working around downtown NYC yuppies. So much of it rang true once I watched it again recently. It’s an amazingly accurate parody of that workspace. Dante is one of the finest satirist of our time when it comes to film. It’s also an amazingly great throwback to the sensibilities of old WB LOONEY TUNES (which made Dante and appropriate director for a LOONEY TUNE movie) and a damn good sequel in it’s own right.

  18. Mouth:

    Her line “At Christmastime when most people are opening presents, there are plenty of others opening their wrists” is one I love to trot out on the holidays.
    Ho! Ho! Ho!

  19. Yeah the Santa Claus monologue in Gremlins is a classic, especially because it’s delivered so seriously and feels like an urban legend you heard about from a friend of a friend of a friend.

    The other thing this movie added to the vernacular for young impressionable minds is the chair escalator device on the staircase, better known as “that machine from Gremlins”. (kinda like how the red circle with the slash through it is known as “the Ghostbusters symbol”)

  20. You know what else is freaky as hell in this movie? break dancing Gremlins.

  21. The mean old lady getting launched out the window in her stairway-chair is fucking priceless. This really is one of those films that is just full of killer set piece after killer set piece.

    Anyone else wonder if mom in the kitchen had and influence on Aliens Ripley 2 years later? Outside of the power-loader that home fight is the most badass female set piece of the 80’s.

  22. Knox Harrington

    July 20th, 2012 at 9:55 am

    I can’t watch Gremlins without turning it off and watching Gremlins 2 instead.

    I really like Gremlins 2.

  23. it’s too bad the actual Looney Tunes movie Dante directed sucked

    also that “the suicide rate goes up every Christmas” thing is an urban myth, sorry guys

  24. Unlike many other 80’s “family” classics, this doesn’t need any nostalgia to go along with it. It’s a great film by any standard. It works wonderfully as a surreal fairy tale, biting satire, funny comedy, scary horror film, and it’s even genuinely touching. The script is very witty and original, the cast is spot-on, and Dante is at the very top of his game, delivering one great scene after another.

    This is one of those rare films that try 10 different things at once, and somehow manages to make it all work. I think it’s clearly a superior film to Gremlins 2, because it’s actually scary and touching, while the sequel was neither. I also find Gremlins to be funnier than its sequel.

    I love this movie.

  25. I strongly disagree with that Griff. The plot is dull, Brendan Fraser bland, and Steve Martin doing his Jerry Lewis thing does nothing for me. Apart from that, the film is ace. So many fantastic gags (I’d take a Batman movie by Roger Corman over the Nolan flicks any day!), and all of them coming at such a breakneck pace. The film is overdue a serious re-evaluation.

    Slant Magazine gave it a nice ‘live blogging’ apprecitaion here: http://www.slantmagazine.com/house/2009/08/best-of-the-decade-derby-looney-tunes-back-in-action-liveblog-with-keith-uhlich/
    You can either listen to it or read. Worth checking out.

  26. I’m sure I saw a link where you could listen to it, but now I’m no longer sure it’s there. Anyways, you can read it, which is what I did back in the day.

  27. Brilliant! I find this to be an incredibly disturbing film, with the cuteness of Gizmo and the sheer goodness of Hoyt Axton’s ‘Della and the Dealer’ voice and world just destroyed, never mind subverted, by the real malice of the Gremlins. But Rockin’ Ricky Rialto and the opening Darlene Love song are my favourite moments. Should always be played with GHOSTBUSTERS as part of a 1984 Christmas memorial. Great times.

    MATINEE and THE ‘BURBS – man, Joe Dante deserves so much more respect and a bigger career. He’s the Spielberg of Chaos. Imagine he’d directed 1941.

  28. Also, EERIE, INDIANA.

    ‘Thank you little paper boy’

  29. Actually, imagine he’d directed SAVING PRIVATE RYAN or SCHINDLER’S LIST.

  30. Oh, I love THE ‘BURBS. It’s pretty much the favourite film of our family. I even saw it in theatre despite being only 6 or 7 years old. It was the only time that my mother took us to a movie with such a high rating, because the title appealed to her (The German title translates “Our devlish neighbours”), thanks to a constant feud with her neighbours. I don’t even know why exactly she took us. I guess it had something to do with my sister’s friend who was with us that afternoon.
    Anyway, I hated that movie back then. It scared me to death! Apart from one scene (“This is Walter!!” “Noooooooooooooo!”), it was impossible for me to recognize, that it was a comedy! When I saw it again a few years later, I laughed my ass off and it became one of those movies, that I just MUST watch to the end, whenever I catch a few seconds of it on TV. It’s impossible to switch the channel!

  31. I’m still not ove the fact that Dante’s 3D horror movie THE HOLE never really got a release. I was so damn excited for it.

  32. Wait, what? The HOLE came out on DVD over here one or two years ago!
    It’s not a bad movie, I must say, but be warned: It is pretty much a horror movie for kids, especially those, who never saw a horror movie before. It deals with some pretty dark topics and is entertaining from the beginning to the end, but offers absolutely no innovation.

  33. Looking back, one of the great things about THE ‘BURBS is how fucking fantastic Rick Ducommun is as Art. He’s hilarious, and in retrospect I think it’s strange he never had more meaty roles. He pops here and there, as Tom Noonan’s agent in LAST ACTION HERO, a security guard in GREMLINS 2, and of course the city worker who calls in and orders the power cutting in DIE HARD, but THE ‘BURBS is the only thing I’ve seen him in where he does more than appearing in a bit part. Good casting, Joe Dante.

    Also: EERIE INDIANA. Saw the entire show again a few years ago. Many episodes are so-so, but there at least half a dozen really good ones. The tupperware episode scared the hell out me when I was a kid. One of the last episodes is very meta, with Dante appearing as himself, directing an episode!

  34. I love EERIE, INDIANA. Great show. Even the weak episodes have lots of good stuff to offer. And the ending of the one with the kid, who turns into some kind of rebel after listening to a punk record, gives me the goosebumps every single time.

  35. EERIE, INDIANA was pretty damn cool. Never ever scared me for shit but then again I grew up on R rated horror and it was rare that kid friendly horror got to me (Ie: this great movie that Vern just reviewed and fucking Mr. Stay Puft) but that show had a lot of atmosphere and a great theme song. Definitely miles ahead of GOOSEBUMPS and any other stupid knockoffs that came way later. If you ask me it was way better than ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? as well.

    What is Dante up to these days anyway? it just occurred to me how sweet it would be if Spielberg offered him the JP IV gig.

  36. For any reason Dante was attached to several projects that fell apart, including one monster-on-a-plane movie, that was written by Drew McWeeny. If I remember right, he is about to make a movie, that sounds on paper like a cheap TWILIGHT cash in (Vampire and Werewolf fall in love), but I trust him enough to hold my judgment.
    Apart from that, he does mostly TV, I guess. I know that he directed the Halloween episode of HAWAII 5-0.

  37. Interesting. I completely forgot about the new HAWAII 5-0 then again the only TV I really watch anymore is ALWAYS SUNNY, BREAKING BAD and SPARTACUS. I’m kinda interested in Dante inverting the TWILIGHT tropes through his on warped lens though. I’m sure it will have quirky charm that the TWILIGHT movies could never ever have.

  38. “We embrace the fun of the foreign, we don’t demand to see its birth certificate and then demand to see another birth certificate and then hire experts to say that the birth certificate might be fake.”

    This is what makes us love you, Vern.

  39. GREMLINS was a very important movie for me, because it was the second movie (the first being RETURN OF THE JEDI) that I eagerly awaited for months prior to its release. I saw all the behind the scenes specials and read all about how they made the puppets and I just COULD. NOT. FUCKING. WAIT. I don’t know why I wanted to see it so bad, since I was only six and a total pussy when it came to scary stuff. The part that really got me wasn’t the FUCKING ALL-TIME CLASSIC kitchen battle (which planted a seed that would grow into my lifelong love of splatter flicks), but the part with the biology teacher being the dumbest motherfucker on earth by reaching under a desk he knows damn well has some kind of unknown beast thing hiding under it. The film strip of the beating heart playing in the background was creepy as hell. But even though (probably because, actually) it scared me so much, it quickly became my favorite movie. I had GREMLINS books, toys, pajamas, the whole nine. I still have my stuffed Gizmo from back then, although the poor guy’s never been quite the same since I puked on him when I was eight. But beyond that, because I’d anticipated it for so long and learned everything I could about how it was made, it more than any other movie is the one that changed me from a kid who just happens to watch movies into an actual movie fan. I never looked back.

    Also, Joe Dante gives some of the best DVD commentary in the business. He’s funny, honest, and informative, and his love of movies really comes through in everything he says. My favorites are the ones he did for HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD and PIRANHA, his two Corman movies. I could listen to him talk about life on the New World lot for hours on end.

    Speaking of Corman, I love that Dante had him do a cameo in THE HOWLING as a penny-pincher who checks for loose change in a payphone, and I love that Corman had enough of a sense of humor about himself to consent to it.

    Really, I just want to go back in time and work for New World. It sounds like the world’s sleaziest summer camp. That’s where my LAST ACTION HERO magic ticket would take me.

    Thanks for reviewing this one, Vern. I’ve been feeling a little bitter the past few days and getting to talk about GREMLINS really reminded me of why I love movies so much in the first place.

  40. Nabro D: And of course GREMLINS is a Christmas movie. You earned your victory blowjay on that one. Last year I spent my first Christmas Eve away from my family, and the way I made that not the most depressing thing ever was to do a double feature of GREMLINS and DIE HARD. I’d have thrown in LETHAL WEAPON too but I wanted to be asleep before Santa showed up.

  41. Sorry Nabroleon, but your favorite Christmas movie is DIE HARD. I’m sure this was just a careless oversight :)

    The needle in the science teacher freaked me out the most. It looked like he had a chunk taken out of his leg, so I was freaked out about more than was even actually there.

    I thought Dante’s LOONEY TUNES movie was wonderful. It was everything you could imagine a live action Looney Tunes to be with fantastic seamless effects. I give Fraser a lot of credit for being able to sell those imaginary characters and totally commit to them. MUMMY, JOURNEY, LOONEY, I think he’s really wonderful at it. I may even watch FURRY VENGEANCE one day.

  42. maybe I should give Dante’s LOONEY TUNES another chance

  43. I remember an interview with Dante, where he talked about the horrible things he had to endure during the LOONEY TUNES shoot, including a discussion with a studio suit, who wondered why “the Bunny always asks ‘what’s up doc’ ” and asked to change that.

  44. I also remember an unbelievable negative review of LOONEY TUNES in my local newspaper, that made me seriously angry just because of the line: “What else is to expect from a writer who worked on THE SIMPSONS and BEAVIS & BUTT-HEAD?”

  45. Although the LOONEY TUNES flick only has one credited writer, he actually quit early in the process, and at least 20 other writers worked on the script. Jonathan Rosenbaum discusses it briefly in his excellent review, which is well worth seeking out. I believe Dante spent 3 years working on the film, the 3 longest years of his life…

  46. I fully believe those who support Grem 1 over the sequel, but to quote another film critic, when I was a child I wholeheartedly believed The New Batch was one of the greatest films ever made. That office building was like this immense alternate reality, just a notch below that historical galaxy far, far away that Lucas made movies about. It sort of programmed my brain badly when it comes to sequels because now when I see, say, The Dark Knight Rises I want it to have Spider Batman, Intelligent Batman, Electricity Batman, Fruit Batman, and, er, Bat Batman…

    Also Grem 2 has that facepalmingly classic moment where they find Gizmo dressed as Rambo and wonder what happened to him, and Billy says something like “I guess they pushed him too far…”

    But I’m sure the first one is the more convincing, possessing greater integrity in its cinematism and all that. It’s been a long while since I’ve seen either of ’em.

  47. Chiming in as one who loves New Batch over the original. It had Grandpa Munster as a wannabe reporter! I love the end when the rich guy goes all Wizard of Oz and grants everyone their wishes.

  48. Yeah, the second one is awesome. I think GREMLINS is a better movie overall but THE NEW BATCH is probably the purest Dante. All the little peccadilloes that were consigned to the fringes of his other movies because of genre considerations were brought to the forefront this time. It’s a whole movie of doodling in the margins. I love it.

  49. I want a remake with farting, masturbating CGI gremlins.

  50. Speaking of Zach Galligan..WAXWORKS 1-2,anyone? I can now officially declare that I watched them. Great entertainment.I love the concept of a spooky wax museum, where every exhibit is like a level in a videogame.Some gory and funny shit ensues throughout the picture.never a dull moment.
    Part 2 is an oddball, but I love it.There is no wax involved and apparently they travel through time, but they appears more to end up what looks like b-movie re-enactments of movie classics. Great cameos by Bruce Campbell helps solidify part 2 as a classic in my book.Its more goofy and EVIL DEAD 2´ish but I love it for that.

  51. I think my favourite moment in WAXWORKS 1 is when Patrick Macnee goes “Oh my goodness!” right before the wax zombies rips his fucking head off.

  52. I only saw WAXWORK once but WAXWORK 2 was in steady rotation in my VHS days. I thought it was more fun and ridiculous, so I guess I’m giving myself away. Love when Galligan is dubbed in the godzilla movie and clearly said “oh shit” but they make it “oh no.”

    Wonder why Galligan didn’t become a more mainstream star.

  53. Now that I think of part twos, WARLOCK: THE ARMAGEDDON was also one I watched a few times. Way more fun than the first one.

  54. Oh yeah, remember when Anthony Hickox was a hot director? Poor guy never recovered from PRINCE VALIANT. His SUNDOWN is also seriously cool.

  55. I never saw WARLOCK 2. I remember liking the first one a lot,though.

  56. I don’t think that the second WARLOCK was more fun than the first. It wasn’t even the same warlock.

  57. It was obvious that they tried to turn the Warlock into a modern horror icon like Freddy, when they made part 2. His kills are more outragous and he has a funny quip after every single one of them. There was also a DTV sequel starring Bruce Payne. Never saw that one.

  58. It’s like what they did to the Leprechaun except we never did get WARLOCK IN THE HOOD.

  59. The Original... Paul

    July 23rd, 2012 at 11:14 am

    I love the old-lady-chair scene as much as everybody else does. I just didn’t, when I last saw this movie, think the rest of it was as good. I’d like to rewatch it now because of the subtleties Vern’s pointed out, because I’m sure they went over my head.

    Still… “Gremlins 2”, for me, is that rare case of a sequel that surpasses its predecessor. I must have seen that movie at least fifteen times and it still makes me laugh.

  60. I stayed off line for a bit to avoid Batman 3 spoilers and when I come back Vern reviews my favorite movie of all time! Thanks, Vern. You made my day.

  61. Broddie, Julian Sands was in Warlock 2. They made a third one without him. Are you thinking of that?

  62. Fred – I know about the Bruce Payne one. What I meant was even though it stats Julian Sands it has a completely different set of rules than WARLOCK and the character is also a dramatically different one even though it’s the same actor. WARLOCK is about a crazy magic guy that wants to bring the end to the world while THE ARMAGEDDON is about the son of satan wanting to raise him from hell.

    It really is like the producers went “we’ve got Julian Sands in our new horror movie and WARLOCK was a decent hit so let’s just call it WARLOCK 2”. As opposed to being a sequel because it has any type of consistency with WARLOCK outside of Sands.

  63. Broddie, I’m amazed to hear WARLOCK was considered even a minor hit. I didn’t think it was noteworthy in any circles, and I certainly didn’t remember the mythology. I just remember watching the sequel a lot on VHS. I enjoyed it but never cared for the first one. Maybe they should’ve called it ANOTHER WARLOCK.

  64. Yeah Fred I remember reading that it was like the biggest hit in the history of Trimark Pictures for a while. No wonder it played so much on cable; it had a nice cult audience by that time. ANOTHER WARLOCK would’ve been a cool movie if it featured Brion James as a turncoat for no reason.

  65. Do you prefer GREMLINS 2 more with the film-melting/Hulk Hogan sequence or the bad-tracking/John Wayne sequence?

  66. Hulk Hogan all the way. It was a clever idea to do a different sequence for video but it just wasn’t funny, and a John Wayne impersonator is no substitute for the real Hulk Hogan.

  67. Bad John Wayne impersonation is in no way funnier than Hulk Hogan telling off Gremlins and crunching popcorn in his fist to help make his point.

  68. I only knew GREMLINS 2 from VHS and TV, with the John Wayne scene. I didn’t know about an alternative scene, so you can imagine my surprise when I watched the movie for the first time on DVD, with the Hulk Hogan (and Paul Bartel) scene intact!

  69. CJ – Same here. I prefer the theater scene BTW brother!

  70. I always preferred Gremlins 2: The New Batch. In fact…I don’t know that I’ve ever seen this film all the way through.

  71. I just rewatched THE NEW BATCH earlier today. I had forgotten how freaking awesome that Tony Randall Gremlin was.

  72. Did anyone else have any of the Gremlin figures? It was like Smurfs for the twisted and demented. I had the female Gremlin, a Rambo Gizmo, and the bat one.

  73. On Twitter today, Mr. Beaks, in a reply to Scott Tobias plugging Dante coming to the Music Box in Chicago for a couple screenings, mentioned that Dante has a work print (or director’s cut) of Gremlins. Apparently it’s a whole lot more Dante than Colombus/Spielberg version we’ve seen. Am now jonesing big time for that to ever get a release.

  74. After I watched Gremlins 2 I tried to make the same bow and arrow out of rubber bands and paper clips that Gizmo did.

  75. did they ever put Gremlins 2 on blu ray?

  76. I’m not sure, but I think part 2 just came out on Blu-Ray a few weeks ago.

  77. on a semi-related topic, why do I sometimes see some of you guys giving The Goonies shit?

    come on man, The Goonies fucking rocks

  78. GREMLINS 2 is awesome. The story I read somewhere is that Joe Dante turned it down, then the studio asked him again after everyone else they’d approached also turned it down, and Dante said he’d do it only if he got creative freedom. That’s why the movie is such joyous absurdity – Dante could do what the hell he wanted.

  79. Am I the only one who noticed that Dante recently got some kind of renaissance? There is hardly a week passing by, without hearing about a festival doing another retrospective or some website having an interview about his career.

  80. I think I got the internet’s hatred of Goonies mixed up with Gremlins because I spent the entire movie tonight saying “What are people talking about? This movie’s fucking great!” and I’m glad to see that’s the common opinion (at least here). It’s funny, it’s scary, it’s gross, and it’s got a whole franchise’s worth of iconic images and scenes. It’s got a clever structure that lays down its characters and rules and setting in a painless and entertaining way, and then keeps escalating and escalating until it ends in full-blown chaos. And it does it all in around 100 minutes! I feel like today this story would be excruciatingly stretched out into a season of Stranger Things with Gizmo getting wet at the end of Episode 2 and the eating after midnight happens in Episode 5.

    And like Vern, I surprisingly found it full of subtext and thematically rich, even though I’m not QUITE sure how it congeals. I mean, it literally ends with the wise old Chinese man saying how we’re just not ready for the responsibility of this ancient powerful thing (aka This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: The Movie). It’s an old story chestnut used in everything from Sphere to Forbidden Planet (whose Robbie the Robot makes an inexplicable cameo here, which I’m guessing is Dante’s Rosetta Stone of the movie). But I feel like Dante and Columbus have got to be saying something else with all of the dad’s wacky gadgets. (For some reason, I thought they existed just to be “Chekov’s Gadgets” to be used against the Gremlins later, but the mom only used one invention on them) The dad could have easily been a lawyer or real estate guy or whatever the hell Clark is in the Vacation movies, but instead we get scene after scene after scene of a shitty juicer or a shitty coffee-maker or shitty egg-cracker, almost always followed by someone bluntly pointing out that there’s an easier, already established way to get the same result. (The scene where the mom tries to use a gadget to remotely pick up a ringing phone that’s literally arm’s length away from her feels like a modern joke about people talking to Alexas or something). The closest I can think of is they’re saying we can’t let well enough alone -we keep trying to restlessly innovate and improve on things that don’t need improving, and end up mucking things up and making a mess out of everything, despite either good intentions and/or greed. That sorta fits into the main theme with the Gremlins (it’s not like they go through with their proposed plan to multiply them for profit, which you figure would happen but would also make the heroes more explicitly responsible for all the deaths). But I’m still not quite sure how that fits in with the “there might be a Gremlin in YOUR appliances!” end narration or the Proto-Trumper Dick Miller character, who has way too much thematic dialogue to just be there for the bodycount. Yes, I didn’t imagine I’d spend my night pondering over the complexities of fucking Gremlins, but here we are. This is a true 80s classic and I hope it joins Die Hard in everyone’s Christmas movie rotation.

  81. “the internet’s hatred of Goonies”?!

  82. I think internet mostly loves Goonies as well, even if it is a clearly lesser film than Gremlins.

    Saw Gremlins when I was 10, and I loved it. I watched it some years ago again, as a middle-aged man, and it really surprised me how great it is. Everything is just perfection: Great writing, great directing, great effects, cool visuals, and actors at the top of their game. It’s funny, scary, gory, touching, and very, very smart. Lightning in a bottle.

    I have a considerably lesser opinion of Gremlins 2.

  83. I’m pretty sure that “the internet” loves GOONIES. Except for those, who saw it for the first time when they were already adults and were annoyed out of their mind by the hyperactive behaviour of the kid protagonists.

  84. CJ Holden is correct. Though I saw it as a kid and I dont’ like it as much now. Except for Corey Feldman’s speech.

  85. CJ – I actually didn’t see GOONIES til I was like 35 and really loved it specifically *because* the main kids were so rambunctious and rowdy and loud it really reminded me of my own childhood. I wouldn’t say it’s a great movie, but it’s definitely a fun one.

    Still haven’t ever seen GREMLINS, but it’s Christmas movie season starting today, so….

  86. I love GOONIES and find that it holds up very well. My kids love it, too, so its appeal can in principle cross generational boundaries. Judging by this and the STAR WARS thread and many others, we seem to be caught in a persistent meta-critical pinball game where every new thing necessitates a re-assessment of similar old things and vice versa, and it’s not clear to me what anybody wants anymore or if there is even a coherent thing that people are bummed about. Not that everyone needs to want the same thing, but there are now-familiar Vern.com movie gripe tropes: too many franchises, too many reboots, too many adaptations, not-enough-new-franchises, too-soon reboots, too derivative and fan servicey, too out-there and out-of-step with the original, not as good as the original, makes me realize the original does not hold up or was not as good as I thought, not on the big screen/woe-is-streaming. It’s hard keeping up with it all, and one wonders how much of it isn’t just projection or needing something to be grumpy about. Anyway, I am genuinely surprised to see us relitigating GOONIES. Is nothing sacred! lol

  87. Personally I’m pro-GOONIES too*, but “These kids won’t shut up” seems to be the main reason when someone doesn’t like it.

    *Not saying it’s a masterpiece. Also it’s not a cult sensation over here like it is in the US.

  88. I was an obnoxious kid, and my kids can be pretty obnoxious (and also hilarious, endearing, poignant, etc.), and I find the GOONIES kids to be a fantastically lovable and well-balanced screwball gang, with Corey Feldman”s mouth being the Bill Murray, Chunk being the harder-edged John Candy, Data being the Harold Ramis, and Mikey being the character who breaks this particular analogy but is still perfect and serves as our more grounded everyman point of identification.

    Of course, it reflects its point in time. Data is one form of broad brush Asian stereotype, and more generally, if you are a woman or person of color there is less over demographic representation here for you to identify with. I don’t want to overplay that, though either, b/c there are plenty of folks of all walks of life who can love and identify with people without shared demographics.

  89. I think it’s only me that hates GOONIES. But it was many years ago that I turned on it, and haven’t rewatched. At the time I felt like I had been tricked into chaperoning a very bad birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. Maybe I’d like it better now. I don’t know if I will ever check.

  90. I too am pro-GOONIES but I was born back in ’83 and saw it at the right time. Even owned THE GOONIES II video game for Nintendo. With that said I could totally understand how people could hate it. Also GREMLINS is overall a much better movie.

  91. Yeah, I mean, I think a big factor is if you are their age or younger when you first see it, they are brave, hilarious, and full of moxie. It sounds like you’re more #teamBrandt, Vern. I get that, depending on when you first saw it. In some ways, the film has that self-critique built in. If you’re one of these kids, it’s a hilarious, big-as-life adventure. If your Brandt or Mike’s mom, these are just some obnoxious little pissants who need to go outside and play or find something more constructive to do.

  92. I was kind of an adult when I first saw it, and I liked it. There’s something fairly stupid about a movie where the bad guys print false money, but other than that it’s all cool.

  93. Like alcohol, Scooby Doo, Monty Python, South Park, and so many other things in life, I liked The Goonies at one point in my life only to later realize, naw, not really. I like the idea of it, or like having access to it, but I don’t really like it. I almost feel bad about it. It sure sounds awesome. If you Eternal Sunshined it out of my memory, I’d immediately watch it as soon as I heard about it. But put me in the No camp as well, though I would be interested in reading what Vern would say about it.

  94. Is it possible to grow tired of alcohol and Monty Python?

  95. I grew tired of alcohol before I became an adult. Monty Python and Scooby Doo on the other hand…

  96. So per Wikipedia, Zach Galligan said Chris Columbus is writing a Gremlins 3 to “undo” Gremlins 2 since he disliked it so much. So I guess that officially makes Part 2 “The Last Jedi” of the Gremlins franchise? Having watched both within a few days of each other, I actually see how similar they are – The New Batch is another sequel that seems to exist to subvert (and/or shit on, depending on who you’re talking to) its predecessor, where almost every other line is a meta-statement about the franchise or sequels or commercial art in general. I said earlier that Last Jedi feels less like a cohesive movie and more like Rian Johnson’s checklist of things he can do to shake up and challenge Star Wars – this movie is one step away from having a character literally read that checklist out loud (the scene where they all sit around and make fun of the “rules” of the first one comes awfully close). I might be in the minority in actually thinking the Phoebe Cates Christmas monologue in the first one was legit good – the scene here where they make fun of it gets an easy laugh but it also feels kinda cruel and shows the filmmakers aren’t interested in their characters at all.

    I kinda forgot how clunky and kinda dull the first half of Gremlins 2 is. It seems to be written by someone who thought the Judge Reinhold “yuppie scum” character in the first one was the single most important element and wrote a whole movie in that style of satire (even though most people, including me, forgot Judge Reinhold is even in the first one!). It also doesn’t have that “real movie” feel that the first one had – the Gremlins frankly look like plastic toys this time, and the sets and the lighting and the camera angles kinda make it feel like a DTV sequel. There’s about 5-10 absolutely classic jokes in here (the Leonard Maltin scene and the Hulk Hogan and/or John Wayne scene are pure genius), but they’re surrounded by a couple hundred “Meet the Spartans” level “I know what they’re referencing!” gags that haven’t aged well at all. Ditto for the Andy Rooney-style “get off my lawn with your newfangled technology!” gags, and the endless scenes of Gizmo getting tortured or turning in to Rambo are excruciating. But hey, we got jokes about how airplane food and elevator music are bad and how Asian people walk around carrying 20 cameras around their neck, so at least there’s that!

    In all seriousness, kudos to WB for giving Joe Dante carte blanche to do whatever he wants though. This movie may be shaggy and bloated, it may be decadent and self-indulgent to the point of almost breaking, but this is definitely a rare case of a studio letting a director indulge in his passions and obsessions onscreen (especially when said passions and obsessions are old horror movies and Looney Tunes). I’d take this over a remake-quel of Gremlins 1 anyday.

  97. I actually did wind up watching the first GREMLINS for the first time this Christmas and I personally found the Phoebe Cates monologue ridiculous but it genuinely upset my wife. She was still talking about it days later, so it’s effective for some folks at least.

  98. I’m glad you watched it, Kurgan! What did you think of the rest of it? As much as I really liked it this rewatch, I have to admit that first half where the Gremlins are basically little Xenomorphs worked better for me. The scene with the science teacher was genuinely tense and even scary. Then that second half happens where we suddenly get Flashdance pop-culture references and whatnot, and it’s not quite as effective but I guess that’s what makes Gremlins distinct.

    Also, I hope it didn’t sound like I was shitting on the sequel too much – I did enjoy it even though the good joke-to-bad-joke ratio isn’t the best. I do appreciate that it does cram in 5-6 sequels worth of Gremlins into one movie (seriously, with the addition of the Flying Gremlin, the Spider Gremlin, the Talking Gremlin, and the Female Gremlin, it kinda puts the Tremors series’ “one new variation per sequel” to shame).

  99. Our family had a pre-Christmas viewing of this (as well as DIE HARD 1-2 and PREDATOR*). I hadn’t seen GREMLINS since forever, and my wife had never seen it.

    I appreciated the pre CGI effects, particularly in the bar scene where Dante threw every possible Gremlin character in the mix – the gangster gremlins, flasher gremlin, drunk gremlin. There’s a dark tone to it all which I liked, some of those gremlins were genuinely scary and nasty (I reminded myself Dante was the guy who have us the great but sleazy THE HOWLING). The kitchen/Serial Mom scene had some good suspense. And I got a kick out of the cinema scene, and the elbow grease that went into creating that.

    I gotta say I don’t have much nostalgia for the 80’s Triple G Sacred Cows, this, GHOSTBUSTERS and GOONIES. The pacing in the first half of GREMLINS was pretty slow going. I’m sure it’s an indictment on the digital age and our battle with diminishing attention spans, but I was getting restless during the Capra-esque scenes with the townsfolk.

    *yes I know PREDATOR isn’t a Christmas movie, but watching DIE HARD made me fall in love with McTiernan again, and his action directing genius, so I wanted to jump on it and screen it for everyone at home. It went down well.

  100. neal – I liked it! It turned out to be basically exactly what I thought it was going to be based on having heard about it all these years, but there’s a reason people keep talking about it I guess. Obviously the real draw is the effects, which are just good fun, but I enjoyed the weird world it took place in too. A place where a mom is startled, certainly by the existence of monsters in her kitchen, but at the same time is also READY TO KILL.

  101. If they “undo” part 2, I can imagine that there won’t be much of an outcry. Not because part 2 is hated*, but because it feels so much like its own thing. A “what if…” take on part 1. Although it would be nice to see John Glover and Robert Picardo reprising their characters.

    *I honestly have no idea if it is. It seems like its reputation grew in recent years, but I also am under the impression that it was never seen as the red-haired stepchild of the two.

  102. We put GREMLINS on on boxing day at our house (three millenials, two from generation x), and we pretty much agreed that what makes it a classic is that Dante never strays from the scary/gory stuff. It’s really funny in places, but the humor is evenly Distributed and quite dark. I’m told Spielberg “let” Dante keep the Cates’ corny Santa story in there for some reason, but even if it is a bit pointless, it doesn’t ruin anything. This was Spielberg’s second collaboration with a horror director in two years, so I think it’s safe to say that he knows when to trust people’s instincts.

  103. I think Spielberg is generally known for letting “his” directors do their thing. (See: Michael Bay and TRANSFORMERS) At least I never heard other stories,.

  104. I’m in the same boat with Kurgan’s wife where Cates’ speech is the most disturbing thing about the first one – especially when you watch it as a kid and years later it feels like an urban legend or a story you swear happened to a friend of a friend of a friend.

    pegsman – Yeah i guess that’s what rubs me the wrong way about the Cates parody speech in Part 2 – Dante and Spielberg fought so hard against the studio to keep it in the first one, and then they just kinda take the air out of it by basically capitulating to the people who hated it. (Another similarity to these recent Star Wars movies!) But then again, they’re obviously having a laugh and not taking themselves seriously, and the 2nd one doesn’t even seem to take place in the same universe as the first one so I can’t get too mad. But I don’t blame Chris Columbus for being mad!

  105. Isn’t Cates’ speech meant to be darkly funny though? Maybe I just think that because I read Ebert’s review before I saw the film and he describes it as a “classic 50s bad taste joke” or something.

  106. I think Cate’s story works, because it’s a great, memorable story. For years I wondered where I had heard that story, looked for it at the internet, and when I re-watched Gremlins, damn, here it is! Like I said earlier, this films tries a dozen different things, that shouldn’t work together, but yet it all works brilliantly. The tragedy and sick black humor of Cate’s story fits tonally perfectly with the rest of the film.

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