I love Gremlins, despite its weak lead actors (did anybody grow up wanting to be Billy Peltzer?), because it’s as wicked and mischievous as its anti-muppet villains. It takes a cute little Midwestern town (which looks suspiciously like Back To The Future’s Hill Valley, probably because it is in fact the same set) where Phil Spector’s festive tunes are on a permanent loop, and rakes a vicious set of claws right across its face before sticking a hypodermic needle in its bum. And all this at Christmas - how dare they?
Well, because Christmas is a ridiculous, self-important time of the year and needs a good slap on the legs. It sits there at the end of December, waiting for us all to come to it, and demands we give it our full attention and spend obscene amounts of cash on it. It’s the spoilt child of the calendar year and that’s why I tend to ignore it and be somewhere it isn’t when it throws its annual tantrum.
Besides all that, Gremlins contains some of the greatest puppet work ever, by Chris Walas, who also created the equally cute Brundlefly. Gizmo is the most expressive ball of fur with a hand up its bum in cinema history, and his ludicrously adorable squeaky voice only makes it even better. Although for all its genius animatronics, my favourite shot is the stop-motion reveal as hundreds of the vicious buggers emerge from the dark and head towards camera, bent on the destruction of Kingston Falls.
At the end Billy loses his Christmas present when the old man comes to take Gizmo away, and I was pleased to see he didn’t throw a strop, even though he was probably going to get a Bathroom Buddy off his idiot inventor Dad to replace it. Another valuable lesson, kids: be grateful for what you’ve got. And never let Corey Feldman into your bedroom.
Speaking of lessons…
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