One would think a Christmas movie set at Christmas would instantly be remembered as a Christmas film. The many versions of A Christmas Carol, National Lampoon's hristmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, the Grinch, Charlie Brown, and the many wonderful creations of Rankin/Bass fill your TV sets. Somehow, a certain cult classic Joe Dante horror comedy has slipped from people's memory this time of year. Maybe it's the dark story told by Phoebe Cates. Or the apparent violence that lead to the creation of the "PG-13" rating label. Regardless, ladies, gentlemen, impressionable children - please promise me this holiday season you will make Gremlins (1984) part of your viewing entertainment. If not for me, for the adorable little creature we all know and love: Gizmo.
Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) - who happens to be a struggling inventor - a foreshadowing tidbit even though it doesn't seem like it at the time - stumbles into a shop in Chinatown and lo and behold finds the perfect gift for his 21 year old son, Billy (Zach Galligan): a small, furry, large-eared creature called a "Mogwai." Of course this adorable creature is more than it seems and "with power comes great responsibility." There are three restrictions on a Mogwai's life: never expose it to light (Bright Lights! Bright Lights!), never get it wet (unfortunately the only part Corey Feldman has in this movie is as the kid who sets things off with a glass of water), and, of course the one you hear quoted more often than not, never feed it after midnight (start your argument now that all time is technically after midnight, so when can you feed a Mogwai again?). Personally, I think owning a dog is more responsibility - which Billy also has. Yet - he has trouble following these three simple rules with his new pet, perfectly named Gizmo.
And there you have the plot to Gremlins and how terror is brought to the small town of Kingston Falls one fateful Christmas. Oh - then there is the weird side story about Billy's love interest, Kate Beringer (Phoebe Cates), and why she hates Christmas. This story line goes dark - darker than actual Gremlins. Regardless there are many important elements in Gremlins that truly make it a well rounded Christmas movie. Like the 12 days of Christmas, I give you 12 Christmas elements in Gremlins that will remind you it is worth being part of your holiday season.
1. Adorable Santa Claus Hat: Check
2 .Carol Singers: Check
3. It's a Wonderful Life Playing in the Background: Check
4. The Perfect One-Of-A-Kind Gift: Check
5. Scrooge / Grinch Character with a Backstory: Check
"Say you hate Washington's Birthday or Thanksgiving and nobody cares, but say you hate Christmas and everybody makes you feel like you're a leper." ~ Kate Beringer (Phoebe Cates)
6. Christmas Party Shenanigans: Check
7. Overload of Toys with Loud Sounds: Check ( but let's ignore the 'Bright Lights! Bright Lights' rule for a second)
8. Snow Covered Small Town Intro - Accompanied by Darlene Love's Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) : Check
9. Creative Light Display: Check
10. And Speaking of Decorations: The Falling Tree Cliché: Check
11. Fighting in a Department Store (shopping can be such a hassle): Check
12, Appearance by Santa: Check
I think that covers a lot of necessary Christmas elements in a solid Christmas movie, don't you? I hope you have enjoyed this series. Plus in addition to Gremlins (which there is still plenty of time to rent on Amazon Instant), remember the other wonderful titles in the series: L.A. Confidential, Desk Set, and Die Hard - because yes, they are are indeed Christmas movies.