Gremlins uses its run-time perfectly and does what most modern mainstream movies forget to do and takes its time. It doesn’t rush to the reveal or try to put the best aspects in the first act of the movie. Instead, it perfectly teases the horror, the creatures and their effects with very clever results.
It would be easy to overlook Gremlins as an eighties dark comedy and forget the horror but at times that is what Gremlins feels like it was intended to be. The Gremlins themselves have a very gross “birth” then kill without rhyme or reason, often in fairly gruesome ways. The fact they are puppets does a little to take the edge off but it can be fairly jarring at times.
Particularly when you place this at odds with the cuteness of the Mogwai, named Gizmo. For a puppet, the creature is so well realised that you wish you had one yourself. That slow-build works particularly well here, as the movie takes its time to build the relationship between Zach Gilligan’s Billy and the cute puppet. It means that when Billy inevitably breaks the rules that keeps the Gremlins at bay, you feel sorry for Gizmo as he cowers in fear too.
The Gremlins themselves are designed very well. The puppetry is impressive and scenes such as the one in the school science lab, where you can hear and glimpse but never fully see the creature, amp up the horror element. It is the kind of film that puts a young teenager out of their depth, with high stakes and consequences. The kind of film popular in the eighties that just doesn’t get made that often anymore.
Its a shame too because Gremlins is fun. It manages a fine balance between horror and comedy which means you can be scared for the Mum as she is terrorised in her kitchen but laugh as she places a Gremlin in the microwave or one in the blender.
Unfortunately, in writing the horror, building the fun but also the insurmountable odds, Gremlins writes itself into a corner. There is a convenience to the ending which sits at odds to the rest of the movie and it feels like it loses its way as it reaches it conclusion. The ending can’t match what is built as the film has progressed and it ends too easily considering how big a threat the Gremlins are supposed to be.
Overall, Gremlins is a good example of the fun, dark horror that the eighties perfected but movies today can’t seem to match. It takes its time, builds to the reveal and does so in an effective and sometimes scary way. The film builds itself into a corner though and the ending doesn’t match the quality of the first two acts which come before.
Rating – 3.5
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