Welcome back to The James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) films. Today we must tread with caution as creeping out from behind door 13 are several seemingly cute and harmless furry creatures. But feed them after midnight they become a lot less cute.
They become Gremlins.
Gremlins is a veritable 80s classic. I loved it as a child, although I also found it terrifying. It’s quite scary if you’re a kid. It’s less scary if you’re an adult, although I still wouldn’t want to meet an actual gremlin.
It’s also a lot of fun – it’s definitely a comedy, albeit often in the darkest of ways. Mean as the Gremlins themselves are, there are plenty of human driven moments of darkness, from the Scrooge/Mr Potter inspired Mrs Deagle to the vicar who quite happily sells out his neighbour to a Gremlin-infested mailbox.
Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates capably manage the juxtaposition between comedy and horror, but the real stars of the show are the Gremlins themselves. Even the eighties special effects don’t diminish the ‘fear-factor’ they bring to the screen but some of the films biggest laugh-out loud moments are also Gremlin -inspired.
Thirty-three and a half years after its release, Gremlins still feels fresh and different to anything else out there.
Every time I watch it, I find new things to love about it.
Score For Christmasishness
Gremlins doesn’t really need to be set at Christmas and it was originally released in June so the intent was perhaps not for it to be considered a Christmas movie.
But it really is. The action takes place on Christmas Eve so there’s no escaping the festive feel of the film, but more than that, there are clear references to Christmas classics such as It’s A Wonderful Life, with that film’s ‘Bedford Falls’ a clear inspiration for Gremlins’ ‘Kingston Falls’. Main character Billy even works in a bank that is not dissimilar to ‘Baily Building and Loans’.
Later in the film Kate’s tragic tale of her father’s demise is a tragic tale of Christmas calamity.
In many ways Gremlins is a ‘send-up’ of more familiar festive fare, but seasonal satire or not, the film still feels very Christmas(ish) indeed.
Although the Gremlin carol singers that appear in one particularly memorable scene don’t seem quite as full of good cheer as one might hope….