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Gremlins is a 1984 American horror comedy film directed by Joe Dante, released by Warner Bros. The film is about a young man who receives a strange creature called a Mogwai as a pet, which then spawns other creatures who transform into small, destructive, evil monsters. This story was continued with a sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, released in 1990. Unlike the lighter sequel, the original Gremlins opts for more black comedy, which is balanced against a Christmas-time setting. Both films were the center of large merchandising campaigns. Steven Spielberg was the film's executive producer and the screenplay was written by Chris Columbus. The film stars Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates, with Howie Mandel providing the voice of Gizmo. Gremlins was a commercial success and received positive reviews from critics. However, the film was also heavily criticized for some of its more violent sequences. In response to this, and to similar complaints about other films (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), Steven Spielberg suggested that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) alter its rating system, which it did within two months of the film's release.
However, watching the movie recently I found flaws I didn't notice before. While I used to hide under blankets when the evil gremlins appeared, I now laugh at the shallow, one-dimensional characters, the idiotic, repetitive storyline, and especially the corny special effects.
In the movie, bank clerk Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) receives a rather unusual Christmas present from his father (Hoyt Axton). Handing a small, furry creature named Gizmo to his son, Billy's father explains that it absolutely cannot get wet, be exposed to sunlight, or eat after midnight. Predictably, it isn't long before Billy breaks all those rules. Gizmo multiplies into a herd of vicious monsters determined to destroy everything in sight. Now, Billy and his friend, Kate (Phoebe Cates), must stop the evil monsters before they multiply again and kill everyone in the city.
Blending dark comedy with ravenous horror, Gremlins delivers many entertaining moments. It is probably a surefire hit with popcorn and a six-pack of beer on Saturday night. But even drunk viewers will have to see past the bland performances and lackluster screenplay to even enjoy the movie as a guilty pleasure.
For mature viewers looking for more than yesterday's garbage, Gremlins is merely a violent re-imagination of Steven Spielberg's much better E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Ironically, Spielberg actually served as this movie's executive producer. Despite his influence, however, this movie just isn't as memorable as Spielberg's work. In the end it's just a monster movie for kids.
(And don't get me started on the sequel.)