1984’s dark comedy film Gremlins can be divisive for some people, including people like the MPAA upon release. Even though this film isn’t for everyone, there’s really no arguing with its cultural impact. Following the story of Billy and his new Christmas gift Gizmo, this story of responsibility, little critters, and murder is anything but a favorite across the board.
This article is going to take an exciting and in-depth look at what makes so many struggle to come to a consensus. Put away any water you might have out, and if you’re reading this after midnight, stay out of the fridge, because here we go.
10 Aged Well: COPY-CATS
You’ll notice that the first entry in this list is a bit nontraditional. That’s because one of the first things that become apparent once you analyze the cultural impact of Gremlins is that it’s spawned tons of copycat films. These movies, which are arguably rip-offs, did their best to cash in on the hype. These films range from terrible to pretty okay, from box-office bombs to fairly successful. The most notable of these are probably Ghoulies, Critters, Munchies, and Hobgoblins. Depending on who you are you either think this is unfortunate or like me, you’re incredibly excited to dive into a catalog of enjoyably bad, mostly low-budget horror movies.
Most of these movies spawned entire franchises of films that may or may not have seen the light of day, but anyway you slice it, you can’t deny the lasting influence the series has had on film. Surprisingly enough, the most popular franchise to rip Gremlins isn’t even a rip-off. Ghoulies and Gremlins were in production at the same time. Apparently it was due to budgeting issues with Ghoulies that Gremlins came out first. Since Gremlins did so much better both in the box-office and critically, it’s unlikely that Ghoulies ever would have come out ahead.
9 Aged Poorly: THE STEREOTYPICAL CHINESE CHARACTER
When Randall, Billy’s father, is struggling to find his son a Christmas present, he wanders into a small shop tucked away in Chinatown.
This shop is filled with all sorts of shoddy looking Chinese stereotypical objects, scrolls, large statues of dragons, and other curiosities. The character behind the counter is truly bordering on offensive, in the same way, that some characters in Big Trouble In Little China are.
8 Aged Well: PG-13
Before the release of Gremlins, the MPAA’s incredibly important PG-13 rating didn’t exist. There was so much public backlash against the depiction of violence in a movie that people took their children to see that the MPAA invented a new rating.
They realized that the film was too violent for a young audience, which disqualified it from receiving a PG rating. It also wasn’t graphic enough for it to warrant an R rating. This wasn’t the first time a film had toed this line, but it came at the right time for the change to be made.
7 Aged Poorly: ITS AUDIENCE OF CHILDREN
Both now and upon release, it’s very likely that most viewers of this film might think it’s okay to watch with kids. While each parent has the right to assess content in films and decide if they think their child can handle it, this one might even still be misleading.
It’s easy to argue that this film shouldn’t be rated PG. Knowing now the historical significance, some small research can help one deduce why it is, but parents didn’t have this privilege in 1984.
6 Aged Well: IT RE-CONTEXTUALIZED THE GREMLIN MYTH
Before the release of Gremlins, there really weren’t too many depictions of the creature in film. The most obvious example comes from an episode in The Twilight Zone‘s original run during the 1960s. This and most other gremlins from before the time of the film were fanciful little rascals who would mess with electrical equipment.
Whether that was the wiring in someone’s house or the electronics in a passenger aircraft, they caused tons of problems. After Gremlins, there’s a whole new mythology surrounding them, including the prohibitions of food after midnight, contact with water, and their metamorphosis from a cuter, less evil form.
5 Aged Poorly: ANTI-TECHNOLOGICAL THEMES
This next entry depends on your feelings towards technology. The film has received tons of accusations of being against technology many times, by film critics and book authors both. Notably, a man named Kirkpatrick Sale wrote of it in a book called Rebels Against The Future.
This does, however, make sense for a film about gremlins. Given their past with technology, it’s easy to assume they aren’t fans. Maybe Randall being an inventor lends this theory some credence as well.
4 Aged Well: KATE’S DISTURBING CHRISTMAS STORY
During a completely unexpected and particularly dark monologue from Phoebe Cates’ character Kate, a gruesome scene is described. She explains the death of her father during the Christmas season, who had been trapped in a chimney attempting to surprise his family. It’s a legitimately haunting story that’s sure to make the viewer uncomfortable.
Not to say that this film was the first black comedy or anything like that, but the fleshing out of Kate as a complete and complex female character with trauma and history was ahead of its time. Not only that, but it’s only one example of a great tragic moment in an otherwise lighthearted film.
3 Aged Poorly: FURBIES
Presumably, this could be one of your favorite things about the movies, but many, many people share a fear of the Furby. The Amazon Echo of the ’90s, the Furby could talk and learn. It’s not like they were true AI or anything, but they were definitely meant to mimic the learning process. But wait, you may say, doesn’t the Furby look a little similar to Gizmo? Yes. Yes, he does.
Hasbro was sued by Warner Brothers studio in 1998, citing the Furby’s suspiciously similar look. The star of this 1984 blockbuster apparently didn’t take kindly to being ripped off. Maybe the dying-down of the Furby craze is a result of the gremlins’ electronic mischief.
2 Aged Well: THE PERFECT BLEND OF HORROR AND COMEDY
The movie is filled with comedic moments, such as the gremlins singing along merrily to “Heigh-Ho” from Disney’s Snow White And The Seven Dwarves, or a scene of them essentially turning into rowdy barflies at the local bar. Despite these incredibly funny scenes, the movie has moments of legitimate horror. There’s a gremlin thrown into a blender, another piloting a bulldozer in a house, and another being dissolved by sunlight.
There’s the monologue mentioned earlier which is probably the darkest moment of the film as a whole. In the original spec script, the film was filled with tons of darker scenes. In the DVD commentary, it’s mentioned that the Gremlins were meant to enter a McDonald’s, in which they ate people rather than burgers.
1 Aged Poorly: POTENTIAL REBOOT?
A Gremlins reboot appears to have been in development hell for quite some time. There was a sequel spawned, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, which is actually a satire of the first film. There are tons of elements in it recognizable as such, especially in that it essentially takes the ideas of the first and blows them up to cartoonish proportions.
Most of the actual horror is gone and it shifts to a much more comical tone. This alone doesn’t sound like it should bar a reboot, but when we take into account that the sequel was made in reaction to the success of the original, it would be antithetical to these sentiments to make a cash-grabbing reboot.