Keep them away from sunlight. Don’t get them wet. Whatever you do, don’t feed them after midnight. The rules that keep the cute, toy-like creatures in GREMLINS from transforming into reptilian pranksters were always meant to be broken. The question is, why?
Gremlins – 1984 – dir. Joe Dante
Sporting Steven Spielberg as an executive producer and released under the auspices of his Amblin Entertainment production company, Gremlins attempts the tricky feat of fusing the cuddly sentiment of Spielberg’s E.T. with the monster movie mayhem of Jaws. It just about succeeds on that count, offering a solid mix of gross outs and laughs, and in the wildly imitative world of 1980s horror films, that meant that there was soon a rash of similar tiny-monster flicks, from the tolerable knockoff Critters to the dire Ghoulies and the laughable Hobgoblins. But what makes Gremlins such an interesting film to revisit is not so much its (admittedly transitory) influence as it is the tensions that pervade a film formed from such contradictory impulses. Much like 1982’s iconic Poltergeist, which was produced by Spielberg but directed by Texas Chainsaw Massacre auteur Tobe Hooper, Gremlins was helmed by a horror movie veteran in Joe Dante, late of Piranha, The Howling, and Twilight Zone: The Movie. What results is a strange fusion of a big ‘80s adventure movie and something a bit spikier.