Wednesday, January 4, 2012

24 Frames: Gremlins (1984, Joe Dante)

Well this is a little late.

I tend to skirt away from the revelation of too much private personal information here and focus on cinema and other ephemera instead. But how to succinctly explain a post that was meant to go up on Christmas Eve being posted a couple of days after the New Year? I guess the truth. My wife is pregnant with our first child, two weeks ago she started having very strong contractions, being that she was 30 weeks pregnant at the time, we we’re fearful of a premature birth (37 weeks is when doctors officially consider a baby to be at full term), the contractions didn’t let up and she had to be admitted to a hospital and hooked up to an IV. Long story short, they finally subsided and she came home on New Year’s Eve under a strict bed rest instruction from the doctor.

But since I had already captured frames for this post before all this, I thought why wait until next Christmas when I will be a dad, and who knows where my head will be at.

As anyone who pays close attention here around the holidays may have noticed, my favorite seasonal movies tend not to be the routine celebratory stuff, but rather films that use the background of festive glee as the settings for mayhem. Some titles I tend to revisit on a semi-annual basis include Black Christmas, The Silent Partner, Die Hard, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and the subject of today’s post, Gremlins.

I’ve been watching Gremlins on a pretty much every other year basis (sometimes even more often) since I first saw it theatrically at the age of eight in 1984. While most films one sees and adores at that age tend to no longer hold interest (other than nostalgia) when the viewer reaches their mid-30’s, Joe Dante’s subversive genre bending film actually improves with age. Full of visual references to films and pop culture of Dante’s past (It’s A Wonderful Life, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Snow White, et cetera) and in jokes (an appearance of a Howling smiley face sticker, the names of the two films on the town’s theatre marquee being the working title of executive producer Steven Spielbergs’ Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.), Gremlins expertly balances a comedic tone with effective horror scenes that are actually still harrowing.

There’s also a lot going on beneath the surface in Gremlins as it depicts, with a toothful grinning satirical edge, the event toy (remember this was the era of Cabbage Patch Kids, Teddy Ruxpins and other hot items that led to many a brawl amongst "loving" parents), the films of Steven Spielberg (even while the man himself served as a watchful executive producer), the erosion of small towns in the Reagan era, the role of a stay at home mom (pay attention to the use of solely kitchen utensils and other signifiers of "domestication" as the tools of destruction when Mrs. Peltzer must ward off the gremlins) and even the facade of happiness some force upon themselves during the holiday season (in the infamous, and still shocking that they got away with it, reveal of how Kate learned the truth about Santa Claus).

So if you still think Gremlins is just a lark from your youth give it another shot one of these days and take a gander at these 24 selected shots from the film.


Mummbles said...

I still love this movie. I never noticed the sticker before, good find! I like how its a pretty dark movie but is also thought of being cute because of Gizmo.

le0pard13 said...

Great piece on this 80s and alternate Christmas classic, Colonel. Sorry it got postponed, but very glad your wife and you got back home without further complications. Everything jumps into crystal clear perspective once you experience anything close to what you did.

Anyway, love this movie. Joe Dante delivered something quite special with it. Dark, yet somehow tailor-made for this time of year. Well done. Now, make sure you stick close by to where you're needed, my friend. Take care and good luck.

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