While love, happiness, and good times can help a family grow closer together, as I said in my previous review of Train to Busan, nothing can test those bonds of love quite like a life-threatening situation. What does this have to do with the holidays? Everything! Frankly, the Christmas season is hyper-commercialized to the point where even people who actually love the holiday are bombarded with tremendous amounts of stress whenever it’s approaching, and that simply shouldn’t be the case. Gremlins is a much-needed reminder that life, health, and family are reason enough to celebrate, and all the gift most of us really need.
Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) is desperate to find a last-minute gift for his son Billy (Zach Galligan). Apparently, it isn’t enough that he is a kind and devoted father whose adult son is still living with him rent-free. Randall isn’t immune to the media propaganda which shames the entire Western world for not breaking their backs and their pocketbooks to get folks gifts that they will forget all about in one month tops, so while schlepping through Chinatown, Randall decides to enter the antique shop of Mr. Wing (Keye Luke). None of the artifacts in the shop strike Randall’s fancy, but when he encounters an odd, adorable, furry creature in the shop, he is determined to get it for Billy. Mr. Wing refuses to part with the creature, a mogwai (Chinese for “monster”), stating that he simply doesn’t trust anyone to be responsible enough with the creature, but his grandson (John Louie), has no such scruples and sells the mogwai to Randall behind his grandfather’s back.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Mr. Wing wasn’t being patronizing or paranoid. Randall, Billy, and Westerners on the whole simply lack the proper respect and healthy amount of fear to care for the mogwai, who is named Gizmo by Billy. Within moments of receiving his gift, it’s very clear that Billy, who (it bears reiteration) is grown (early 20s), can clear see that Gizmo is very much a living creature but, despite the warnings of Mr. Wing’s grandson, which were passed from him to Randall, and from Randall to Billy verbatim, he treats Gizmo with the careless fascination of a very unique, interesting toy. The mogwai is not an ordinary “pet”, however, and it must be kept away from water and bright lights, and never, ever fed after midnight.
But hell, no one ever made history by following the rules, right? You only live once, right? A little snack can’t hurt, right? (Insert eye roll). Long story short, Billy had Gizmo all fucked up and his flagrant disregard for the rules brings mayhem to the small town of Kingston Falls. Each rule (literally, there are only THREE fucking rules!) is necessary for the protection of Gizmo and the people around him, and not-so-little Billy has to learn the hard way that some mistakes simply cannot be undone.
Through incredibly cheesy and dated, Gremlins is still hilariously entertaining, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s pretty much the only holiday cautionary tale in popular media. With this film, you get a little bit of everything: family, romance, friendship, horror, and growth. Gremlins truly is the gift that I can’t wait to unwrap every Christmas season. I give this one 4 stars.