We all know the rules. Keep them from sunlight, don’t get them wet, and NEVER feed them after midnight. Joe Dante in 1984 gave the world perhaps the greatest alternative Christmas film, and we never saw stair lifts or microwaves in the same way again.
The genesis of Gremlins came from writer Chris Columbus who penned the original shooting script which made its way into the hands of Steven Spielberg who regarded the prospect as a brilliantly original and dark take on the usual innocent and gentle family movie formula. Contrary to popular belief and also to how the film is now considered, Gremlins wasn’t actually marketed as a Christmas film, it was released in June of 1984, the same weekend as Ghostbusters, a brave, what could now be considered insane choice to go up against, not that the decision did the film any damage, that would have been one hell of a weekend double bill!
I think one of the things that is integral to Gremlins continued appeal is it’s absolutely note perfect juxtaposition of light and dark tonal shifts, you have the unbearably cute and fuzzy Gizmo on one hand and the other the malevolent and grotesque Gremlins. You go from the in’s and outs of the inhabitants of a small town preparing for Christmas and that warm fuzzy excitement that goes with it and then you have Kate’s story of how she discovered there is no Santa Claus. In lesser hands these could be very tricky themes to interweave in a way that is entertaining, heartwarming, scary, dark and yet very funny all at the same time, it really is a masterwork in skirting a thin line with impeccable finesse and subverting Christmas movie tropes with gleeful abandon.
Gremlins is a film that worked its way into cinema lovers hearts from the get go, and with the passing of the years it doesn’t look like it’s influence or popularity is waining in any degree.