Gremlins ★★★½

The first 45 minutes of this film is all by-the-numbers genre tropes. The characters are all archetypal (e.g. the mystical Chinese shop owner, the evil landlady who wants to confiscate the hero's dog, the cute girl at work, et al). I liked the main characters, though I didn't really care about them or what happened to them.

Then, all of a sudden, a character gets gruesomely murdered, and this movie turns on a dime. It's the mothereffin' gremlins! I guess it's sort of like the first Alien, where we had to wait a long time to finally see the eponymous monster. And like that film, wow, do they deliver. The violence is awesome (and, after the family-friendly first 45 minutes, genuinely shocking). More importantly, they bring a welcome sense of subversiveness to this picture, after the formulaic setup. I was expecting a conventional progression of the gremlin outbreak; the gremlins, however, have no interest in monster movie convention. They just want to drink, smoke and party (while alluding to as many pop culture references as possible). I am almost certain that the film's best scene, the one taking place in a bar, originated with writers sitting in a room, trying to outdo each other with the most outrageous gremlin gag. I say whoever came up with the gremlin flasher is the winner.

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