Gremlins ★★★★

Its metaphor for the way that '80s consumer culture takes uniqueness and perverts it into a mass produced horror show is as potent as ever (there probably isn't a more perfect director to watch on Black Friday than Dante). But some of the humor is too cynical even for me at this point (I once thought Cates' "And that's when I found out there's no Santa Claus" speech was one of the film's highlights, but now it feels like a mean tonal misstep), and the climax feels like it goes on a bit too long.

Still, these are fairly minor quibbles, exacerbated only because I once considered this a Top 20 Of All Time film and am sad to realize it's not quite as great as my memory of it. Now for some stuff I liked that maybe gets talked about less: this movie is gorgeous. From the immaculate exterior set design, each tree and bush carefully dusted with the perfect amount of fake snow, to Dante's smoothly tracking camera movements, to the mixture of great light and shadow during all the night scenes. This might be one of my favorite looking movies. So many just fantastic compositions.

The film is also great with jump scares. More than once it got me by successfully stretching tension regarding a character carefully approaching a potentially dangerous scene, then the tension diffuses. Dante tricks you into thinking you've seen everything you're going to see. The danger is gone. A character moves from darkened shadows, from traditional horror tropes, and into well-lit familiarity then BOOM scary ass gremlin jumps out. It's pretty great.

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