Gremlins ★★★★

Inspired by Andy Summers' recent review, I found this film on Sky Movies On Demand so decided it was high time I watched this children's horror classic again - it must be more than twenty-five years since I last saw it, and although I could remember the Snow White sequence and the end title theme music, nothing else really came to mind.

Joe Dante's film is a triumph of animation, matte paintings, and 1980s look and feel (with brands like Burger King prominent from early on, and the clothes, music, dance styles, and fashions firmly rooting the action in the decade).

Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates are the top-lined cast, as Billy and Kate - he gains the mysterious and cute mogwai as a present for Christmas when his wily inventor dad purchases it from a traditionally weird Chinatown store, she hates Christmas for reasons we eventually learn are traumatic and almost tragi-comic.

The trouble begins when the cute little Gizmo gets wet (breaking one of three rules laid down by the shop owner's grandson - no bright light, no water, no feeding after midnight) and multiplies into several other mogwais who do not have the same sunny spirit, and once they accidentally get fed ...

The film benefits not only from superior special effects for the time, but also an unusual and eclectic cast in supporting roles including Corey Feldman (as Billy's young friend Pete), Dick Miller, Chuck Jones, Scott Brady, and Harry Carey Jr. There's a hissable villainess in Polly Holliday's Mrs Deagle, and the obligatory likeable family dog, Barney.

A horror film in the true sense, this film does have scary scenes which are balanced out with comedy, and is well acted throughout, making the story believable especially when it graduates to making the whole town at risk rather than Billy's home.

That cinema sequence, where all the assembled evil gremlins sing along with 'Hi Ho, Hi Ho' is appropriately chilling, especially when set against this most saccharine of titles from the House of Mouse, and the use of other songs such as Johnny Mathis's 'Do You Hear What I Hear' have the same effect as watching the 'Scary Mary' spoof trailer for Mary Poppins - it unsettles the viewer.

Hugely recommended, and with an ending which leads to the inevitable sequel, which followed six years later.

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