Ryster’s review published on Letterboxd:
Here's the thing with Gremlins, some call it a perfect horror film while others say it's a hilarious, laugh-a-minute, comedy. Whatever you may class it, I think that it's a fantastic homage to classic monster movies and, undoubtedly, one of the most recognisable films of the 1980s. When the festive Christmas season comes around every year, there's always that one film you think about. It's a Wonderful Life, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Die Hard, everybody has a different choice. For myself, I've never counted Gremlins as a Christmas movie (even though it's got more than just the time setting going for it). The main story revolves around what's probably simultaneously the greatest and worst gift you could ever get, there's some classic Christmas tunes (and an absolutely brilliant main theme by Jerry Goldsmith), and each and every scene involves the holiday many consider to be the best. For the past few years, a local cinema has held a season of festive favourites to celebrate, and 2016 introduced Gremlins to the lineup. So, instead of seeing the masterpieces that are It's a Wonderful Life and The Muppets Christmas Carol in the cinema, for the third time, I decided to have some 80s fun. I've always loved this film. Ever since I first saw it and Stripe struck fear into my impressionable mind at a tender age, I had so much fun. The screening only increased my admiration for Gremlins. There's nothing quite like watching a film in a packed cinema, with everyone laughing and enjoying themselves. Then walking out into the cold December air, late at night with snow covering the streets and just discussing the classic that is Gremlins with your friends.
A very talented inventor and salesman is in Chinatown looking for a Christmas present for his son. He finds a bizarre creature, one that he is instantly drawn to. This creature isn't going to be sold that easily though. If the creature is to go with the man, he has to promise that he'll follow three very simple rules. Never expose him to bright light. Never get him wet. And whatever you do, never feed him after midnight.
Zach Galligan perfectly embodies the character that the film needs for it to work. He's a very likeable guy. One that's quite shy, smart and does things out of the kindness of his heart. He doesn't have a negative flaw about him. This makes it all the more exciting and interesting when those little Gremlins wreak havoc. The character of Billy is faced with protecting the neighbourhood and everything happened because of things he did. His chemistry with Phoebe Cates is also very good. Their relationship is believable and it doesn't feel cheesy (which is what you'd expect from a 1980s horror comedy). Cates is a great presence throughout the film as well. She's funny in her delivery but also manages to give fairly dark and disturbing storytelling at the same time. Her most famous scene in Gremlins is the one in which she remembers the events of her father's death and it's actually a really good example of the dramatic change in tone she can do.
I love the story in this. I will admit that it borrows from other films and stories (most noticeably The Wizard of Oz) but I adore the idea and the fun that the filmmakers make with it. The character of Gizmo, is honestly the best. He is the best Christmas present ever, it's very easy to get into the story. Then all hell breaks loose and we get these vicious, green Gremlins. It's funny but scary, cute but bloody. The juxtaposition of Stripe and Gizmo is prominent, and the film doesn't try to hide it. You get given the best gift ever, you don't look after it, oh well it could lead to your death. The extremes that Gizmo can lead to is unthinkable, and that's what makes it so fun and thrilling. The direction is spot on. Shots and camera angles are constantly referencing classic creature features, but Joe Dante makes it his own. It feels like a 1980s film and I honestly don't think the film would work as well if it wasn't made then. The feeling and tone of the film is a big part of what makes it so charming to this day and I don't think another decade could give such a powerful feel. The special effects are incredible. Still perfect. The designs of each Gremlin is memorable and they look so cool being practical. The kitchen scene is one of my favourite uses of the effects. It's such a dark scene and it's only more boundary-pushing thanks to what's shown. The score is incredibly hard to get out of the head, I absolutely adore it. Gremlins is an excellent horror comedy. One that's suitable for most kids, and I think they'd love it. It was awesome on the big screen and an excellent movie for Christmas time.