The ‘Offbeat’ Christmas Film

Gremlins (1984)

 

As joyous a time of year it is, are you possibly on the fringes of yuletide burnout?

Everything and everyone is full of the Christmas sap, so maybe it’s time to take a short break from those gooey Hallmark specials and replace them with a gooey monster film?

Despite being a great watch anytime of year and its general tone, more and more people are saving their yearly Gremlins dust off for December.

But the aforementioned point is largely the basis for this; a dark antidote to those sickly-sweet festive flicks that still retains the sense of Christmas.

Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) returns home with an early Christmas present, a strange furry creature known as a mogwai he found in a mysterious Chinatown shop, for his son, Billy (Zach Galligan).

However, Billy must abide by three rules: never get him wet, keep him out of the light and never ever feed him after midnight.

Once Billy inevitably breaks these rules, chaos ensues as the town is overtaken by Gremlins, an evil race of creatures evolved from Mogwai.

Director Joe Dante has a wonderful eye and sense of setting, similar to how he nailed the look and tone of 1993’s Matinee, giving us that small town look associated with Christmas to the point he could easily have swapped the script for ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and shot that instead.

The general cast all do a great job of being likeable and keeping it straight, helping to sell such outlandish events, with Galligan’s everyman-rising-to-the-challenge and Phoebe Cates loveably tragic turn as Kate standing out and keeping us invested.

But despite the casts’ best efforts, there’s little anyone can do to take the attention away from everyone’s favourite little mogwai, Gizmo.

From the second you see Gizmo on-screen you will fall in love. He is just so damn adorable you’d still want one knowing the potential consequences, and similar to the likes of Gromit, Chris Walas and his effects team manage to give us a character who can to speak to us without having to say a word.

The gremlins themselves look the part; gruesome, mean and scary yet full of wide-eyed innocence and charm. Sure, what they do throughout is evil, but they’re not necessarily evil; it’s just their nature and they just don’t know any better. It’s like watching a bunch of naughty kids on a sugar rush with no concept of law and order.

The film has a lot of fun, somewhat at its own expense as it plays with the conventions of the holiday and monster flicks.

But it’s not all fun and games as it maintains it’s dark-streak throughout, especially with the revelation behind Kate’s lack of seasonal cheer.

A wicked movie that never ventures into mean spirited, full of laughs, action and jumps; this offbeat classic may not have the sentiment of its Christmas peers, but it’s just as worthy a watch.

Just remember, a mogwai isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for life… or until Mr. Wing comes to get him – one or the other.

 

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