Sunday, July 08, 2007

Better in Your Memories: Gremlins.

Growing up and making that change from child to adult means a lot of things: The loss of innocence. The gaining of wisdom. Not being able to get away with falling asleep under the table at a dinner party anymore. But mostly the gaining of wisdom. Especially the wisdom to realise that the movies you loved when you were knee-high to a grasshopper are now invariably crap.

Maybe it's because I'm rapidly approaching 30 and am about to tumble headfirst into that period otherwise known as "the rest of your adult life", but lately I've had a hankering to revisit some of my childhood favourite films – the ones I used to watch over and over until the tape started crackling and you'd have to adjust the tracking and sometimes even pull the video out and flip it open and blow on it... Kids, ask your parents about this amazing time in audio visual technology, it will blow your mind.

And while some films have stood the test of time – Labyrinth, The Princess Bride, The Goonies – others have rather taken the test of time, drawn rude pictures all over it, handed it in to the teacher early and bunked off home to throw gravel at the neighbour's cat. One such movie is 1984's Gremlins.

Where were you before?

Now I know that, looking at the poster, it's hard to understand how this movie might not have weathered the decades. It just screams high production values, doesn't it? DON'T BE FOOLED.

Some of you young squibs that have grown up on Pixar and CG effects and can't remember a time when it was cheaper to use a bunch of midgets duct-taped together than it was to animate a monster at a cost of 20 bazillion dollars a second might find it amusing to know that this film involves puppets. A lot of puppets. It should therefore surprise no one to discover that Gremlins falls slightly short of realistic in the effects department.

Check my Beckham do, innit?

Not that the lack of realism is necessarily a problem - Labyrinth was practically 97% puppet and it's still one of the best films of all time. But Labyrinth wasn't trying to be a horror film (unless you count David Bowie's hairdo). Granted, Gremlins sold itself as a "horror comedy", but somehow in the 23 years since it was first released those two elements have swapped responsibilities: You find yourself laughing at the horror and utterly horrified by the pathetic comedy. This is either enjoyable or miserably childhood-memory destroying, depending on how you look at it.

For the uninitiated, the story goes something like this:

1. Teenage lad gets crazy new pet for Christmas that no one's ever seen or heard of before, and is not recognised anywhere in the history of science. No one questions this.

2. Crazy new pet (called a 'Mogwai') comes with only three explicit instructions: Don't expose it to bright light, don't get it wet and don't feed it after midnight. Coincidentally, these are the same instructions that came with Paris Hilton when she was dropped off in prison recently.

3. In a completely unsurprising plot twist, stupid teen spills a glass of water on the Mogwai and discovers it replicates itself when wet (contrary to Paris Hilton, who tends to videotape herself being replicated by others when SHE gets wet).

4. In a further unsurprising plot point, he feeds his new legion of Mogwais after midnight, accidentally mutating them all into evil Gremlins which take over the town. Unlike Paris, who has managed to take over the entire world without EVER being fed.

5. Teen lad and love interest battle the Gremlins, save the town and fall in love, while leaving room for the inevitable crappy sequel.

Reasons why Gremlins is better in your memories:

  • Unless they're by Jim Henson, puppets are shit.

  • It's slow. SO SLOW. Maybe glacial speed was necessary when you were little, but when your only storyline involves not feeding a pet after midnight and keeping it dry, WE CAN AFFORD TO MOVE A LITTLE FASTER, PEOPLE.

  • No one told the lead actors it was a comedy.

  • Are there actually any actors in it? Teen hero Zach Galligan might have had the floppy-haired, cute charm of Tom Hanks but he has about as much emotional range as a loaf of bread. Not surprising, then, that he is now a 43 year old blogger.

Reasons to resurrect Gremlins:

  • Love interest Kate's explanation of why she hates Christmas, which involves a tragic story about her father's dead body getting stuck in the chimney and smoking out the house. Originally intended as a poignant moment, it's now UTTERLY HILARIOUS and one of the best reasons to hire the film (if you must).

  • A 13 year old Corey Feldman outacting everyone in the film and generally being the most awesome kid the 80s ever saw.

  • The scene where a woman on an electric stair climber shoots out of her upstairs window (partly viewable in the trailer below).

  • This Family Guy moment:


  1. Ha! Yet again, I bow down to the sheer genius of The Family Guy... er... guys.

    You're not wrong about Gremlins, though. I saw it again a few years ago and it was, well, more than a bit shit. I remember my 11-year-old self being rather sad over the whole stinky dead dad in the chimney thing, but when I revisited, I thought it was hilarious. And the sequel is even funnier, with the Other Terrible Thing That Happened At Christmas. But I remember being aware of that at the time.

    What I don't quite remember is how I ever thought those manky hand puppets were anything but a pantsload of arse. C'mon, 11-year-old me, what the hell was wrong with you?

  2. No, no. In my memories it's crap, too.

  3. I can totally relate to this. I watched The Goonies a few weeks back.

    The Lost Boys is apparently on Foxtel this month sometime. I'm almost too scared to watch it.

  4. The Lost Boys is quite funny and it has a great soundtrack. Goonies is also good.


    What I particularly love about Zach Galligan's blog is how he's linked to "Zach Galligan's Unofficial Website". That's just really sad.

    Also, it must be said - Live Earth is both a big fat fucking waste of time and an insult to global warming.

  6. PLEASE tell me Ghostbusters wasn't shit. That would almost destroy me.

  7. Well I'm a bit older than you PetStarr (like almost double!) and I remember as a little fella having the absolute crap scared outa me by a flick called The Leech Woman (1959). Watched it on YouTube recently. Your point is proven. The first half of it is boring as batshit, the second half is better but how this flick left a life-long impression beats me.

    Sad in a way. These indelible impressions are pretty heady stuff, and they are so much harder to come by these days.


  8. I watched Gremlins again last night and was so mind-blown by how crap it was, I Googled it and found this blog. I can attest that you are correct on all counts.