It’s interesting that Joe Dante’s “Gremlins” is the inadvertent start of a sub-genre that would copy “Gremlins” in every aspect, except for its appealing story and characters. There’s never been a more interesting film creature than the Mogwai simply because it’s so enigmatic. Surely, Gizmo is an adorable creature in our reality, but I’ve always wondered what he’s thought of in his own time. Is Gizmo an adorable but menacing beast that’s hunted by local villagers? Or is he cherished beast that needs to be respected lest he breed his own evil spawn? Is there a caretaker for the Mogwai assigned through time? And does Gizmo (played memorably by Howie Mandell) ever breed any good copies of himself?
What builds the corrupt clones? How does Gizmo actually procreate? I’d loved to have learned more about the Mogwai down the line. In either case, the questions and theories only lend to the appeal and whimsy of “Gremlins” which, while a great family film, is also a menacing horror film in its own right. Randall is a traveling salesman who has to make it home for Christmas, and decides to buy his son Billy a last minute present. Stopping off at a Chinatown Antique Store, Randall finds the furry creature Mogwai, an adorable and mysterious little creature that seems innocent and harmless enough but comes with a list of guidelines to keep him. One of which includes not getting him wet, by any means.
Though the owner Mr. Wing refuses, his grandson sells it to Randall anyway. All seems pretty mundane at first until Mogwai (named Gizmo by hero Billy) is doused with water. Gizmo then produces various offspring that resemble him, but garner some defects that make the Gizmo wary. Soon enough the new beasts hibernate in twisted cocoons and arise once again as fanged reptilian monsters known as Gremlins, that begin wreaking havoc all over Billy’s town by murdering residents, and destroying property. Dante takes from Spielberg’s plans for the “ET” sequel, where we have the adorable creature, and his unfortunately vicious family members of his bloodline that are by no means friendly or cooperative.
There are a lot of teeth to the monsters in “Gremlins” despite the inherent family film nature prevalent in the narrative. When the Gremlins are unleashed, they’re deadly, pulling off the murder of an elderly woman, and violent attacks on supporting characters that ends with a microwave explosion. There’s also final showdown between character Billy and a surviving Gremlin that prompts the monster to attack him with a chainsaw, sharp saw blades, and a crossbow. The monsters in “Gremlins” are definitely the product of not respecting nature, and how fragile new animals may fare in civilization with a society that doesn’t care enough to preserve them. That said, “Gremlins” is still an entertaining and original horror film with top notch effects, a great villain, and a brilliant score.