Family Movie Night
by Karyn Bowman
The other day my daughter and one of her girlfriends made a comment about some cute and cuddly creature they wanted to buy or own or simply possess.
When I asked “what happens if it gets wet?,” the girls looked at me as if they had no idea what I was talking about. Then I remembered that they had not grown up in the 80s and knew nothing about Gremlins.
How is it that these girls who have watched The Breakfast Club knew nothing about one of the biggest movies of that decade? Gremlins sparked a wild toy craze and a not-so-great-sequel several years later.
To me if a sequel takes more than two years to get from script to screen, there is something wrong. But that is another story for another day. In watching Gremlins, I came to realize I never watched the movie. When it originally came out, I was in college and too cool for a kid’s movie. I mean, there are puppets in it. I was not interested. It wasn’t until the other night that I saw it for the first time.
What Gremlins portrays and what it appears to be about are two different things.
The story starts with with an inventor father giving his son an early Christmas gift of a mogwai that he bought in a store in Chinatown. There are three simple rules for taking care of one of these creatures. Do not get them wet, do not feed them after midnight, and do not take them out into direct sunlight or even shine a bright light on them.
Billy, as portrayed sweetly by Zack Galligan, breaks the first rule inadvertently. The second rule is broken when his clock is stopped at 11:30 p.m., making him think he still has time to feed the critters.
What starts off as a cute movie about small town life and the meaning of the season, becomes something different. The send up to It’s A Wonderful Life turns into a parody of sorts to monster movies from the 50s and 60s. But these are deadly monsters. The town drunk and a science teacher are the first victims and their mischief reaches out to the rest of this small city until they finally come together at the movie theater.
This is a movie that’s strangely conflicted. I have heard it described as a kid’s movie but I would not show it to kids under the age of ten. There are too many elements, such as Phoebe Cate’s story about her father’s disappearance and the death of various gremlins, that are too adult in context. Nor is it a classic horror or monster movie that would appeal to older teens or adults because the mayhem is light weight in comparison to the standards of even 80s horror and monster movies.
Can you have a cutesy monster movie? I guess this movie would be the proof. If I was to share it with anyone, I guess it would be with tween kids and those who do not really like the full-on gore of most monster movies. However, if I never see it again, I am pretty much okay with that, too.
Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.