Nick’s Flixmas: Gremlins


Have you ever seen The Hole? It’s the worst. It attempts to be a throwback to campy comedy horror, a style Joe Dante practically reinvigorated back with Pirahna, but it fails at every aspect. It’s a shadow of a once great director. Who’s Joe Dante and why is The Hole important? Joe Dante directed today’s Nick’s Flixmas film, Gremlins. A film that only survives due to the campy directorial choices it makes. 

Gremlins is a Christmas film in the loosest sense (as Randall Peltzer could’ve been searching for a present on any holiday), but that directorial choice makes the film stick. The juxtaposition between the jovial holiday and the ferocious monster imagery creates this melting pot of adorable camp and terrible, terrible horror. 

[Nick’s Flixmas is a 25 day celebration of films Nick watches every Christmas! Nick will do some analysis, review, and just generally walk down memory lane. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the ride. Merry Flixmas!]

I have a few issues with Gremlins. It’s a good movie (as it’s a standard hero’s journey), but it’s an even better idea that fails to live up to its potential (until the sequel anyway). It’s probably a form of heresy to claim that Gremlins is a bad film, but it’s one of those movies that relies entirely on its visuals. Just think of the intro to the film. It’s delightfully camp. In a Twilight Zone-esque spin, you get a guy walking down a mysterious Chinatown alley, but that’s something that’s been done a bunch of times before. The only reason the film’s elevated from the convention is the visuals. It’s dark, foggy, and it blends a faux-noir with Christmas time. All visual decisions tacked on to the really bad intro. You can argue that the intro is intentionally bad in order to establish the Gremlins as a storybook legend type of monster (hence the name), but it’s just…odd. 

But that’s just my taste. For some reason, I just can’t seem to like Gremlins as a movie rather than an idea. I try to watch it every year thinking I’ll like it, but each year I fail. It’s hard to explain, but I like the parts that make up Gremlins (like the Mogwai robots, the setting, Billy as an average guy hero) but dislike the movie. But as stated earlier, Dante’s directorial decisions make parts of the film enjoyable. The use of practical effects, the slow pacing as the mystery unravels, the disgusting close ups when the Mogs are eating, the brief suicide talk before the film gets into gear, the three Mogwai care rules, and the film gains a campy humor due to the antics of the little ones. I don’t know, I’m rambling here. 

I should get back to The HoleThe Hole is a perfect recent example of things that go completely wrong. Maybe Dante’s losing his touch, or it’s possible The Hole is terrible because Dante can’t seem to properly direct a film that doesn’t have little creatures in it. But like GremlinsThe Hole falls completely on its face without good visuals. 

I’m still probably off the mark here, so I’ll back off before I ramble this straight into the ground. What do you guys think? Maybe I should’ve just watched Gremlins 2 instead, or maybe I really just don’t like The Hole. Oh well, that’s Nick’s Flixmas day sixteen!

Tomorrow I think I’ll keep this horror kick going and watch the scariest Christmas film, Home Alone.