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First of all, keep him out of the light, he hates bright light, especially sunlight, it’ll kill him. Second, don’t give him any water, not even to drink. But the most important rule, the rule you can never forget, no matter how much he cries, no matter how much he begs, never feed him after midnight.
Did you understand?
Three simple rules, you’d think: still, as the director Joe Dante teaches us, the human error is always around the corner. The events of Gremlins evolve in the small town of Norman Rockwell around Christmas, into the typical context of the “American way of life”. Billy (Zach Galligan), the main character, receives an odd mogway pet as a gift from his father and, through a series of unfortunate events, the origins of the so-called gremlins can be witnessed.
The film, even if under the supervision of Steven Spielberg as an executive producer and adapted by Chris Columbus, differs from the previous feel-good films, which you usually link these directors to, and it proves, using the right balance between horror and black humor, to be a politically incorrect movie, still preserving the typical 80’s contents. As a matter of fact, the social life concept as a mechanism that rotates around the square of the small suburban city and the contrast between the good and the bad are not missing, not even the unavoidable girl next door.
The little monsters make a fool out of the feel-good movies like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, dragging the adult audience into the grotesque events mindful of Hitchcock tricks, to defeat the enemy and blending horror, fantasy and comedy together in a typical pastiche by Joe Dante’s approach.
The violent gremlins invasion mocks Christmas, an untouchable celebration, and points finger against a sloppy and feel-good society, under tactics somewhat interesting: it’s no coincidence that the girl next door, ethereal and pure figure in terms of cinema, justifies the hate towards the festivity through the use of a sick joke (politically incorrect humor that pays homage to the tradition of the 50’s). But it isn’t over yet. The same gremlins, throughout the screening of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, make fun of the film, aware of being creatures who are independent from the Disney colossus, his storytelling and aesthetic. It is quite bizarre how this scene relates to the events linked to the film genesis. In 1943 Roald Dahl wrote a script starting from one of his own books (The Gremlins), destined to be a project with Disney, but that never saw the light thought. Chris Columbus, screenwriter of Dante, took inspiration exactly from the previous missing movie to put down the character of Gremlins, a film which will become a big cult of the 80’s.
The gremlins do not limit themselves to reveal the hypocrisy of the society, instead, they overturn every main points of the films out in those same years: if the fantastic figure had, by definition, a “good” image, here it doesn’t, therefore it has to be torn down via splatter expedients, considered grotesque by the adult audience and horror by the younger one. Lastly, Mr. Peltzer’s poorly executed inventions and the oversights that cause the little monsters race, show the authors skepticism towards the proactive role for the future and innovation (in accordance with the policy of Reagan), completely dissociating themselves from the approval that, during those years, was being established in the sci-fi movie sector.
Gremlins had a stratospheric success, a sophisticated B-movie that got an income amounting to about 150 millions of dollars (despite the 11 ones for the budget), thus, they release a sequel six years later and today rumours about a third chapter are spreading around. In the meantime, enjoy a journey into this cult movie of the 80’s, and challenge yourselves to find the Easter Eggs submitted in the film. A personal advice: don’t watch it if you still believe in Santa Claus.
Daniela Addea – Translated by Beatrice Birolo