Monday, December 8, 2014

The Essentials- "Gremlins" (1984)

The Essentials- #86
 
Gremlins
There was a time when "Gremlins" was going to be scarier and more extreme than the final product. The grandma was not suppose to last, the torturing of Gizmo was to be more severe. Director Joe Dante was going to go full-fledge horror on "Gremlins." I don't really remember the reasoning behind not making it as extreme, but I am glad the direction changed. Don't get me wrong, there are still moments in "Gremlins" that give me a fun jump, but I like how it embraced the comedy just as much as it embraced the horror.
 
I always found it particularly interesting that Joe Dante chose to set his movie on Christmas. Christmas is always a joyous part of the year. It is the time of year when we reflect on our family and other loved ones and rediscover why they mean so much to us. But, just like any family gathering, it can lead to overwhelming anxiety. I don't know if Dante meant to do this or not, but I feel like the accidental creation of the gremlins almost parallels these holiday anxieties. I don't know how many of you this has happened to, but I have had a couple Christmas' where somebody got the wrong gift, or somebody got the wrong type of gift, or forgot a gift, or just simply decided not to shop one year. It can be incredibly embarrassing when that happens, and as I watch "Gremlins," I am reminded of those rare times of Christmas past.
 
Back on the subject of mixing horror with comedy, I think the look of the gremlins is what makes the movie stand out. These are not exactly what I expected them to look like. These are not the gremlins from the Looney Tunes cartoon. This is not the gremlin from that famous "Twilight Zone" episode. What Joe Dante created were creatures that looked unique. I also liked that he gave them real personality too. If "Gremlins" treated its title characters as the typical, brainless, little devils the title implies, it would have been a horrid cliché. Sure, they are not angels by any means throughout the movie, but Dante gave them real personality. I love how the gremlins are cracking me up one minute and making me pause in terror in another. There are not too many films out there that can juggle comedy and horror and Dante made it look easy.
 
I also can't discuss "Gremlins" without bring up Jerry Goldsmith's unforgettable score. When I was about five or so, I never gave much attention to a film's musical score. The powerful connection between music and moving picture didn't occur to me until I was much older. What Goldsmith created though, stuck out to me, even when I was a young boy. The music he writes for the movie perfectly matches to each scene, in a manner that almost seems revolutionary. The epic chaos the gremlins create is profoundly paralleled by the music Goldsmith makes.
 
"Gremlins" may seem like an odd choice to watch during the holiday season, but its one that I hold close to my heart. 


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