Gremlins (1984)

Genres - Comedy, Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Creature Film, Horror Comedy  |   Run Time - 106 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Chock full of wide-eyed furry creatures that were being aggressively marketed as stuffed animals, Gremlins undoubtedly sent a misleading message to a lot of parents. The affiliation of executive producer Steven Spielberg, who was fresh off the success of E.T., surely encouraged parents further, but many were left shielding their children's eyes as a gaggle of reptilian gnomes burst forth from a swimming pool and began smoking cigarettes, wielding chainsaws, and killing off townspeople. Gremlins is not appropriate for kids, and it drew a lot of complaints, but it has some jokey pleasures and plenty of satirical bite, as a Capra-esque small town is turned inside out on Christmas Eve. The film was a box-office smash and a cultural touch point, with the viewing public quickly learning the three steps to avoid transforming the impossibly precious Mogwais into the all-id gremlins. The violence against humans is mostly cartoonish and bloodless, but the gremlins don't get off so easy; in a memorable kitchen sequence, featuring a terrified Frances Lee McCain, a pair of pursuing baddies get offed in a microwave and a blender, their orange guts splattered hither and non. Although directed by Joe Dante, the film features the undeniably Spielberg-ian theme of imperiled innocence in middle America, as well as his love for imaginative creatures. And the special effects crew has a grand time bringing it all together, making for a taut horror fantasy with lasting appeal.