4. Gremlins

It's your Horror Review Advent Calendar.
25 Christmas themed movies.
Ho, ho, ho.

Director: Joe Dante (1984)
Starring: Zach Gilligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller
Find it: IMDB

Like the first two Die Hard movies, Gremlins is one of the few Christmas movies that it's acceptable to watch during the other eleven months of the year. You could watch Silent Night, Deadly Night in the middle of July if you wanted to, but only if you're The Grinch. Gremlins is also one of the few horror movies that they'll play on TV during the middle of the day. That in spite of the fact that it's downright cruel at times.

Billy (Gilligan) is gifted a cute, cuddly Mogwai. The pet comes with three rules that will be burned onto the psyche of anyone who was vaguely around during the mid 80s and 90s. Don't let them come into contact with water, don't feed them after midnight and heavens, no bright light. The first two rules are broken in quick succession. The first fuckup results in more (less cute) Mogwai. The second turns them into Gremlins, who proceed to trash Billy's small town and murder an old lady. I found the violent murder of the old lady hilarious when I was ten and find it even funnier now. It's second only to the liquidizer kill later in the movie.

As if Gremlins wasn't fantastically 80s enough already, it has Dick Miller in it. Nothing says fun 80s trash like Dick Miller. He was also in Joe Dante's own Small Soldiers, which is nearly as fun as Gremlins. Whenever I picture Dick Miller, it's sitting at home chilling with a beer; then something terrifying, stupid or both comes crashing through his wall, making him swear off beer forever. He has a great everyman persona, constantly being bugged by pesky Terminators or Gremlins or Small Soldiers.

Of all the scary Christmas movies, Gremlins manages to be the most disturbing ever. Well, if you're ten years old, it is. Murder all the old biddies you like, but don't defile Christmas; it's the scene where Kate (Cates) is explaining why she hates Christmas; how her father died in a chimney whilst dressed as Santa Claus. It's an old urban legend, but it taps into a quite terrifying childhood fear - what if something ruins Christmas?

(image stolen from here)

And speaking as someone who lost a close relative on Christmas, yes, it is a fucking bummer. On the flipside, now I can go around like Phoebe Cates, traumatising children by telling them why I think Christmas sucks. In your face, youthful innocence.

Well, that killed the mood, didn't it? Gremlins is a bona fide classic, up there with Ghostbusters and Die Hard as the best of the 80s. Except for when Corey Feldman is in it.


  1. One of my all time favorite movies. Absolutely flawless in every single aspect. I've seen it 20 time or maybe more. LOL.

  2. Ditto. Like Ghostbusters, Grease and Con Air, I think I watch it every time it comes on TV.

  3. I remember watching Gremlins for the first time as a child, my mum asked my brother to stay with me, but he left me all alone and I remember crying into my teddy bear. I hid behind my blanket hoping it would end, but even as a child I knew I was watching one of the greatest things ever. I love the Gremlins! I don't hide behind blankets anymore, but I still remember that feeling of being petrified by the little green creatures riding in electric toy cars. I can't wait to introduce my kids (if I have any) to this classic!

  4. Oh this movie will be forever in my heart, Christmas time, real time, any time! I was horrified of the scene with the teacher alone in the dark classroom with a furry little ball of evil. Candy bar is the last thing you wanna give that little monster dude! Great review, best Christmas movie...ever!

  5. Gremlins is the perfect introduction to horror, I think. And I too remember it being pretty damn scary the first time I watched it. Crikey yes, the scene with the teacher and the candy bar is another good one. Perfect Christmas movie, I agree.

    Cheers y'all!

  6. Joel, this is my favorite line, so far, from any of your reviews: I found the violent murder of the old lady hilarious when I was ten and find it even funnier now. Bravo.

  7. I don't know quite why, but I didn't find Gremlins scary as a kid, and I was about the most easily frightened boy you could find. As soon as I saw the commercials, I couldn't wait to see it. Then I saw it and it instantly became my favorite movie (until Ghostbusters came out). I even had life-sized toys of Gizmo and Stripe that I really regret having given away.

    I watched this with again with my kids last year, and it's just as enjoyable as ever. And I still want a pet Mogwai (though honestly, I'd fuck it up).