As far as films that stick with you when you’re a kid and into your adult years go, Gremlins is probably one of those at the top of the list. There Is a disturbing amount of gore and violence in this film for something that was PG…and there’s a valid reason for that. Back in 1984 this film was one of the triggers for the PG-13 rating to come about, which is why the tamer sequel garnered a PG-13 rating. This was also a source of serious confusion for me, as when I was younger I never got to see the sequel because it was rated as such…and then when I finally did see it I was enormously disappointed that it wasn’t as dark as the first film. Now, however, Warner has opted to unleash the film upon us in Blu-ray just in time for the season that this film takes place in: Christmas. What better way to spread holiday cheer than to watch a Gremlin explode in a microwave?
Gremlins is a wildly original roller-coaster ride of hilarious mischief. One minute your hair will stand on end, the next you’ll hold your sides with laughter at the havoc these supposedly gentle furballs create when the rules surrounding their care and feeding are inadvertently broken one fateful Christmas. Written by Chris Columbus and directed by Joe Dante, Gremlins unleashes special effects that dazzle and enchant and merriment that lingers in the memory. And isn’t that “what superior popular moviemaking is all about” (Richard Corliss, Time).
Well there are several ways to spend your time better, but still this is a classic for a reason. While it may not fall under the same vein as other comedic horror films like Ghostbusters, the film still has quite the cult following. The films way of marrying horror, comedy and general gross-out violence was something that has gone on to be parodied and cloned by countless other films and TV shows. The information spread in the film about not getting them wet or feeding them after midnight has crept its way into even the most modern of films and it’s things like this that make this film so much fun to watch even with modern films providing special effects that look twenty times better.
I’ve often lamented the fact that most 70s or 80s movies suck, but when it comes to comedies I doubt there’s been a better era this far. It’s spawned some absolute classics and with Gremlins written by Chris Columbus, who went on to direct a whole slew of money-making films (as well as quite a few non-moneymakers…), the film was something that caught Steven Spielberg’s eye immediately. Despite the rather un-friendly nature of the film, what with all of the visual mayhem and sometimes adult dialogue, the film was marketed with a whole array of toys for kids who then had the bejesus scared out of them as they cowered in fear of the mogwai Stripe and his desire to create as many other gremlin’s as he could. When you think about it, this movie was kind of like an early version of Pokemon…well, except I don’t think anyone put a pokemon in a microwave.
Of course there is still a lot about this film that doesn’t play well with younger audiences. For one the rather tragic store that Phoebe Cates character tells later in the film is one that sticks out to me as particularly terrifying, although I honestly don’t remember that bit from the movie. It was really just the freaky visuals of the gremlins that stuck with me in my youth and watching the movie now I’m more freaked out by it than I should be simply because of the memories of past creeping up. Stupid nightmares.
Even through all of that, however, I found myself just really enjoying the film. It’d been years since I laid eyes on this one and while it didn’t hold up to more modern day scrutiny (especially as I’ve become a little too adept at tearing apart films for the smallest things), the nostalgia I had ultimately won out for it. This wasn’t a film I watched regularly as a kid (it just freaked me out too much), but there’s a lot here to check out that still is a lot of fun to this day. Of course this is a ton of plot devices and elements that make very little sense, but whatever. Suspension of belief is mandatory in a film about furballs that can reproduce via a drop of water and then transform into menacing gremlins that wreck havoc. Recommended.
Warner brings the dark comedy to Blu-ray in a standard Elite Blu-ray case (in non-Eco friendly form…weird) with a foil reflective/embossed slipcover to help it stand out a bit more on shelves with its rather tame nearly all-white packaging. Oddly enough the slipcover seems to have left off the closing parentheses and period at the end of the film description (they’re both there on the actual jacket)…kind of a strange bit to misprint. The set itself is a clone of the past DVD 2002 DVD release, although seeing as it never received a video/audio remastering or even a keeper case release, this Blu-ray release may be appealing to fans for those reasons alone.
See, the reason I say that is this 1080p VC-1 encoded transfer is really, really muddy looking. No doubt the source elements are the cause of this and Warner’s lack of clean-up on the picture is another hindrance, but this film really looks its age at times. It’s overly dark (in unnatural ways at times) and while there is detail to be had on the picture, it seems to be all trapped under a layer of haze that never lets up. To be honest it looks leagues better than the previous DVD release, so it’s got that going for it, but it’s still very questionable in quality. Still, Gizmo is nice and fuzzy looking.
The same can be said for the TrueHD 5.1 mix which doesn’t update any of the sound effects of the film, leaving us instead with a very dated and flat sounding mix at times. Dialogue is clean and clear, but surround effects (what few there are, action-packed sequences aside) and subwoofer output is pretty quiet overall. It’s not a terrible mix mind you, but it’s nothing that impressed me all that much; it certainly didn’t hinder my enjoyment of watching the film, but it didn’t add to the pleasure of it either.
Extras are all ported over from the 2002 DVD release and include:
Additional Scenes (10:26, SD)
Making-of Featurette (6:21, SD)
Commentary by Director Joe Dante, Phoebe Cates, Zach Galligan, Dick Miller and Howie Mandel
Commentary by Director Joe Dante, Producer Michael Finnell and Special Effects Artist Chris Walas
Obviously the major perks here are the dual commentaries, both of which are worth checking out if you’re a fan of the series. Everything else is pretty fluffy, but that’s to be expected I guess. At the time this was packed for a DVD release but now it just seems a bit empty…although at this point I don’t know what else they could do for this film. But at the very least we have two very informative commentary tracks, so it’s hard to fault the release too much. I just hope we see a new edition of Gremlins 2 pretty soon, as even though it has its flaws it’d be a nice pair of flicks to own on Blu-ray, considering their DVD releases were lacking in the visual department (not that this one isn’t as well, but it’s leagues better than what the DVD offered up).
Overall a Recommended release for new owners, but if you own the 2002 DVD release and aren’t irked by the audio or video, then there’s no reason to upgrade.
Gremlins: 25th Anniversary Edition is now available on Blu-ray.