Gremlins: The Unconventional Christmas Movie

Happy Christmas, all! I hope that you’re all having a Merry Holiday indeed! To commemorate the festive season, I’m taking a look at a movie most might associate more with Halloween than with Christmas:  Joe Dante’s 1984 hit, “Gremlins”. There has been many a debate as to whether the movie should be considered a Christmas movie.  However, seeing as most of the action primarily takes place in the festive period, it has made the list of my Yuletide viewing movies. It just happens to contain a series of seemingly harmless creatures which soon lead to chaos at the highest order…

As the movie opens, lovable inventor Rand Pelzter (Hoyt Axton) is searching in vain for a Christmas gift for his son Billy (Zach Galligan). He stumbles across the perfect present in a Chinese thrift shop, a cute, furry gremlin creature (“Mogwai”) by the name of Gizmo.

However, Rand is issued three warnings beforehand: not to get the creature wet, to avoid it from being exposed to direct sunlight, and most crucially, to never, ever feed it after midnight. As you can imagine, all of these rules end up being broken within a few short hours. This ends up causing multiple mogwais to revolt around the town. It’s up to Billy, his girlfriend Kate (Phoebe Cates) and Gizmo to put a stop to the riot…

“Gremlins” has always been my favourite flick to watch a few days days prior to Christmas, just to get me in the festive spirit. Although you may argue that “Gremlins” sticks out in comparison to other holiday movies such as “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Miracle on 34th Street” or even “Home Alone”, but the contrast doesn’t hamper the enjoyment of the flick for me.

Some aspects of the movie may be darker than expected for a Christmas flick, such as the scene where Mrs Peltzer (Frances Lee McCain) faces off against all of the mogwais, eventually leading to a  satisfying demise via microwave. Another memorable scene comes about when Kate reaccounts to Billy the reason she despises Christmas, which always never fails to send a shiver up my spine, no matter how creepy and unusual it may seem to some.

While to some, “Gremlins” may seem dated and corny by modern standards (including a few shots where the puppeteer controlling the mogwais can be clearly visible upon several rewatches), but I can openly say that despite those shortcomings, I prefer this movie to all of its contemporary successors. It’s a classic movie which simply can’t be replicated.

“Gremlins” receives a total of three and a half out of five stars from this reviewer, as it’s a fantastically thrilling movie which I’d recommend viewing if you’re not in the mood for traditional Christmas flicks. And for once, the sequel movie, “Gremlins: The New Batch” is worth a watch! Merry Christmas to all!

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Enter the Labyrinth this Autumn…

One movie I always make sure to watch each Autumn is “Labyrinth”. The reasons for this could be because of it being one of the movies where we can see acclaimed puppeteer Jim Henson’s creations come to life, or watch future Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly delve in an extraordinary fantasy land beyond her wildest dreams. However, I’m going to go for the reason that most of you likely saw the movie was either because of David Bowie and his… ahem, rather tight pants, as well as seeing the Starman himself in a villianous role in a kid’s movie.

The story centres around Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), a creative, if self-centred teenage girl, who is furious at her dad for remarrying so soon following her parents’s collapse of marriage and subsequent divorce. Sarah bides her time by seeking refuge in her own universe of fantasy. She despises her infant half-brother, Toby (Toby Froud), whom she blames many of her current problems on . This leads to her making a wish out of spite that the goblins from her favourite story would seize Toby and carry him away.

As misfortune would have it, her prays are answered by in the worst possible way, when Toby is captured by the Goblin King, Jareth (David Bowie). Sarah is assigned thirteen hours to reclaim Toby, or else he’ll be turned into a goblin for eternity. Along the way, she meets up with the dwarfish Hoggle (Brian Henson), who is double crossing her by secretly working for Jareth, as well as magnificent beast Ludo (Ron Mueck). Will Sarah manage to use her imagination to defeat Jareth and save Toby?

“Labyrinth” is one of those flicks where the setting of the movie is stunning to look at. Even though you know that’s it’s all a lavishly designed set when watching as an adult, as a kid, it’s perhaps the most magical kingdom you’ve seen. Likewise, the puppets still have the power to affect me with awe and astonishment, even years after I initially viewed this flick.

David Bowie, surprisingly enough for a non actor, really suits the role of the hammy, evil Goblin King. Yes, his performance borders on being campy and over the top at times, but to me, it’s all part of the movie’s charm. Jennifer Connelly is a fine actress, and although she’s been accused of showing little to no emotion at times in this movie, I feel as though she pulled off a convincing enough performance, especially given that she was only 15 years old when it was released.

If this movie has a weak point, I’d say it’s towards the end of the film, where certain scenes drag on, and don’t seem to go anywhere, in particular Bowie’s song and dance number (though I admit it’s fairly catchy).

I rate “Labyrinth” a total of 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend it to kids aged eights and up, seeing how it’s a fantasy adventure filled with vivid, exquisite imagery. On the other hand, I was dissuade very young children from watching, as they may be alarmed by the various creatures and suspenseful scenes depicted in this movie. Happy viewing!

Update: Upon hearing of David Bowie’s tragic passing on January 10th, 2016, “Labyrinth” is now tinged with sadness. I’d still recommend watching this movie, if only to see Bowie in his most notable film role. Rest in Peace, Starman in the Sky!