Aki Vs. Evil: Gremlins (and little bit on the sequel)

Just found out that there’s actually a Gremlins series now.

Tells the story of how 10-year-old Sam Wing met the young Mogwai called Gizmo. Along with a teenage street thief named Elle, Sam and Gizmo take a perilous journey through the Chinese countryside, encountering, and sometimes battling, colorful monsters and spirits from Chinese folklore. On their quest to return Gizmo to his family and uncover a legendary treasure, they are pursued by a power-hungry industrialist and his growing army of evil Gremlins.

What the fu…? I’ll just stick with the movies, thank you.

Spoilers. In case there’s someone out there who has never seen this movie. If so, come on, what’s wrong with you?

Fun fact: Joe Dante, the director of both of these movies, also does a lot of television work. One of his early gigs was a couple of episodes of Police Squad!, a series which was cancelled after only a handful of episoded for being too ahead of it’s time, because it actually required the audience to pay attention. There’s a hint for you regarding Gremlins: You’ll get more out of it, if you pay attention.

Mr. Peltzer is out trying to peddle his inventions, when he comes across a weird little creature known as mogwai and named Gizmo by the family. He decides to buy it for his adult son. There are some rules to follow: Don’t expose it to sunlight or other bright lights, don’t let it eat after midnight and don’t let it get wet. Obviously, it gets wet pretty soon, which makes it spawn a bunch of new mogwai and then those mogwai, which are quite evil, fix the clock to be behind, so that they get fed when they shouldn’t be, which leads them to change their form into something much less cute and much more capable of causing chaos.

There is no perfect movie, but there are movies that I don’t think will ever be topped in their own little field. While Krampus is great and comes close, I do think this is still paragon of that little niche of child-friendly gateway horror films. And actually, the sequel is also similarly positioned. I don’t think there will ever be a better sequel. It’s not the best movie that is also a sequel, but I don’t think it will ever be topped as both a continuation of the story, but also a satirical take on sequels themselves.

The first movie was successful enough to start a trend of these creature-features, which substituted the huge monsters with these smaller ones. We had Ghoulies (which was in pre-production around the same time as Gremlins, but took several more years to finalize), Critters (which is actually quite good as well as long as you don’t acknowledge the existence of the third and fourth movies), Munchies and probably others I’m not aware of. And you can see why. Mogwai is quite cute, as are it’s offspring, although you can immediately tell there’s something off about them, while after transformation the gremlins become kind of horrifying, but still in a kind of lovable way.

The gremlins are actually lovable partly because the puppets aren’t perfect. They have quality of practical craftmanship, which makes them quaint from our point of view almost 40 years into the future. You don’t see this kind of thing anymore, because CG is just so much easier these days. The puppets do still work quite well. They might look clumsy at times, but the filmmakers were good enough to work around this. We see don’t often see the gremlins full on. We see them behind partial cover or sometimes in silhuette. This also helps with the characterization of the gremlins. They hide a lot or move in mysterious ways when chasing any of the humans.

So, the sequel… It took six years to release it. The story goes that Joe Dante wasn’t interested because of all the problems with filming the puppets for the first film, so I guess he did the second one when promised enough freedom to do what he wanted. While the basic story is pretty much the same as the first movie, just in a different environment, everything is just pushed to 11. There’s a lot of breaking of the fourth wall even if one of them doesn’t work outside of theaters (or any longer for that matter).

While there’s plenty of other differences, the main thing is that now the gremlins have more personality. They aren’t just copies of each other, but we have a smart one, a clumsy one, a bat-hybrid and so forth. This is mostly for a bunch of different gags. And then there’s the.. let’s call her the Smurfette-Gremlin. I’m all for people being able to choose their gender, but it does implicate that the beings, which reproduce asexually are for some reason males. Or is this just me? Do I assume they are? Sure, the smart one sort of automatically takes on a male persona and all the gremlins are voiced by males (even the lady) with the exception of the Bat, so I might not be that far from the truth. I guess it’s a good example of how things have changed, as I don’t think anyone noticed in those days. Or at least I didn’t know about any such discussion, but on the other hand, I was 13 and we didn’t exactly have a world wide web yet.

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