Gremlins: 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

Written by Steve Pattee

Blu-ray released by Warner Brothers

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Directed by Joe Dante
Written by Chris Columbus
1984, Region A, 106 minutes, Rated PG
Blu-ray released on December 1st, 2009

Starring:
Zach Galligan as Billy
Phoebe Cates as Kate
Hoyt Axton as Randall
Polly Holliday as Ruby
Francis Lee McCain as Lynn

Review:

If you've never seen Gremlins, first of all shame on you. One, for never having seen it and, two, for making me go over a plot for what is arguably a classic flick. Fortunately, the story is simple. Randall is a father (Hoyt Axton) in search of the perfect Christmas gift for his son Billy (Zach Galligan) and finds it in a store in New York's Chinatown in the form of a Mogwai — basically a cute little furry creature that resembles a teddy bear with big eyes and ears. The proprietor, Wing, refuses to sell the little guy to Randall because white man can't be trusted with the responsibility of the creature, but Wing's grandson sneakily sells it regardless because they need the money. All Randall has to remember is three simple rules: Keep it out of bright light and sunlight, keep it away from water and never feed it after midnight. That's all he has to remember.

Randall takes the Mogwai home, where his son is instantly amazed — naturally — and is taken with the ball of fur, calling him Gizmo. And because white men can't be trusted, it's not long before all three rules are broken. Water is spilled on Gizmo, causing it to birth more Mogwais from where the water hit. These guys aren't as passive as their patriarch. These are mean little suckers. It's not long before the offspring eats the shit out of some fried chicken after midnight, which causes them to turn into the nasty titular creatures. Then all hell breaks loose as the gang of gremlins, led by Stripe — so named because of the mohawk he sports — take it upon themselves to terrorize the small town's inhabitants, causing as much destruction as they can along the way. It's up to Billy and his girlfriend Kate (Phoebe Cates) to stop them.

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When I first saw Gremlins in the mid-'80s, I remember thinking I enjoyed it more than I thought I should have. As a young teenager, I probably thought it was just a stupid kids movie with a stupid teddy bear-like stuffed animal acting cute with its stupid baby talk and stupid singing. Stripe was cool, though.

Yet, years later as I watch it again, I find a new appreciation because of how dark the film is. While there isn't blood (this is marketed as family film, after all), there is plenty of gremlin grue. There are deaths by microwave, stabbings and more (including a dog strung up with Christmas lights and a scene where a gremlin shoots at the protagonists in a bar — happy holidays!), so much so I have to wonder if this would get a PG-13 rating now. Regardless, for a family promoted film, Gremlins definitely delivers the goods for young budding horror fans.

Gremlins really is one of those films that has something for everyone of all ages. It's not scary per se, but it is definitely dark enough to have earned the label horror-comedy. It holds up incredibly well and can safely be introduced to a new generation of fans. If you are like me and saw it when it first came out, the film offers both a trip down memory lane and the new experience of 'whoa, was it always this mean?'.

Video and Audio:

While by no means horrible Gremlins picture does leave a bit to be desired. The colors don't pop like they should, and blacks are merely adequate. In addition, there's an overall softness to the picture that is a bit surprising. The daylight scenes did fare rather well, and if the entire movie looked as good as those, it would have been impressive. Gremlins did extremely well and is quite a popular movie so I would have expected a little more cleanup, especially for a "25th Anniversary Edition".

The Dolby True HD 5.1 audio fairs better, fortunately, with a good amount of use from the surrounds. I would have liked a little more from the bass, though.

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Special Features:

  • Over 10 Minutes of Additional Scenes
  • Making-of Featurette
  • Commentary with Director Joe Dante, Phoebe Cates, Zach Galligan, Dick Miller and Howie Mandall
  • Commentary with Director Joe Dante, Producer Michael Finnell and Special Effects Artist Chris Walas
  • Photo/Storyboard Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailers

Again, for a "25th Anniversary Edition", the disc is a little light on features. However, I have give props to the commentaries, as both are well worth a listen.

The commentary with Joe Dante, Michael Finnell is Chris Walas is absolutely fantastic as they do not bother wasting much time on how great it was to work with an actor or give a blow-by-blow account of what's happening on screen as you see far too often in commentaries. Instead, they discuss a wide range of topics concerning the film, including the problems working with the puppet and how changes they had to make from script to screen (and holy cow is that script leagues meaner than what the film ended up being). It's very informative without being technical and is one of the best commentaries I've heard in long while.

The second commentary with Dante and stars Phoebe Cates, Zach Galligan, Dick Miller and Howie Mandall serves as a trip down memory lane for the group. While I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as the other, it is still well worth a listen.

The making-of featurette only runs about six minutes and doesn't offer much in the form of making-of due to its short running time. However, it's not a complete waste as there is some footage of people working on the set, as well as interviews with Dante, producer Stephen Spielberg and actor Hoyt Axton from 1983.

Rounding it out are some additional scenes, photo gallery and some trailers for Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch.

Grades:

 
Movie: Fourstars Gremlins Blu Ray Amazon Us
Video: Twoandahalfstars
Audio: Threeandahalfstars
Features: Threestars
Overall: Threeandahalfstars

 

 

About The Author
AR2
Author: Steve Pattee
Administrator, US Editor
He's the puppet master. You don't see him, but he pulls the strings that gets things done. He's the silent partner. He's black ops. If you notice his presence, it's the last thing you'll notice — because now you're dead. He's the shadow you thought you saw in that dark alleyway. You can have a conversation with him, and when you turn around to offer him a cup of coffee, he's already gone.
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