The 80s is a decade full of films wrongly misattributed as classics, in most cases their reputation boosted thanks to a childhood viewpoint. Gremlins is one of those films. Although it may be no masterpiece, Joe Dante’s 1984 alternative creature feature certainly brings enough the table to be an interesting watch.
What really boggles is the amount of referencing present; so much so Seth MacFarlane would blush. From an opening credits that proves to be a who’s who of eighties popular cinema, through subtle product placement, to an almost literal checklist of Spielberg’s back catalogue and beyond, each scene comes with many hidden delights. The deftness of touch is what really comes across here; it’s an enhanced viewing, not essential like contemporary pop culture references.
Sadly, while there’s a lot to discover in the background, what takes front and centre isn’t as engaging. The plot is rather basic and is really only there to be a jumping board for some chucklingly ridiculous set pieces. But while there’s fun to be found in a mother channelling Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween, there’s nothing holding the rampage segment together, making the stellar puppetry the primary draw.
There is much to marvel at here, with dark trappings that would make Tim Burton salivate and some inspired creature design, with a life cycle homaging to Alien. Of particular praise has to be Gizmo, the one cute Gremlin whose sheer lovableness whenever he appears on screen makes you forget all the film’s faults.
3/5 – Average