A boy inadvertently breaks three important rules concerning his new pet and unleashes a horde of malevolently mischievous monsters on a small town.

It’s a tale as old as time. A boy fails to follow the rules, chaos ensues.

Billy (Zach Galligan) gets an unusual Christmas gift from his hapless inventor father Rand (Hoyt Axton): a mogwai. Mogwai are big-eared, big-eyed creature clearly designed to elicit a cute response. But “With Mogwai comes great responsibility” says the shopkeeper (Keye Luke). It comes with rules: Keep it out of the light (sunlight will kill it. Consider that the Chekhov’s gun here), never feed it after midnight, never get it wet.

Predictably, we learn that these rules are serious by their breaking almost immediately.

It is never explained where the mogwai come from, and the worldbuilding doesn’t need it. Explain only what is necessary to the story, overexplaining just raises complications and pitfalls. A lesson the Star Wars prequels could have learned from.

Gremlins also benefits from the wonderful juxtaposition of horror and humor. Not only the cuteness of Gizmo the mogwai, but Billy’s family react with humor to their tough situation.

And a word needs to be said about the puppets. No CGI here, Gizmo and the gremlins are all puppeteered expertly, and have more character and humanity than the entire Lion King reboot.

So as you can imagine, Gizmo gets wet. The strange thing is, this causes the mogwai to reproduce, asexually budding like fuzzy little yeasts. Tribble-like they multiply. But the new ones aren’t as sweet-tempered as Gizmo (especially the one with a mohawk called Stripe). They are mischievous. Rand sees this as a get-rich opportunity. What kid wouldn’t want a pet mogwai?

But there was a third rule. Remember, these things always come in threes. Never feed a mogwai after midnight. Of course the naughty mogwai kids get into some food after midnight and we find out what that does.

Suddenly the fed mogwai transform into the far-less cuddly “gremlins,” the titular characters of the film, and as gremlins they are more troublemakers and in some cases downright mean. And they have no compunction about reproducing even meaner gremlins to join their monstrous army. The rest of the movie is Billy and companions trying to defeat them as they try to take over the town.

And hey, remember when Corey Feldman was a kid?

Gremlins holds up as a comedy horror film, and has the distinction of having one of the best sequels of the genre. Curl up by the fire and watch this for the holidays.


Runtime: 1 hr 23 Mins.
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