Gremlins, dir. Joe Dante, wr. Chris Columbus, st. Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Polly Holliday
It's a sobering reminder revisiting this holiday classic to see just how nasty Dante's little critters are, and as progressive as movie-making has become in the thirty years since Gremlins, it's hard to imagine this kind of film packing out the movie theatres with families of all ages seeking out some Cinematic festive respite. Here in 2014, the multiplexes yuletide offerings are Paddington and The Hobbit, great films in their own right, but positively bloodless by comparison. And apart from all the death, this is a Spielberg move through and through. Inventor Randall Peltzer (Axton) happens across a cute pre-Gremlin Mogwai ("monster" in Cantonese, linguists) in an old antiques shop in Chinatown - the perfect gift for his son Billy (Galligan). The Mogwai comes with three cardinal rules however, that warn against the triple threat of bright light, water proximity, and post-midnight feeding. Inevitably the rules are broken, the Gremlins are birthed, and Zach's town of Kingston Falls (aesthetically twinned with Hill Valley) becomes the little devils' playground. There's heaps of nostalgic fun to be found here: Chris Walas' (whose Brundlefly was set to gloriously disgust movie-goers two years later in David Cronenberg's The Fly) creature designs are alternately cute and creepy, Hollywood veteran Jerry Goldsmith's score bubbles exuberantly along with lashings of impish mischief, and most importantly, director Dante summons the same kind of abandoned spirit of adventure he later conjured for Explorers in 1985, and Innerspace two years after that. Like all fairytales though, it's the darkest ones inspire the most, and Gremlins remains the perfect antidote to traditional movie-sweetness toothlessness.