Never feed Bonnie Burton after midnight...
When you own a pet you want to spoil them. But some pets need to be kept in their place. Ignore a few simple rules and your cuddly buddies shed their fur and become scaly sinister minions of mayhem.
There’s a new 30th anniversary Blu- ray edition of Gremlins out. I’ve been able to relive every exciting scene – from the moment Gizmo is bought at a mysterious antique store in Chinatown to when he gets that first glass of water accidentally spilled on him to the horrible aftermath – and I couldn’t be happier. When I first saw Gremlins in the cinema I was 12 years- old and after ET, I expected producer Steven Spielberg to put out another kids’ movie. I was wrong ( turns out it’s horror with heavy- drinking reptilian troublemakers who try to blow up a town) but of course, I was hooked.
That’s what was great about the ’ 80s. A kid could watch a movie that seemed initially harmless – Ghostbusters, Temple Of Doom or even The Dark Crystal – and walk away with nightmarish scenes – that skinless taxi driver, Mola Ram’s evil antics, and the life- draining Skeksis birds – stuck in their tiny skulls forever.
Gremlins is part of that rich tapestry of terror that I now carry around as a grown- up fan of horror films. That head- canon is the reason I like to be scared at the movies, to release all that pentup real- life stress. It’s like riding a rollercoaster without worrying about ending up with a herniated disc. It’s an adrenaline rush with popcorn.
Nowadays, kids are too sheltered. If Gremlins were to be released today, it might be slapped with an R rating in the United States because of silly little things like the gremlins getting drunk in a bar and, oh, trying to kill all the townsfolk. Spielberg himself suggested to the MPAA that all future movies like Gremlins get a PG- 13 rating to keep younger viewers pure. But the original script, penned by Harry Potter director Chris Columbus, was meant to be even darker: Billy’s dog would have been devoured, and his mom decapitated. Imagine that image stuck in your juvenile psyche.
The bar scene was bad enough for me. Dorry’s Tavern, overrun with gremlins drinking, brawling, gambling, dancing and even flashing each other, taught me that all bars were this rowdy. It was only when I visited a hostelry as an adult that I realised ( most) patrons don’t bash pint glasses on each other’s heads and dance on the bar.
But you know what? I didn’t only take the negatives on board. Gremlins’ heart was, somewhere in there, pure. Billy ( Zach Galligan) is relatable, coming from a middle class family
I’d love to see those crazy critters back on the big screen
who are finding it hard to make ends meet. Love interest Kate ( Phoebe Cates) has her own troubles, including a dad who – in an equally disturbing and hilarious story – accidentally died while playing Santa. They’re just trying to make their way in a small town occupied by a bunch of small minds. The gremlins help them realise their affection for each other. And because the movie takes place during Christmas, it’s somehow less horror and more holiday classic. Gremlins hide in the Christmas tree and use it to attack Billy’s mother. The little monsters even join in the holiday spirit by carolling. Well, screeching. But at least they tried. And gremlins using a snow plough to kill humans is festive, right? Right. It’s heartwarming.
While the sequel never lived up to the original, there’s already talk of a Gremlins remake from Warner Bros. A lack of animatronics would probably remove some of the charm, but to be honest, I’d love to see those crazy critters back on the big screen again. I can only imagine what kind of trouble they could get into with today’s technology. And let’s make it Christmas again. But remember: a gremlin is for life… Bonnie still visits every mysterious antique store she can find. No mogwai yet.
O ur columnist Bonnie Burton, a San Franciscobased author, has written a number of books including her latest – The Star Wars Craft Book. B onnie appears on the massive “Geek & Sundry” and “Stan Lee’s World Of Heroes” YouTube channels. M ore of her writing can be found at www. grrl. com.