TO­TAL RE­CALL

SFX - - Contents - Richard Ed­wards, Edi­tor

Rich would like you to re­mem­ber: a Grem­lin is not just for Christ­mas.

Ac­cord­ing to Bruce Wil­lis, “Die Hard is not a Christ­mas movie.” Sorry, but I’m go­ing to have to dis­agree with you there, Bruce – it’s set dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son, John McClane trav­el­ling home for Christ­mas is key to the plot, and now he has a ma­chine gun: “Ho ho ho”. Okay, Hans Gru­ber and his cronies don’t go round singing car­ols on a crazed mulled wine binge, but Christ­mas runs through Nakatomi Plaza like sage and onion through a turkey. The same can be said of Grem­lins. Like Die Hard, Joe Dante’s an­ar­chic com­edy-hor­ror was re­leased in the sum­mer months and does lit­tle to cel­e­brate peace on Earth and good will to all men. Yet it over­flows with Christ­mas spirit. The crea­ture that starts all the car­nage, the im­plau­si­bly en­dear­ing Mog­wai, is a gift; the most Christ­massy movie of them all, It’s A Won­der­ful Life, plays through­out (Kingston Falls is a bla­tant nod to Bed­ford Falls in Frank Capra’s clas­sic); and the most emo­tional scene comes when Phoebe Cates’ Kate re­veals why she hates Christ­mas.

It turns out her dad broke his neck when climb­ing down the chim­ney im­per­son­at­ing Santa Claus – and his body wasn’t found for weeks. Warner Bros ex­ec­u­tives were scep­ti­cal about the scene, but di­rec­tor Dante fought to keep it in. “To me it en­cap­su­lated the whole tone of the movie,” he said. “This is a story that sounds funny if some­one else tells it, but if it hap­pened to you it wouldn’t be funny at all.”

That mix of dark­ness and com­edy is why Grem­lins has al­ways been my favourite Christ­mas movie – it fea­tures menace, but never gets too nasty. It’s fam­ily-friendly hor­ror, scares through the fil­ter of ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Steven Spiel­berg, and it’s sig­nif­i­cantly toned down from fu­ture Harry Pot­ter di­rec­tor Chris Colum­bus’s script drafts. But even with­out the head of the hero’s mum bounc­ing down the stairs and Grem­lins eat­ing the cus­tomers in McDon­ald’s, Grem­lins ex­ists on the more ex­treme end of the Am­blin spec­trum, like ET’s naughty cousin.

And there are few cine­matic bo­gey­men more mem­o­rable than the Grem­lins them­selves. They hog all the best mo­ments, whether it’s hav­ing a close en­counter with a mi­crowave, be­com­ing the stuff of bar staff night­mares, or in­dulging in a mass singalong to Snow White. In another film they’d prob­a­bly be gen­uinely sadis­tic, blood­thirsty ma­ni­acs but in Dante’s hands they’re just mis­chievous, high-spir­ited chil­dren – al­beit with a few psy­chotic ten­den­cies. A Grem­lin or a kid on Christ­mas morn­ing? I chal­lenge you to tell the dif­fer­ence...

Don’t ex­pose Rich to sun­light or wa­ter, and never feed him af­ter mid­night.

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