BLU-RAY REVIEW: GREMLINS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JOE DANTE / SCREENPLAY: CHRIS COLUMBUS / SCREENPLAY: ZACH GALLIGAN, PHOEBE CATES, HOYT AXTON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
After 30 years of referential mayhem, mischief and dining after midnight, by now we think it’s unlikely you need a full rundown on why Joe Dante’s Gremlins is so great. Straddling the line between comedy and horror beautifully, Dante’s creature feature is the defining film of a subgenre that expanded in the '80s with the likes of Critters and Munchies. The film's 3 golden rules of Mogwai care have almost become as iconic as the “don’t cross the streams” warning in Ghostbusters. Gremlins is a subversive mini-Christmas classic, and with that said, as we approach the holiday season, Gizmo and his slimy counterparts are back in high definition.
Gremlins for all its gross-out or anarchic comic skulduggery, is a lingering festive favourite and proof that, alongside Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, mainstream cinema in 1984 was pretty great. Sure the special effects have aged a tad and the horror elements may not chill you to the bone as much as they might have back when you believed in Santa (although we attest he is real- right kids?), but Gremlins looks good in HD. The decent picture transfer amplifies the details of Chris Walas’ creatures and the facial movements now look all the more impressive all these years later - after all, Gizmo has not remained in audiences hearts this long for no reason.
The film’s bright Capra-esque Christmas setting meets crazed, tongue-in-cheek monster mayhem and the visuals look better whenever brighter colours are involved in the fray. True, it is not the prettiest picture on the format, but nor is it a bad presentation of a 30 year old film, in fact it’s pretty darn good at times. Still, the real winner from this heightened upgrade is the playful score by Jerry Goldsmith, which cheerfully skips over your speakers like Stripe on a sugar rush. Even after all this time, there is still something to be said on hearing that main theme joyfully jingle aloud in your living room, alongside the creatures' maniacal cackling.
After various releases over the years, fans have likely waited for a definitive release of Gremlins, and while it would have been nice to have the less revered but still rather underappreciated lighter 1990 sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch in on the deal, this 2-disc release boasts a good array of special features. From commentaries with the cast (Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates and Howie Mandel) and crew (Dante, producer Michael Finnell and SFX artist Chris Walas) to a concise 6-minute behind the scenes featurette, most of the major voices have weighed in to discuss the film. As well as this, there’s a "Creating the Creatures" feature (with the film's writer Chris Columbus and executive producer Steven Spielberg among many others speaking on the evolution of the creatures’ appearance), a “Hangin’ with Hoyt” featurette (essentially a short extra that shows the on-set wisecracking of the film’s star Hoyt Axton), and a documentary on the film’s making. Also, you get two digital comics and some trailers thrown in, too.
So while this Blu-ray release is hardly fit to burst, it is likely the most efficient release of the film yet. People well-versed in the creation and production of the film may not be too shocked by anything added, but the new material rounds off the set nicely. In the end, Gremlins is a minor classic that offers not only an astute parody of mass-marketing Christmas culture but a rebellious festive flick that (alongside the likes of Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, and Batman Returns) is still the perfect treat for those audiences ba-humbugged by the clichés and sentimentality of the world's most relentlessly cheery holiday. Still, you already knew that and even if this set does not stand as “the definitive” version of Dante’s enduring film (there is certainly a chance we’ll see a bigger release in the future), it is a nice addition to your movie collection and a perfect introduction to a movie that, like The Goonies, is fondly held in high esteem in the halls of '80s cinema history. Just don't get the disc wet...
Special Features: Filmmakers' commentary / Cast commentary / Four featurettes / Additional scenes / Photo Gallery / Trailers / Two motion comics