This holiday season, we at Psycho Drive-In would like to introduce you to the good, the bad, and ugly of not just any Holiday Films, but the Holiday Films you may have forgotten, overlooked, or just didn’t realize were Holiday Films. There’s no Rankin-Bass, no Miracles on any streets, no traditional happy family gathering fare. Instead there’s a lot of blood, violence, some terrorists, monsters, and even aliens. Plus more than a couple of bizarre Anti-Santas to go around. Twelve days, twelve films, twelve opportunities to amuse and disturb your families this holiday season. On the Second Day of Christmas, Sean Reid gives to you, Gremlins (1984). Steven Spielberg ruined my Christmas in 1984. To explain why, let me rewind a bit further. One of my uncles was the harbinger of what was “cool.” He got me started on comic books, superheroes, Ritchie Blackmore, Major Matt Mason and a myriad other things that still resonate decades later. As a general rule, if Lou was into it, it must be awesome. I ran anything I found interesting by him. If he thought it was cool, then I knew it was cool. In hindsight, I suspect that he was both cool and very good at humoring 8 year olds. I’m pretty sure my adventures with wearing Under-Roos outside my clothes wasn’t really cool. When I was about three years old Lou took me to a meet-and-greet with the Incredible Hulk at a local mall. I was stoked! The Hulk was HUGE (no pun intended) to my generation. Unfortunately, costuming was a bit rough back in the early 80s. The Hulk wasn’t so much “incredible” as he was “dude in a really bad character suit” that I’m still not entirely sure was a Marvel approved. Like most kids that age, the “man-in-suit” triggered something in my barely developed amygdala that sent me into panic mode. Actually, check that, it wasn’t “panic mode” so much as it was full blown “freak-the-hell-out” mode, leaving Lou to pick up the pieces. Fast forward to 1984 and, once again, Lou had graciously volunteered to take me to see the movie Gremlins. I don’t know how or why I got it in my head that I wanted to see the movie, but I knew that I did. And, I knew that if I was going to see it then it would be with Uncle Lou. I lost my mind right about the time Billy’s science teacher, Mr. Hanson, lost his hand. It was “freak-the-hell-out” all over again. I don’t remember what movie tickets cost back then, but I hope they weren’t much. Lou surely didn’t get his money’s worth and I got more than bargained for. Which brings me to how Spielberg ruined Christmas. Gremlins was a summer release, but the story takes place during Christmas. Gizmo, whose adorable little face was the siren call that enticed me to my doom, was a Christmas present gone horribly wrong. In hindsight, the movie is a really enjoyable dark comedy juxtaposing cartoonish violence with the stereotypically sleepy little all-American town of Kingston Falls. At the time, the clever send-up of technology and consumerism was totally lost on me. Instead, all I remembered was being scared witless every time the song Do You Hear What I Hear? played on the radio. That song haunted me for decades after I saw Gremlins (and keep in mind, I didn’t see much of the movie). I was well into my 20s before I was able to sit down and watch the movie in its entirety. Even then, I couldn’t quite shake the fear that Stripe was somehow creeping about just out of site. In my defense, the movie was rated PG. Or, in my case, ULG, Uncle Lou Guidance. It was the same rating as Flash Gordon, which was the last movie I saw with Lou, and a movie that I loved (it introduced me to the band Queen!). By second grade I had a series of PG movies under my belt to prove – at least by my estimation – that I was more than mature enough to handle anything the cinema could throw my way. Until Gremlins came along. Two months after Gremlins was released the MPAA introduced the PG-13 rating. I take a small amount of vindication from that decision, if only because it meant that I wasn’t the only kid to experience a “freak-the-hell-out” panic. Incidentally, Red Dawn was apparently the first film to officially receive the new rating, which meant I wouldn’t see that movie until it was released on television. Therefore, I blame Gremlins for causing me to miss out on my chance to experience that film in full cinematic glory during its initial release. Prior to the release of Gremlins, the mythological creatures were usually limited to wartime propaganda or science fiction. Gremlin mythology is said to have started with pilots in the British Royal Air Force (RAF). The word “gremlin” became a way to explain the unexplainable with regards to mechanical failure on an airplane. Roald Dahl, who was a former RAF pilot, is often credited with bringing the stories of gremlins to the world at large via his children’s book The Gremlins. Dahl’s gremlins eventually found their way into animation. Gremlins became featured characters in few Disney and Warner Brothers cartoons during World War II, notably Russian Rhapsody. Russian Rhapsody was produced by Warner Brothers and starred a group of Soviet gremlins who sabotaged German fighter planes. The short was part of Warner Brothers Merrie Melodies and included the song “Gremlins from the Kremlin,” which is like a twisted version of “Heigh Ho” (as sung by the Seven Dwarves) sung to tune of popular Russian songs of the time. There was also a Twilight Zone episode, based on a Richard Matheson short, titled Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. The episode tells the story of Bob Wilson (played by William Shatner) and his attempts to warn his fellow passengers about a gremlin who sabotaging the airplane in which they’re all flying. Gremlins took the gremlins out of the sky and brought the evil little bastards directly into our homes. Christopher Columbus (writer), Joe Dante (director) and Steven Spielberg started with It’s a Wonderful Life and introduced a nightmare. Columbus’ original treatment for the film was actually much darker than the final product. It was Spielberg and Dante, though primarily Dante, who removed some of the more violent scenes and balanced out the comedy and horror aspects. In hindsight, this might be one of the few redeeming things that Spielberg did on his way to ruining Christmas for thousands of children. In speaking with friends about the movie most of them all conceded that Spike and Co. scared them to death. We didn’t catch on to the messages about consumerism or the warning about the increasing role of technology in our daily lives. What we did understand was that a fuzzy little teddy bear can turn into a psychopathic killing machine if you don’t properly secure your Christmas leftovers. And, most likely, they were under your bed, in your closet, and responsible for all of those strange noises you heard when you were trying to get to sleep. I can’t even begin to imagine the psychological damage caused by a version that included a dead pet and decapitated parent. Gremlins would go on to spawn a sequel, as well as a number of imitators. Ghoulies and Critters are perhaps the most obvious successors, in spite of being filmed before Gremlins was released. It also spawned a few video games (yay for 8-bit simulated violence?) and, most important to me, a breakfast cereal. In spite of my fear of gremlins, I was a sucker for themed breakfast cereals. Particularly if they came with a prize. I had the same experience with the cereal as I did with the movie. Part of the way into my first bowl I realized I had made a huge mistake and wanted out. I recall it being like Captain Crunch, but more likely to cut the insides of your mouth. Unfortunately, my parents weren’t nearly as forgiving as my uncle, so there was no bailing on the cereal halfway through. After my experiences with all things gremlin, I think it’s amazing that I ever watched anything that Spielberg produced afterwards. I like to think that Columbus and Spielberg released Goonies as a mea culpa for scaring the hell out of an entire generation. Apparently there’s no amount of childhood trauma that can’t be erased by a good Truffle Shuffle. As an aside, the voice of Stripe was performed by the amazing Frank Welker, or, as I prefer to think of him, Megatron. Thankfully, I didn’t know anything about voice actors when I was a kid. Otherwise, Megatron would have been even more frightening. For most of my life I argued that I didn’t get really scared at Gremlins. Instead, I claimed that Lou told me that there were gremlins under my chair in the theater and then I got scared. Looking back, I have to admit that I was more of a victim of my imagination than anything else. It’s much more likely that I simply tried to come up with a marginally less embarrassing explanation rather than simply admitting that Gremlins scared the shit out of me. That being the case, let me make this my official apology; Uncle Lou, I’m sorry. You had nothing to do with my freakout. That movie just scared the shit out of me. And Steven Spielberg ruined Christmas. See larger image Gremlins [Blu-ray] New From: $4.95 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.