Great Christmas Movies: Gremlins

Is it a horror? Is it a comedy? Is it even a Christmas movie? Gremlins ticks all the boxes, reckons Simon

Don't feed 'em after midnight...

“Now I have another reason to hate Christmas”, says Phoebe Cates’ Kate at the start of one of the most memorable monologues in any Christmas movie ever. It ends with the line “And that’s how I found out there was no Santa Claus”, and we’ve reprinted the whole thing down at the bottom there.

The woman never delivered a better speech in her entire career, even when accepting her Geeks of a Certain Age prize from Den of Geek. And that’s saying something.

Gremlins, of course, is a Christmas movie more in the sense of Batman Returns or Die Hard, in that Yuletide is happening around the action, rather than it sitting at the core of it (although it’s used as the mechanic for the gremlin to be introduced in the first place). But for us, it’s still a festive film.

Arriving in 1984, it introduced the world for the first time to Gizmo, the cute ball of fur who you don’t want to get wet, don’t want to expose to bright light and don’t want to feed after midnight. But perhaps I speak for a crueller subset of the Gremlins audience when I declare my allegiance with the terrific Stripe, the leader of the less civil army of Gremlins that descend upon Kingston Falls by the end of the film.

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At its heart, Gremlins is a horror film – and indeed, it picked up horror awards – but for many, it’s a comedy. It’s certainly one of the funniest horror films of the past few decades, with the mischievous guidance of the hugely underappreciated Joe Dante behind the camera, who never misses an opportunity for a guffaw. Blessed with a cast that included Zach Galligan, the aforementioned Cates and even Corey Feldman, it’s a superb film, followed by a quality sequel (that went more for laughs than horror), and deserves being dug out for a festive spin.

For this writer, though, the scariest moment of Gremlins was the day I bought my wife a Gizmo Furby. Remember Furbys? Those crappy little toys that brought with them the virtual pet craze? Well, I remember this Furby. Especially when its voice chip malfunctioned and it started blurting out evil-sounding babble in a decidedly different tone of voice to the one it was using before the electronics started playing up. Scared? We had to install a new toilet.

Anyway, back to Gremlins, which we induct into our Great Christmas Movies Hall of Fame. And to sign us off, over to Phoebe Cates, to tell us why she doesn’t like Santa Claus…

“The worst thing that ever happened to me was on Christmas. Oh, God. It was so horrible. It was Christmas Eve. I was nine years old. Me and Mom were decorating the tree, waiting for Dad to come home from work. A couple hours went by. Dad wasn’t home. So Mom called the office. No answer. Christmas Day came and went, and still nothing. So the police began a search. Four or five days went by. Neither one of us could eat or sleep. Everything was falling apart. It was snowing outside. The house was freezing, so I went to try to light up the fire. That’s when I noticed the smell. The firemen came and broke through the chimney top. And me and Mom were expecting them to pull out a dead cat or a bird. And instead they pulled out my father. He was dressed in a Santa Claus suit. He’d been climbing down the chimney… his arms loaded with presents. He was gonna surprise us. He slipped and broke his neck. He died instantly. And that’s how I found out there was no Santa Claus.”

Merry Christmas!