Reviewed Apr 15, 2012
Steve Tothill’s review:
Watched this film a lot when I was young, yet unlike Ghostbusters which was released around the same time it'd been a good ten years or so since I gave the little green monsters my full attention. The dark humour was the most familiar, the mother's fight in the kitchen, part creepy with great use of that Bing Crosby song and part mischievously fun as she dispatches her foes in domestically inventive ways. The balance is masterful, one minute i'm on the edge of my seat as she approaches a wriggling Christmas stocking, the next laughing as she's attacked by her Christmas tree. The film uses Christmas iconography practically at every step, yet somehow it walks a line between being cliche, moments like the roaring log fire ablaze with a recently decapitated gremlin head so playfully subtle yet wonderfully powerful. Then you have Kate's tragic story about her father, just heartbreaking.
The puppetry, however, completely took me by surprise this time around. The scene in the bar, as Kate tries to survive by serving a constant supply of beer and peanuts, goes on longer than the narrative requires but you get as caught up in it as the film makers. Whether Joe Dante was trying to play on the fears of small town America with all those black stereotypes or the comedy was 'just of it's time', I must confess to never having given it much thought before. All those dark sunglasses, breakdancing and fried chicken eating stick out like a sore thumb now though. Pushing that aside, the characterisation of Stripe as the leader sat gambling with his hideous gangster moll by his side is joyous. And the stop motion scene of hundreds of gremlins charging forward from the darkness can't help but make you pine for the old days.
I never really understood why there were so many scenes of the inventor father making his way back from a convention, they sort of work as a calm juxtaposition to the chaos erupting back home but certainly fail to bring any additional laughs. That's about as critical as I can get with this one, magical Christmas anarchy that is as thrilling as it has ever been.