There's a good reason to have conflicting emotions about the 1984 film Gremlins. It is a wonderfully entertaining film, but also one that is equal parts adorable, scary and silly.
A brief recap, as it has been nearly 30 years since its release: In search of a Christmas present for his grown son, a father finds an odd but alluring gift in a Chinatown antique store—a fuzzy, curious little creature with a pig nose and enormous ears. It is called Mogwai, and is handed over with a few simple rules of care. Don't feed after midnight. Don't get wet. And no bright light.
Of course, these care instructions are quickly forgotten and cute little Mogwai spawns an army of evil cousins—scary reptilian things called Gremlins. They loot, kill and wreak havoc in the suburban town. But all tempered with lighthearted hijinks—like when the menacing, murderous monsters guzzle booze and play poker.
Really, Gremlins wasn't that scary, meant more for the titillation of teenagers than as a no-nonsense horror flick. Gremlins, like The Goonies, which was released a year later (and also with Steven Spielberg as the executive producer), represented a new kind of grey area for Hollywood—a mash-up between graphic scariness and lighthearted teen amusement (like Gremlins getting drunk and trashing a barroom).
These vaguely scary, mostly fun-loving, chuckle-inducing campy movies—add Ghostbusters, which was released the very same day as Gremlins, to this list—represented a new film genre, a sort of Venn diagram of horror and humor, with the overlap carving out an entire industry (i.e., Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Joss Whedon's brilliant 2012 film The Cabin in the Woods).
And that was a hitch: When Gremlins was released, it presented a problem for the Motion Picture Association of America, that rates movies for their age-appropriateness. First released as PG, Gremlins was a breakout commercial success (second only to Ghostbusters in the box office on its first weekend), but a chorus of complaints quickly arose claiming that the film was a bit too bloody and violent to be a strictly kids movie; in particular, detractors pointed to one scene where a Gremlin is microwaved into a bloody explosion. In response, the Motion Pictures Association of America created PG-13, an in-between rating that recognized the content was softer than what is in R-rated movies, but also warned that the films probably would scare the piss out of younger kids. On July 1, 1984, the new PG-13 rating debuted; Red Dawn was the first film to be labeled PG-13 and, two months after its release, Gremlins also accepted the new rating.
No matter your age, come revisit the old favorite and celebrate the scary and sweet with us during a pre-Halloween screening of this monumental film.
8 pm Wednesday, Oct. 30
Old Stone, 157 NW Franklin Ave.
Free entry, 10 Barrel beer available for cost