Good old-fashioned holiday horror

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Animatronic Gizmo from the film “Gremlins” on display at Planet Hollywood in Downtown Disney. Photo Credit/Jordan Rae Lucas

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The Steven Spielberg-produced and Joe Dante-directed film “Gremlins” is an unconventional Christmas movie. So unconventional, in fact, that most people do not realize it is meant to be a Christmas movie at all.

The film revolves around an early Christmas gift from inventor Rand Peltzer to his son, Billy. The chaos that ensues plants this movie more in the horror category than in the feel-good holiday film category.

The gift in question is a strange, furry little creature that Rand buys from an old man in Chinatown. The family decides to call the creature Gizmo. Gizmo is white and brown with great big ears, a button nose and a penchant for singing. He is just about the most adorable little guy to ever grace a movie screen—until he gets wet.

Gizmo is a mogwai and when mogwai get wet, they multiply by shooting balls of fur out of their bodies. Gizmo’s offspring are cute but much more mischievous than their maker. Billy makes the mistake of feeding the mogwai after midnight and they go from cuddly pets to reptilian murderers.

Once the mogwai transform into gremlins they become incredibly violent, sucking the little bit of Christmas cheer out of the science fiction thriller. The film, which was given a PG rating when it was released in 1984, contains such intense scenes of violence that it is widely credited with inspiring the need for a PG-13 rating.

There is one scene in particular where one gremlin shoves another into a running blender. That gave me nightmares for weeks when I was 10-
years-old and saw the movie for the first time.

While this movie can still be a fun cinematic adventure for families with older children, I really would not recommend it to anyone under the age of 12. Not only is the overall plot of the film too scary for young or sensitive audiences, there are a couple of subplots that contain dark subject matter as well.

One subplot involved a girl whose father died in the chimney on Christmas Eve while pretending to be Santa Claus only to be found days later. While the story itself is upsetting enough, the film uses it to break the cardinal rule of Christmas movies by explicitly stating that Santa is not real.

In the event that any children are reading this column, it is the opinion of The Preface that Santa Claus is alive and well and very real.

“Gremlins” is an entertaining movie with an original story and some really innovative practical special effects, but I definitely will not be
adding it to my list of must-watch holiday films.

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