Directed by Joe Dante
Saturday, December 15, at BAM, part of its Home for the Holidays series
Three decades and four presidents later, Gremlins still offers a rich feast of holiday camp. This Reagan-era nightmare finds idyllic Kingston Falls, NY, under siege from enemies both foreign and domestic. Hatched in a Chinatown trinket store and recognized by the town's alcoholic veteran (Dick Miller) as the same beasts secretly deployed against US pilots in WWII, the gremlins are classic Cold War invaders. But with their insatiable appetites—for junk food, booze and mayhem—they're also models of bad citizenship and out-of-control adolescence. Watching them trash the local dive, dispatch Mrs. Deagle (Polly Holliday)—the local Scrooge, as a conspicuous It's a Wonderful Life excerpt underlines—and take down Santa provokes the giddiness of teenage transgression.
The town's saviors use the tools of wholesome Americana to restore order. Shy guy Billy (Zach Galligan) opts for a baseball bat, while the E.T./Ewok/teddy bear hybrid Gizmo pilots a toy car. Even Billy's mother (Frances Lee McCain) notches a few kills by weaponizing her kitchen appliances, and romantic interest Kate (Phoebe Cates) turns her Polaroid against the light-hating monsters in an extended Rear Window reference. The bacchanalia of destruction reaches its climax as the gremlin horde sings along to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves before clawing through the cinema's screen as if coming at the viewer. Aside from such sequences' lack of 3D, Gremlins remains as current a piece of pop satire—albeit a staunchly centrist one—as it was when it first tore through US screens.