The following review is written by Ultimate Rabbit Correspondent Tony Farinella.
“Gremlins” came out a year before I was born, but the true test of any good to great movie is how it holds up, regardless of how old it is. While watching this 1984 classic for the first time in what feels like ages, it does show its age in some respects. However, there is something rather charming about the 80’s comedy/horror film that still holds true to this day. The film is rated PG, although if it were released today, I would imagine it would get a PG-13 rating. There is nothing overly graphic about it, but it’s partially a children’s horror/comedy and partially a young adult horror/comedy. Oddly enough, the PG-13 rating was put into place two months after this film, according to research.
Everything gets set into motion when a quirky and outside-the-box inventor named Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) wants to buy something special for his son on Christmas. He happens to come across a very special creature known as a Mogwai. The man in charge of the antique shop does not want to sell it, but his grandson does a side deal with Randall in order to get some much-needed money. He tells the man to remember three things: Don’t get it wet, don’t expose it to the sun, and don’t feed it after midnight. Randall thinks this sounds simple enough and proceeds to take the Mogwai home to give to his son Billy for Christmas.
All is fine and dandy with the Mogwai, which ends up being named Gizmo, until one night it gets wet. They learn that this creates even more Mogwais in the process. Things turn even worse when Billy (Zach Galligan) feeds them accidentally after midnight. Now, Gizmo is one of the good ones. He is adorable and harmless. The rest of them, however, turn evil and create mayhem and mischief at every corner. It is up to Billy and the girl he likes, Katie (Phoebe Cates) to stop these gremlins from destroying everything in their path.
Considering all of the various films that came out in the 80’s that dealt with teenagers/young people in peril trying to figure things out, it’s easy to see why this film was such a success. We are seeing a lot of that with “It” and “Stranger Things.” What’s old is new again. People hold a certain affinity for the 80’s and the films that came out during that period. They also like to see the young kids taking control of a situation. That is what happens here. It doesn’t take long for things to get out of hand.
“Gremlins” is a very fast-paced film directed by Joe Dante, and he mixes the comedy and horror together just right. The screenplay by Chris Columbus is also very well-written, and this helps the proceedings. It is not a scary film at all, but it is a film which knows what it is trying to accomplish for audiences. This is a film which is a lot of fun and over-the-top with its use of the various creatures inhabiting it. While they garner a lot of screen time, it is impossible not to notice the cast which also includes Judge Reinhold and Corey Feldman. It is also great to see a horror film where the parents actually believe the children instead of doubting them, and they are fighting alongside the children against these hideous creatures.
In the end, thirty-five years later, “Gremlins” does show some signs of aging, but as mentioned earlier, considering how people are gravitating toward the horror comedies of the 1980’s with young teens in peril, it works quite well in today’s cinematic world. With it being released on 4K, this is the perfect time to pick it up and add it to your collection. The transfer is a solid upgrade, and it’s the perfect movie to watch with Halloween fast approaching. While there is a lot going on here, it never feels overstuffed or overpopulated. It feels just right in terms of the pacing, the acting, and the outcome.
* * * ½ out of * * * *
Video Info: The 4K is released on 2160p Ultra High Definition 16×9 1.85:1, and the Blu-Ray is 1080p High Definition 16×9 1.85:1. While the 4K transfer is a solid improvement over the Blu-Ray, it’s not a huge improvement. The Blu-Ray is pretty basic and does not stand out all that much. It is still grainy in certain scenes, and they didn’t add anything new to the Blu-Ray. With the 4K, it adds more color with the high dynamic range. For those like myself who are really big into audio and video, you want to own the best version of this film. Again, it’s the same Blu-Ray that’s always been out there, but you are buying this for the 4K transfer.
Audio Info: I did not notice a huge difference in the audio on the 4K disc as much as I do with the video quality. However, there is still a slightly noticeable difference here with the audio on 4K, and this is what makes it an especially worthy purchase. The audio on the 4K is DTS-HD MA: English 5.1, Dolby Digital: French 5.1, Dolby Digital: Spanish 5.1 (Both Castilian 5.1 and Latin 2.0). The subtitles are in English, French, and Spanish. For the Blu-Ray, you get Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1, Dolby Digital: English 5.1, Dolby Digital: English 2.0, Dolby Digital: French 5.1, Dolby Digital: Spanish 5.1 (Both Castilian 5.1 and Latin 2.0). The subtitles are in English, Spanish, and French. There are no problems to report with the audio, and it is consistent throughout.
Filmmakers’ Commentary with Director Joe Dante, Producer Michael Finnell and Special Effects Artist Chris Walas: If you are looking for the behind the scenes commentary track on the filmmaking process, this is the special feature for you. They cover a lot of ground here, and it is especially interesting to hear from Chris Walas who would go on from here to win an Academy Award for Best Makeup on “The Fly.”
Commentary with Joe Dante, Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller, and Howie Mandel: If you are looking to hear from the actors and how they approached this project, this is the right commentary track to listen to as they tell some great stories. These commentary tracks are on both the 4K and the Blu-Ray. They are both worth listening to, as they offer something different.
Gremlins Behind-The-Scenes Featurette (06:21): This was put together when “Gremlins” was being shot, so it is not a modern special feature. It features interviews with Joe Dante, Hoyt Axton, Zach Galligan, Chris Walas, Phoebe Cates, and Steven Spielberg. Oddly enough, Spielberg did not consider it a horror film or a spoof when talking about it on this special feature from the 80’s. I wonder what he thinks of the film today. He said “Gremlins” was unlike anything he had read which was why he bought it and gave it to Dante to direct. It would have been great to see a more modern special feature which looked back on the film thirty-five years later.
Additional footage which includes an extended opening, an extension of Judge Reinhold’s character, and more with commentary by Joe Dante (10:26): Joe Dante talks about the editing process and how the original rough cut was two hours and forty minutes. He talks about why these scenes were deleted as some were repetitive. Other voices are heard on the commentary track, but they are not identified. I believe some of them are from the actors like Phoebe Cates and Zach Galligan. You can listen to this with or without commentary.
Should You Buy It?
While there are no new special features, “Gremlins” is a good addition to add to your collection if you own a 4K TV and 4K Blu-Ray player. The 4K transfer is an improvement, and the price is only $24.99. That said, it would have been nice to see some new special features as well as an updated Blu-Ray release to go with the 4K disc. If they had just put a little more time and effort into that, this release would have been a home run.