I hadn’t heard of this movie until I stumbled across it on a streaming platform, but apparently it has a cult following. It’s from about 20 years later than I initially thought, but I also thought it was played straighter. This is going for satire, not camp.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the grotesque deformity the accident that gave him his super powers came from is a specific take-that to all of the superheroes and villains that got their start from chemical or nuclear accidents and end up looking amazing, or at most with a cool scar on the face, completely unlike most things that suddenly and dramatically change a human body in reality.
I’m not sure if this is so much popular as memetic anymore. It’s still a go-to reference for “creepy and dangerous children”, but I think it’s more referencing other references than familiarity with the film anymore. At least, I haven’t heard of anyone actually watching it recently.
This spawned a ridiculous number of sequels. Yes, it’s a horror movie, but it’s a horror movie about a cult. Seems fairly self-contained.
Police Academy grew into a franchise of irreverent comedy, which I kind of have the same impression of as of Carry On, only with at least a cohesive theme. I think the third movie is the most popular, but this is where it started. If this one hadn’t done well, there wouldn’t be a III. As far as I know, there are still “Police Academy” movies being made, in the kind of sad way cheap movies get the “National Lampoon” name put on them.
So, here’s one of those 80s classics I missed. I know the rules of the gremlins, I’ve heard an argument that the change the gremlins undergo is a metaphor for puberty, but I really don’t know all that much about what’s actually in the movie.
Apparently it’s one of the things Spielberg was involved in at least to the point of having his name on it opened doors, but the fact that it’s written by Chris Columbus probably tells me a lot about what to expect.
After watching the movie:
Randall Peltzer, an inventor trying to sell his comically disappointing inventions, visits an antique shop in Chinatown to try to sell something or at least get his son a Christmas present. Finding an adorable furry creature the shopkeeper calls a “Mogwai”, Randall insists on buying it and is refused on the grounds that one is too much responsibility, but the shopkeeper’s grandson secretly sells it to him with the instructions to keep him away from bright light, never get him wet, and never feed him after midnight. Randall takes “Gizmo” home to his son Billy, who cares for him well, until a friend spills a glass of water on him and five new, more mischievous Mogwai spawn off Gizmo’s back. Not long after, the younger Mogwai trick Billy into feeding them late by stopping his clock, and they metamorphose into vicious monsters bent on killing anyone they see, wrecking the town, and generally having a lot of fun.
I never realized Billy would be so old. I expected a child protagonist, and Billy is in his late teens or early 20s, and moreover the principal breadwinner for his family through his job as a low-level peon at the bank thanks to his father being a full-time crackpot inventrepreneur. He is in fact, old enough to have a love interest subplot with his principal companion for the final act, though the nature of his relationship with Kate doesn’t really add much.
What’s really odd though is the inclusion Billy’s dog Barney. Barney is in a position to be a major player in the plot and he’s just kind of there, except for the large chunks of the movie when he’s not even present. I’d say Barney mainly exists for Mrs. Deagle to be awful about, but that doesn’t really go anywhere either. She complains about and makes threats toward Barney until she exits the movie as a casualty of the gremlins’ mayhem. I guess they wanted to show the gremlins kill someone, but really wanted it to be okay for that person to get killed. But it’s not even a kind of poetic justice, so establishing her as being vile enough to deserve to die could’ve been done in much less time.
Orientalism is never a value add, but it’s a fact of older movies. So I’m not exceptionally bothered by the way “they’re from China” explains these fantastical creatures or the stereotypes depicted in the shopkeeper Gizmo came from. What bothers me more is the guy in town who goes on rants about how “foreigners” started putting literal gremlins in our equipment as sabotage in WWII (a superstition that was probably mostly in jest) and are still doing it… for reasons. Which could just be giving voice to prejudice for the sake of local color and setting up another unlikeable victim, except the ending narration lends credence to the rants by specifically tying the Mogwai to those foreigner sabotage gremlins. Sure, the movie calls them gremlins by title and by dialogue, but without that narration, they could just be “mischievous creatures wrecking everything” without any connection to malice from foreign enemies.
A lot of horror movies have comic relief, and aside from the prop comedy of the failed inventions, the humor here is very low-key. It’s called a horror-comedy, but to me it’s just a horror with cute fuzzies. It seems a little confused throughout, but it’s probably just me not getting it.
Similar to how the Batman franchise spun off Catwoman, after three Christopher Reeve movies, the Superman franchise spun off Supergirl. However, while Catwoman was basically made because the next proper Batman movie was in development hell, my understanding is that Supergirl was a pure spinoff attempt riding on the success of Superman. While Catwoman is generally considered awful, it was followed by the acclaimed Dark Knight Trilogy, and I get the sense Supergirl is considered okay but forgettable, and it was followed by Superman IV.
I know exactly what to expect from the plot because this is the introductory movie of a superhero, which has been required to be the rote origin story for around 40 years, if not longer. As for a villain to slot in, I’m not sure what to expect, since I don’t know of Supergirl having any villains that are “hers”. I’m really not that familiar with her at all besides the basics of her relationship with Superman, so maybe I won’t have lore bogging down my enjoyment.
Even in the 80s, as the cold war thawed, open warfare between the US and Soviet Union seemed likely. However, apparently it seemed plausible that a Soviet invasion could be resisted by guerrilla teens, so fear of the red menace was probably eroding.
I’m finding it interesting to track depictions of the Enemy over the decades. I know the 90s had trouble giving up the Soviets as stock villains, but I haven’t previously noticed a shift in how Russia was treated before the breakup. It’s often just a looming shadow of calamity, like an anvil held over one’s head with a fraying rope. Here, however, is a take on what happens when the rope snaps.
This is billed as a comedy, but it sounds like it could be more serious. How many moody dramas follow the dissolution of a marriage because the man had his head turned by a beautiful woman? The summaries point out that he’s happily married at the start, which makes it sound sadder.
On the other hand, a lot of comedies track the beginning of a relationship at the expense of another, and Wilder would do well at the flustered sort of unfaithful man like the type in The Seven Year Itch.