Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Gremlins

Gremlins
seen on TV @ Ovation
9.9.14

Okay, first things first:

- They can't be exposed to bright light. Okay, that would explain the large pupils. (And you probably thought that was just so they would look cuter, right?) But direct exposure to sunlight kills them? Assuming the mogwai evolved on Earth - which is not at all certain, but let's assume it for now - this kinda flies directly in the face of all we know about solar radiation and its effect on all life on Earth. But we don't know where mogwai come from, so we might as well take this at face value.

- They can't be around water, because they multiply out of all control. Asexual reproduction in animals can be found in nature. The mogwai appear to go through a budding stage kinda like jellyfish, in which they break away from the parent and grow on their own, but there are no precedents in nature for asexual reproduction in such humanoid-looking creatures. (They certainly look mammalian, at any rate.) And yet, they must be asexual - do you recall seeing any female mogwai?


- They can't be fed after midnight. Is that midnight Eastern Standard Time, Greenwich Mean Time, Pacific Standard Time, what? And when exactly does the period of not-feeding-mogwai end? At dawn?

None of this is meant to be taken terribly seriously. Gremlins is a fun little B-movie with more wit, heart and imagination than not only most horror movies today, but most movies today in general. Looking at it as an adult, however, I find I can't help but think about these logistical questions that should count as plot holes, but are conveniently ignored thanks to the Rule of Cool.


We first glimpse the mogwai in a "Chinatown" antique shop, and the dual nature of the mogwai - cute, furry and harmless on one hand, yet gruesome, creepy and malicious on the other - made me think about the Chinese concept of yin and yang: complementary, not opposing forces, within the same form. One can't exist without the other when it comes to the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of the mogwai. I wonder if writer Chris Columbus had this in mind.

It's interesting to note how quickly the evil mogwai not only corrupt human virtues, but take on human vices. They seem to come out of nowhere; it's like, causing mischief isn't enough, all of a sudden without humans around they start doing things like smoking, drinking and gambling. I would've liked to have seen them learning these things from humans, perhaps from watching TV or movies. That would lend more weight to what Keye Luke says at the end, about how humans aren't ready to handle the mogwai.


Joe Dante is an underrated director. He's never one to settle for cheap thrills; his work always has a satirical edge to it, and yet, they also have much of the spirit of old Hollywood (in the case of Gremlins, sadly, in more ways than one). There's the use of classic movies as touchstones to the plot, of course (the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a prelude to the hatching of the evil gremlins, for example), but also in the presentation of the characters: the innocent teenage (young adult?) protagonists who have to save the day when the adults won't listen to their warnings, the good-hearted but clueless father, the crusty-but-lovable salt-of-the-earth types, the cranky, antagonistic senior citizen. They all feel like classic movies tropes to one extent or another, but the story is modern, and it's a shame that there's no room for movies like this in Hollywood anymore.


Also, Phoebe Cates.

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