Day 3 - Gremlins

What constitutes a Christmas movie?

Does it have to take place on Christmas? Certainly not. Take a recent classic like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The movie takes place over the month of December and, in fact, ends on Christmas Eve. A Charlie Brown Christmas may not even take place near Christmas Eve since the kids are rehearsing at the school for the play. If it were Christmas Eve, the school would probably be closed for the holiday.

Should the plot be warm and fuzzy? Not in the slightest. A Christmas Carol is about ghosts who scare the living shit out of an old curmudgeon. It's a Wonderful Life is about a man who wants to commit suicide because he's bankrupt.

People choose to categorize Christmas movies as it suits them. It seems like the plot line has to be about how the main character is going to handle the approaching holiday and the hi jinx that ensue along the way. Although, that still doesn't explain why It's a Wonderful Life remains the seminal Christmas movie.

This is why I always make the case for Gremlins. It's a movie without a genre. It's not necessarily horror and it's not comedy. A case can be made for black comedy, but somehow that just doesn't fit. It's a Christmas movie at it's core.

Now gee, why would I ever say that?


The movie begins with Rand Peltzer's search in New York City's Chinatown for a Christmas present for his son. Mogwai in hand, he returns to snowy Kingston Falls (which looks suspiciously like Hill Valley, California) where kids are playing in the snow, the town square is decorated with ornaments and Christmas lights, and a young Corey Feldman is hocking Christmas trees. It's the mid-1980s and there are tough times going on in Kingston Falls. People have lost their jobs and are behind on the rent. Creative types are reduced to become traveling salesmen who have to work on Christmas Eve just to put food on the table or oranges in the Peltzer Peeler Juicer. The rich are feared, even though they got that way by swindling people out of their money. I imagine Kingston Falls hasn't changed much in 28 years. Yet, there's a Christmassy feeling in the air.

I'll spare you the plot, because everyone should know Gremlins by now. If you don't, what the hell's wrong with you? The movie is almost 30 years old and one of the defining films of the 1980s. For those who don't know, here's the quick version: there are 3 rules for keeping a Mogwai, the Peltzers break all 3 rules, mayhem, the day is saved. Gremlins!

This movie drips Christmas, though. The plot line is definitely about a protagonist who is concerned with the approaching holiday and hi jinx certainly ensue. That's nothing compared with the rest of the movie, though. Nearly every song in the film is a Christmas song or carol. There are festive decorations everywhere. Background characters are saying "Merry Christmas" to each other. We even get a heart-wrenching Christmas story out of one of the main characters. By the end of the movie, it's Christmas day, and everyone comes to love Christmas because it signaled the end of the terror. Time for families to cozy up to the fire and wait for the man with the white beard. Sure, in this case it was a grizzled Chinese man with a wonky eye, but he teaches the same lesson that countless other Christmas movies have taught as he takes the Mogwai back from the Peltzers: You can't always get what you want.

Unless you want a Peltzer Smokeless Ashtray. It's the latest word in technology.

This entry was posted on Monday, December 3, 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

Leave a Reply

Powered by Blogger.