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Gremlins (reissue)


Stars: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Frances Lee McCain, Scott Brady, Corey Feldman, Judge Reinhold, Dick Miller, Keye Luke, Polly Holliday, Harry Carey Jr, Edward Andrews, Belinda Balaski, Kenneth Tobey, Glynn Turman, William Schallert, Steven Spielberg

Director: Joe Dante

Basically a children's film with horrific overtones, this is a vastly entertaining fantasy from the 1980s, now given a gleaming new 4K restoration. Director Dante doesn't miss a trick, from the moody opening in Chinatown when Papa (Axton, whose narration and performance are both spot-on) buys a mogwai there.

An endearing cross between a chihuahua and a bat-eared fox and small enough to cuddle, the mogwai must not, Axton is told, be exposed to bright light, have water dropped on it, or be fed after midnight.

Of course, you don't need me to tell you that Axton and his family rapidly do all three, ending up with a whole pack of man-eating, three-feet-high, slavering gremlins who, besides people, eat everything in sight, stop the traffic, smoke and gamble in the local bars, and riotously enjoy a showing of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The trick-work and technical skill involved in all this is immense for its time, and the humour, sentiment, excitement and horror, although all pretty basic, are blended as well as one could reasonably expect.

The highlight of the fun and grisly games is undoubtedly the ingenious scene in which Axton's wife (McCain) disposes of several death-bent gremlins with the aid of kitchen contrivances.

So where are the stars of this blockbuster success now? Well, Galligan, now 55, has remained a working actor, albeit in lesser assignments, and often in fantasy films. But Cates married Kevin Kline and retired, while Axton died 15 years later from a heart attack at 61.

David Quinlan

USA 1984. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Technicolor.
106 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 03 Dec 2019