Watch Gremlins, they said. It’s a great Christmas movie, they said. I’ve been wanting to watch it for so long and it’s always checked out at the video store, they said.
By “they” I mean Crossley, various dudes I know on Facebook, and Graham, but especially Graham for that last one. Fine, I said. I found it on Netflix, moved it to the top of my DVD queue, and saved it for Christmas Eve because I told Graham that it could be our Christmas movie this year (last year’s Christmas movie was a bunch of episodes of Dave Attell’s “Insomniac,” which I maintain were better than Gremlins and also that was a great fucking show).
I have seen Gremlins before. Parts of it, at least, that I can remember. I know it’s been playing in the same room as me and I’ve watched some scenes, but overall, I didn’t remember liking it all that much and the thing about “never feed a mogwai after midnight” really stressed me out, because even as a kid, I understood that technically (maybe somewhat philosophically), all times were after midnight. What’s the cutoff? When does after midnight become before midnight? Sunrise? Noon? I spent a long time thinking about this when I was younger and never came up with an answer, and when we settled down last night with dinner and the DVD, my anxiety over it did not relieve itself.
The thing about Gremlins is that I do concede that it is a Christmas movie. The title song has the word “Christmas” in it about a million times, all of the action takes place on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and Gizmo – the father of all the Gremlins, whether he likes it or not – is given as a Christmas present. So fine, Crossley, various dudes on Facebook, and Graham. It’s a Christmas movie.
The other thing about Gremlins is that it’s awful. It’s essentially a children’s movie in which the most dumbassed town in America gets exactly what it deserves for torturing these creatures into becoming monsters who proceed to ambitiously lay waste to this Rockwellian hellscape. And I don’t blame them. From ignoring Barney the dog once Gizmo gets into the picture to just kind of forgetting about Gizmo writhing in pain once Corey Fucking Feldman spills water on him because it’s more interesting to watch the Popple balls become new mogwais, I got so stressed out over this part of Gremlins that I went straight to the Internet once I finished dinner and Tumblr’d away the sads.
Graham still likes Gremlins which is fine, but he did say that he’d forgotten about how dark it was. How dark is it? Plenty. Phoebe Cates’ character, in particular, the motherfucking queen of Debbie Downers who relishes the chance to turn potential romantic encounters into awkward moments about how Christmas is the most depressing time of year, how it’s prime time for suicides, and how Christmas was ruined for her when a bunch of people pulled her dead and decaying father out of the chimney one year because that fucking moron tried to shimmy down it dressed as Santa with an armful of gifts.
“And that’s how I found out there was no Santa Claus,” she says, which makes it seem like that was the most upsetting part about the whole ordeal. Not the smell of a rotting corpse emanating from the family home. Not some firemen hauling said corpse from the chimney while she and her mother watched. But the cold, hard truth that there was no Santa Claus (thanks a lot, Dad!) was especially traumatic, and the Gremlins destroying the entire shitty town runs a close second.
Jesus, Spielberg. In the realm of upsetting animatronics, couldn’t you have stuck with the shark?