Gremlins (Dante, 1984)

What an oddity. Gremlins functions as a compact blockbuster, built to impress a mass audience with special effects and shock value but also to challenge through a clever combination of horror, comedy, and social satire. Directed with punch by Joe Dante, the film is the brainchild of Hollywood’s brightest mainstream conductors, producer Steven Spielberg and writer Chris Columbus (who went on to direct countless tinsel town wonders like Adventures in Babysitting and Home Alone). While not as blatantly critical of current Western politics as some of Dante’s other pictures, Gremlins harbors a distinct distaste for consumer America’s obsession with greed and power and the mass influx of foreign goods via new media. Dante and Columbus’ supporting fodder speak volumes – a Bank manager folds under the pressure of a money grubbing wench, two drunken police officer’s wilt when faced with chaos, and a paranoid war vet’s visions come true in the form of little green men. It’s also hilarious the Gremlins themselves show more depth of character than the humans, a disturbing irony considering they run amok with a clear will toward our destruction. Dante thankfully never shies away from political jockeying when making films, and Gremlins proves strong ideas can co-exist with grandiose explosions and pulsating monsters.

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