Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Director: Joe Dante
Cast: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Corey Feldman, Polly Holliday
Released: June 8, 1984

This movie is INSANE, y'all! I first saw it when I was eight or nine and it scared the everliving crap out of me! I have seen it again since then, but the last time I saw it was probably in the early 2000s, so it has been awhile. In fact, it's been so long that there were quite a few things I didn't remember or remembered wrong. I'll address those when I come to them. Even though this movie is 33 years old, I'm sure there is an entire generation who hasn't seen it so there are spoilers! Like The Goonies (which came out a year later and has its own Gremlins reference), it was also written by Chris Columbus, produced by Steven Spielberg, and Corey Feldman is in it.

The movie begins with the father of the main character, Mr. Peltzer (Hoyt Axton), looking for a Christmas gift for his son. He's in Chinatown looking through an old shop with lots of strange and mystic stuff while an old wise Chinese man oversees him (the whole thing reeks of stereotypes) and he comes across a strange (and SUPER ADORABLE!!) creature known as a Mogwai. I didn't remember it ever being called a Mogwai, I always just thought the creatures were known as Gremlins whether they were in the cute and furry stage or the, ahem, monstrous stage. Peltzer tells the shopkeeper he has to have it and "it's exactly what [he's] been looking for." Wait a sec. A strange creature he has never heard of or seen in his entire life is exactly what he's been looking for? How is that even possible? He says he'll pay $100 for it, then ups it to $200. The shopkeeper tells him a firm no because he really is wise. He tells Mr. Peltzer that a Mogwai "comes with much responsibility" (and boy, does it!)  However, his young grandson tells Mr. Peltzer to meet him around back and secretly sells him the strange creature because they need the money. There are three rules (simple rules, really!) when it comes to owning a Mogwai:

1. Keep it out of light, especially sunlight. It could kill the Mogwai.
2. Don't get it wet.
3. And most importantly, whatever you do, never, ever, EVER feed it after midnight.

I, like many, as I'm sure, have a few issues with these rules and I will address these more as I continue on with my review. You'll notice the kid only tells what happens if you don't keep the Mogwai out of sunlight: it will die (which seems way more important than the third rule!) He never says what happens if you get it wet or feed it after midnight. Maybe if he did, then the Peltzers would be a little more careful with their new pet! Hmm, you think? Oh, and guess how long it takes before the rules are broken?

Because Mr. Peltzer is an inventor (and a crappy one at that - he's invented a "bathroom buddy" that's way too bulky and shoots out toothpaste, a juicer that explodes when you put the fruit in it, a coffee maker that pours out sludge, and a wireless phone (hey, I guess he was before his time, but if it only worked!)), he names the Mogwai Gizmo and gives it to his son, Billy (Zach Galligan), that evening, a few days before Christmas. I could have sworn that Billy was a young kid. I would have guessed anywhere between eight and thirteen years old. But he's not! Billy Peltzer has a job at the bank, he drives, he hangs out at a bar. I'm not sure exactly how old he is (Galligan was 19 when he filmed this), but he can't be any younger than eighteen. When we were first introduced to Billy working at the bank, I just assumed he was the older brother of the main character and he was going to be involved in the plot. I didn't realize he WAS the main character until his father gives him the gift. I think this movie would have worked much better with a younger protagonist. I really can't see a teenager (or someone in their early twenties) wanting a pet for Christmas. (Especially if they already have one, as Billy has a loyal dog named Barney). A teenager wants a car or something cool to wear to impress everyone. Now it's possible I was thinking of Corey Feldman who was probably 11 or 12 when he filmed this, but I do remember him not being in this movie as much as he was in The Goonies or Stand By Me or The Lost Boys (he only has a couple scenes). I guess I just assumed he plays the friend to a kid, who is, you know, his own age!

Billy opens his gift and this is when the audience is first shown Gizmo and OMG HE IS THE CUTEST LITTLE THING EVER!! He's so wittle and cute!!! I want one so bad!! Well, maybe not. As we will find out, this adorably cute little guy can cause A LOT of problems, especially if you don't follow the rules (And, obviously, I would follow these rules!) I also want to point out that NONE of the mayhem that will soon occur is Gizmo's fault, NONE OF IT. He is perfectly blameless in all of this mess. He is an innocent little bystander. They created Gizmo and the Gremlins with puppetry and animatronics. As you can see in the film, Gizmo is super tiny. When they showed close ups of just his face they used a large animatronic head. Sure, there are some scenes where it's super obvious Gizmo isn't real, but you have to admire they weren't using CGI (since this IS 1984) and had to create something that was actually in all the scenes with the actors.

Billy's dad tells him the rules of owning a Mogwai. You know, I felt really bad for Barney because Billy has dropped him like a hot potato and is spending all his time with Gizmo. Barney is probably thinking, I've been Billy's loyal pet for however many years and now I'm being pushed away for a cuter pet who can play the piano AND talk. (Gizmo is voiced by Howie Mandel. I thought that name was familiar and realized I know him best as the host of Deal or No Deal. Haha, remember that game show from the mid-2000s?) He can't talk in full sentences, but he does say phrases. Whenever Billy turns on a light, he'll say, "Bright light, bright light!" so Billy can turn it off. He also says "Uh-oh!" a lot (and with good reason!)

When Gizmo gets a boo-boo on his head (because he falls into the trash because Billy shows him his reflection in the mirror after putting on a Santa hat, so this is all BIlly's fault, mind you), Billy takes him to the freaking bathroom of all places to put a bandage on him. Now, I don't know about you, but my bathroom sink and counter is usually wet! WTF are you thinking, Billy? Can't you leave Gizmo in your room and get the bandages from the bathroom? I thought for sure something was going to happen in this scene, but it doesn't. Gizmo is so cute!!! I just wanna cuddle him and give him kisses on the top of his head, awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!!! He's so cute, he makes me cry.

The next day Corey Feldman comes over to deliver their Christmas tree. He grabs a glass of water and goes upstairs to Billy's room, which is in the attic, where Billy introduces him to Gizmo. Corey, his glass of water, and Gizmo are all on the bed. Seriously, why isn't Billy saying, "Damnit, Corey Feldman, get your glass of water away from my pet." Cuz that glass is tipping towards the Mogwai. But nothing happens...yet. Billy takes him over to his table where he likes to paint. There is a glass of water for cleaning brushes. Guess who clumsily knocks over the glass and spills water all over poor Gizmo? Now you can blame Corey Feldman all you want, but I'm blaming this all on Billy. Corey didn't know about the rules. Billy, however does know about the rules and brings Gizmo over to a table that has a glass of water on it. Moron. The water causes Gizmo to shriek in pain and his fur starts to boil and a small ball of fur (a hair ball, you could say) pops out of his back. Billy and Corey are more interested in the small ball of fur and don't seem to care that Gizmo is writhing in pain. I wanted to smack Billy so hard across his face. Four more of these small balls of fur pop out of Gizmo's back and start to grow until they become the size of Gizmo. Billy now has five more Mogwai! While all this is going on, Barney seems very concerned. In fact, the damn dog (and Gizmo, of course) is the only one who seems concerned about this. Poor Gizmo looks so sad and is shaking his head. He knows what's up! (And it isn't good!) Corey wants one since there are now five more, but changes his mind when one of them bites him when he tries to pet it. This one has a stripe of white fur across his head and he will eventually become the leader and go by the name Stripe.

Billy tells his father about what happened and he thinks this will be a great way to create and sell more Mogwai to kids and that it will become the new popular pet. Their plans for this will soon be sidetracked, but how would that even work? You might be able to sell a couple, but if other kids wanted one, they could just ask their friends for one and all they would have to do is throw water on their Mogwai. If you can make these things multiply by five just by adding water to it, then it wouldn't be that rare! Billy also brings one to his science teacher and multiples another Mogwai. The teacher asks if he can keep one so he can run tests on it.

Now I remembered these creatures being good when they were in the cute and furry Mogwai stage and thought they only turned evil when they became the scary lizard-looking monsters, but that's not the case. Even when Stripe and the others are in the Mogwai stage, they are all mischievous and up to no good and have a sinister look in their eyes. In their Mogwai form, Stripe spits at Gizmo (so mean and uncalled for, Stripe!), ties up Barney in Christmas lights (totally uncalled for and how did five little creatures manage to do that to a pretty good sized-dog? They must have super strength? Also, why didn't Barney start barking the minute the Mogwai had him? He doesn't start whimpering until after he'd been tied up), AND they trick Billy into feeding them after midnight. They had unplugged his clock so when they're all begging for food, he think it's only 11:35 and grabs them a plate of chicken which they all eat like they're piranhas. See, this is a reason you could never make this movie today because all he would have to do is look at his phone! The feeding after midnight rule is a little confusing, because when, exactly can you feed them again? When the sun comes up? But, technically, it's still after midnight. Also, even if Billy does think there's still twenty five minutes left before midnight, doesn't he need to account for the food being swallowed and digested? I know, I know, I'm reading way too much into this. Point is, the Mogwai trick him and he feeds them after midnight. He even offers Gizmo some chicken, but he refuses. Meanwhile, at the lab, the stupid science teacher leaves his sandwich in plain sight right in front of the cage where he's testing the Mogwai so he's able to easily grab it. ("Yum, yum!") Now, to be fair, I don't think Billy ever told him about the rules. Geeze, Billy, when you introduce people to the Mogwai, you think you might want to tell people about the three rules?

The next morning when Billy wakes us, he sees these weird pod things. He shows his mother and realizes that the cord to his alarm clock was chewed through and that he did, in fact, feed the Mogwai after midnight. He seems to have no concern at all that these weird shells are in his room. He goes to the school to speak to the science teacher where he's looking at the pod in the cage. Now, until this moment, the movie has been a cute story about a boy and his strange pet ala E.T., but from now on it turns into a straight up horror show. Sh*t is about to hit the fan (and a couple of Gremlins too, ba-ba-ba). Billy's mom hears something coming from upstairs. She gets a phone call from Billy warning her to get out of the house after the Gremlin at school has killed the teacher with a lethal dose of something (why is something so dangerous at a school, anyway?), but one of the Gremlins has disconnected the phone. She then hears Do You Hear What I Hear? playing downstairs. Hands down, that is my favorite Christmas song of all time (I'm partial to the Whitney Houston version), but man, is it ever creepy when they play it in this scene! Mama Peltzer has her carving knife (from baking gingerbread cookies...don't ask) and she's about to go to town on these little demon monsters. Let's see: she throws one into a huge industrial blender, she sprays bug spray into the eyes of another until it backs up in the microwave and she nukes it until it explodes, she straight up stabs another one...Mama P. don't play around! She is attacked by the fourth one, but Billy comes home in time to knock it off of her and send it into the fire. Fun fact: this movie (and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) is the reason the PG-13 rating exists. The studio didn't think this movie should have been rated R, but it was defintely way darker for the PG rating it did get, so thus became PG-13. This movie almost got an R rating because it was supposed to be A LOT darker than it turned out to be. For one thing, the poor dog and mom were supposed to be killed by the Gremlins (and in quite gruesome ways!)

Stripe is the only Gremlin left and he runs to the YMCA where he jumps into the pool, producing hundreds of other Gremlins. I would have guessed that these creatures are only able to multiply when they're in the Mogwai form, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Stripe and the rest of the Gremlins wreck havoc on the town of Kingston Falls. This includes terrorizing Mrs. Deagle (Polly Holliday), the old mean lady who lives in town. We have been introduced to her earlier, and, boy, is she a nasty old witch. She threatens to kill Billy's dog (more than once) and she doesn't care about anyone. You just know she's going to get a nasty comeuppance, and boy, does she! She has one of those mechanical chairs attached to the wall that takes her upstairs/downstairs and a Gremlin messes with the mechanics of it and when she sits on it to go upstairs, it speeds out of control and she goes around and around (the house is only two stories, but she is going up way more than that) and it sends her flying out the window and crashing into the snow. A pretty horrifying, yet satisfying and hilarious death for a horrid character. Oh! Speaking of snow, all the Gremlins are all out in it. Why aren't they multiplying?

Billy, Gizmo, and Kate (Phoebe Cates), the girl Billy works with at the bank and has a crush on, try to stop the Gremlins. Kate tells Billy that this is just another reason for her to hate Christmas. Why does Kate hate Christmas, you ask? (Oh, as if you didn't know!) Even if you haven't seen this movie, you're probably familiar with this crazy monologue Kate tells about the day she discovered Santa Claus wasn't real...which is the same day her father died. When she was nine, he had dressed up as Santa and gone down the chimney, but had slipped and broken his neck and died instantly. They didn't discover him until they had started a fire and smelled something and the firemen came out and pulled out his body. Just a few questions: why was Kate's dad so stupid? And how did he fit down the chimney? I'm pretty sure nobody can fit down a chimney. Everyone knows Santa uses magic to go down them, duh!

All the Gremlins have assembled at a movie theater where they're watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (I was surprised Disney gave a Warner Brothers movie permission to use one of their films) and Billy and Kate sneak into the broiler room where they set off an explosion, killing all the Gremlins except for Stripe who has managed to escape to a nearby Montgomery Ward. While Billy is trying to ward (no pun intended, honest!) off the little demon monster, Kate is trying to find a light switch. Stripe has a chain saw and is going after Billy who is holding up a bat to stop the chainsaw. You would think the saw would easily go through a bat, which is made out of wood, but nope. I mean, it does go through it, but quite slowly so Billy has time to escape when Kate finally is able to turn on the lights. Also, Billy is a bit of a wuss. Here is his mother who singlehandedly butchered four of these creatures in a matter of minutes and he can't stop a little two foot creature from throwing balls at him. Just kick it. Stop being a baby, Billy! However, it's Gizmo who saves the day by pulling up a shade when Stripe has put his hand in a fountain and is about to produce more offspring. I laughed so hard when Gizmo pulls the shade because it's so freaking obvious they just attached a Gizmo-like stuffed animal to the cord and it just sort of falls. OMG, it is the funniest thing! It was also really super cute when he says "Bye-bye!" Stripe is killed and all is well. Interestingly, Gizmo was supposed to be the evil leader (obviously he was intended to change into a Gremlin), but Spielberg knew that the audience would (rightly) fall in love with him and wanted to keep him pure and good (and super adorable!)

The old wise Chinese man comes to claim Gizmo, saying Billy isn't ready for a Mogwai. Yes, I agree, but where was he in the first place? A couple days has passed since his grandson sold Gizmo to Mr. Peltzer. Surely he noticed the Mogwai was missing before then? Billy is a little upset that Gizmo is being taken away from him, but if I were him, I would be bawling! Gizmo is so freaking adorable and he can talk and play the piano! And he's soooooo cuuuuute! Super cute! However, I was all for the old Chinese man taking him back. Aside from the mother, these Peltzers don't know how to take care of a Mogwai.

An '80s classic for sure!

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