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Gremlins

For the trope, see Griping About Gremlins.

Gremlins is a 1984 dark comedy/horror film directed by Joe Dante, and executive produced by Steven Spielberg. The film kicks off with an inventor, Randall Peltzer, stopping by Chinatown in New York City to pick up a gift for his son, Billy. He ends up getting a mysterious, yet undeniably adorable critter called a mogwai. The creature comes with instructions though, namely:

The little critter, named Gizmo, is gentle and well behaved, but after he accidentally gets splashed with water, more mogwai suddenly are formed, and this new, mean-spirited batch tricks Billy into feeding them after midnight. They all form cocoons, and then turn into ugly, frightening gremlins, who cause havoc and terrorize the town.

Followed by 1990 sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch. This one relocates the main characters to New York City, and features a parody of moguls such as Donald Trump and Ted Turner, as well as references to films like The Wizard of Oz and the Rambo series.


This film and its sequel provide examples of:

Both movies

  • Actor Allusion: The Puttermans are played by Dick Miller and Jackie Joseph, cast as a married couple specifically because of their frequent acting collaborations in Roger Corman movies.
  • All There in the Manual: The Novelization has a prologue that explains that Mogwais were genetically engineered by an alien race called the Mogturmen as the perfect companion. However, the vast majority of Mogwais turned out to be dangerous, not to mention the unforseen Gremlin problem. Gizmo is one of the few Mogwais to turn out right.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Any of the Mogwai/Gremlins who aren't Gizmo.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Averted. The Gremlins aren't even safe from each other.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The first Mogwai is bought from a Chinese shop. "Mo-Gwai" is Cantonese for "devil"
  • Celestial Deadline: Mogwai shall not be fed "after midnight", lest they turn into Gremlins. Nothing is said about when you can feed them again. Sunrise, maybe?
    • Lampshaded in the second movie, when the security crew mocks Billy by coming up with various scenarios, such as eating on a plane and passing into another time zone.
  • Explosive Breeder: The mogwai/gremlins
  • Family-Unfriendly Death
  • Follow the Leader: There were oodles of gremlins-like creature features in between the two films, including Ghoulies and unfortunately Hobgoblins. (The movie Critters was not following the lead of Gremlins, as it had been in the works before Gremlins went into production.)
  • Genetic Memory: Gremlins, as part of their nature, are born with the capacity to understand the interworkings of machinery and how to sabotage it.
  • The Genie Knows Jack Nicholson: In spades; both Gizmo and the Gremlins are huge pop culture junkies. This quality is exaggerated and highlighted in the second film.
  • Green Aesop: "You have done with mogwai what your society has done with all of nature's gift!" Forced as forced can be, as the causes of the whole incident were 1: an innocent accident, and 2: Billy having no idea that the mogwai would trick him into feeding them after midnight by sabotaging his clock.
    • Though he does acknowledge that Billy has the potential to be a worthy caretaker of Gizmo someday. He just screwed up too badly for that day to be today.
    • This may have had more to do with the father stealing the mogwai and the family not treating it as seriously as it deserved.
  • Griping About Gremlins
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: Howie Mandel is the voice of Gizmo.
    • Not to mention Frank Welker as Stripe and most of the other Gremlins.
  • Killer Rabbit: The mogwai, save for Gizmo.
    • Gizmo himself qualifies when he models himself after Rambo.
  • Lighter and Softer: The first film compared to the original script, where the gremlins usually killed people in exceedingly horrific ways. Also the second film to the first, which set out to be much sillier and slapsticky rendition than the occasionally dark first one (compare Kate's santa monologue with the way a similar one is treated in the sequel).
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Sunlight kills mogwai and gremlins who are also afraid of bright lights. Water splashed onto either of the two produces more creatures spawned from their backs. Feeding a mogwai after midnight causes it to metamorphosize into a gremlin. This gets played with in the second movie.
  • Metamorphosis Monster: The Mogwai transform if fed after midnight.
  • Restraining Bolt: In the novelization, Stripe tells Gizmo right to his face that he wants to kill him but can't for some reason. Gizmo explains that their alien creators made sure that Mogwai could never kill each other. That Restraining Bolt vanishes after Stripe becomes a Gremlin since he isn't a Mogwai anymore.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The mogwai, particularly Gizmo. At least before they have an after-midnight snack..
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: While no one seems to make a big deal out of who kills what gremlin, it always seems to be Gizmo's destiny to be the one to destroy the lead gremlin which seems to be his main rival.
    • For that matter, while some manage to kill at least one gremlin, it always seems to be Billy's plan that exterminates the entire horde of gremlins except the leader.
  • Took a Level In Badass: Gizmo goes from harmless furby to sharp-shooting Rambo-clone over the course of the two films.
  • Transformation Trauma - The death of Stripe in the first movie is a particularly grotesque example
    • Not to mention the intense pain caused by reproduction via water.
  • What Could Have Been: The entire concept of these movies was brought about from Spielberg's unproduced script loosely based on the Kelly-Hopkinsville Encounter. The idea was eventually seperated into three movie. This one being the third. The other two? ET the Extraterrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.


Gremlins

  • Action Mom: Mrs. Peltzer in a sense, as she kills three (pre-gremlin army) gremlins in one scene alone. Her weapons of choice: Blender, kitchen knife, and microwave.
  • Artistic License Economics: As soon as Randall Peltzer finds out that Gizmo reproduced upon getting wet, he thinks that selling mogwai could be his big break. Yeeeeeeeeah... because a species that reproduces when exposed to a little water is sure going to stay in demand for awhile.
  • Asshole Victim: Mrs. Deagle was SUCH a bitch, especially in the deleted scenes that reveal she was forcing people out of their homes to put down a strip mall, effectively destroying Kingston Falls.
    • In the novelization, she was selling their land to a chemical company (named "Hitox" of all things), so one can assume she was going to turn the town into a toxic waste dump.
    • Even in the onscreen version, she is a heartless ice-bitch who casually evicts poor widows with children on Christmas Eve, and gleefully threatens to kill helpless little dogs by throwing them in the drying machine.
      • Almost lampshaded herself after seeing the Gremlins for the first time, convinced "they're" coming for her. Her breakdown into delusional sobbing before she activates her tampered stairlift and her own demise almost makes you feel sorry for her makes you cheer as she literally flies down to Hell where she belongs.

 Mrs. Deagle: I'm not ready!!!

  • Black Dude Dies First
  • Bungling Inventor: Rand
  • Chekhov's Gun: At the beginning of the movie, the first rule explains that Gizmo's species hates bright lights and that sunlight in particular is lethal to them. At first, this just seemed like a necessary rule to care for Gizmo, but it ends up being the most important weapon in the fight against the gremlins, the former part allowing them to drive them off while Gizmo ends up using the latter half to destroy the gremlin leader. Seeing as how they already (unintentionally) broke the other two rules, they may as well have decided to go for a trifecta.
    • Perhaps they should add a Rule 4: In the event that Rules 2 and 3 are broken, you are permitted to break Rule 1.
    • The ornamental swords hanging next to the door (and which keep falling off every time someone comes into the house) are actually pretty deadly when put to good use.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Mrs Deagle again. She is shown to adore her numerous cats and nurture them in a disturbingly affectionate manner. Not that the heartless old hag showed any of the same kindness to children who can be made homeless by one word from her, mind you. The fact that the cats are all named after various pieces of currency from around the world plainly shows what she REALLY cares about
  • Dead Line News
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Mr. Putterman is put out of a job, and then finds out his beloved Kentucky Harvester has foreign-made parts in it.
  • Fridge Horror: What would he have been like if Gizmo had become a Gremlin?
    • Possibly shown with "Earl". The novel states that even good Mogwai are converted into murderous sadists upon transforming into a Gremlin.
    • In one draft, wasn't Gizmo turned into Stripe?
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday
  • Indecisive Parody: The second one, on the other hand...
  • Kick the Dog: In the Darker and Edgier original script, the gremlins killed the Peltzers' pet dog.
    • In the final version they just dangle him up with Christmas lights.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday
  • Lighter and Softer -- at least, compared to the original script draft.
  • My Car Hates Me: Played with. In the beginning, Billy's car refuses to start, forcing him to walk to work. In the middle of the Gremlin attack, it actually starts for him, indicating a Gremlin messed with it. But later, when he tries to drive it again, it won't start. Indicating that it got fiddled with again.
  • Off with His Head: In the Darker and Edgier original script, Billy returned home to see his mother's head rolling down the stairs.
    • In the film itself Billy decapitates a gremlin with a sword and kicks the severed head in the fire place.
  • Oh Crap (Billy's reaction after the last gremlin, Stripe, jumps into a public swimming pool. Gremlin Army ensues.)
  • Out of Focus: Mrs. Peltzer has one awesome Action Mom scene and then disappears for most of the movie. Possibly because in the original script the gremlins killed her.
    • There was also the mogwai/gremlin (named Earl in the novel) Billy left with a teacher to study. During the test, the teacher took a sample of its blood. Afterwards they made a dramatic scene out of it getting a hold of a sandwich and eating after midnight. After completing its transformation, it took its revenge on the teacher for the blood test before scratching Billy and escaping into the school's ventilation system. It briefly appeared and attacked Billy in the nurse's office before escaping. After that, it disappeared and Billy didn't give it any thought when he went to tracking down Stripe.
      • Word of God says that it met up with Stripe's gang and joined in the fun of terrorizing the town before being blown up in the theater with the rest of the army.
        • Perhaps left out for a reason, considering the potentially tragic setup Earl had, his death being directly shown may have come off as kinda sad.
  • Police Are Useless
  • Schmuck Bait: "And the most important rule of all, the one you must never forget: no matter how much he cries, no matter how much he begs, never, EVER feed him after midnight."
    • Subverted. Billy takes this rule seriously, even though he doesn't know what exactly is going to happen, and honestly intends to follow it. The evil Mogwai had to trick him into breaking it.
  • Soft Glass combined with Super Window Jump
  • Shout-Out: "Hi, Doctor Moreau."
    • When Billy is hunting down Stripe in the department store, he walks past a row of plush dolls. Not only is Stripe hiding amongst them (a direct reference to ET the Extraterrestrial) he pushes away an actual doll of E.T. while poking his head out.
      • One of the theaters is showing A Boy's Life, which was the working title of E.T.
    • Robbie the Robot and The Time Machine appear (or disappear, in the latter's case) in the inventor convention attended by Mr. Peltzer.
  • Technicolor Death: It's not enough for sunlight to just kill Gremlins. It has to melt them alive.
  • Theme Naming: All of Ms. Deagle's cats are named after different currencies: Dollar, Kopeck, Drachma, etc.
  • The Voice: The DJ at the town radio station, "Rockin' Ricky Rialto". Gremlins are heard breaking into his studio, but he survives.

 Rockin' Ricky: Hey wait a minute, you're not Rockin' Ricky fans!...

  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Billy's friend Pete is last seen firing his slingshot at a few gremlins. Then later we hear him calling into the radio station trying to give a warning out about them, and then he gets cut off. Pete doesn't appear in the sequel (Corey Feldman was in rehab at the time), nor is he even mentioned.
    • Judge Reinhold's character Gerald is seemingly introduced as an (unsuccessful) rival for Kate's affections, and disappears from the movie after appearing in two scenes. A deleted scene shows that he was hiding out in the bank vault while the Gremlins ran wild, and is losing his sanity.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Do not feed Gizmo after midnight.
  • X Meets Y: Word of God calls the first film It's a Wonderful Life meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers; it has plenty of Thematic Shout-Out to both films.
  • You Are Not Ready (although it is hinted that Billy may be one day.)


Gremlins 2

 Daffy: Is it safe?!?!

  • Cobweb Jungle
  • Continuity Nod: George causes an explosion using a microwave, a Shout-Out to the infamous "Exploding Gremlin" scene in the first movie.
    • Kate starts to go into detail about a traumatic event that happened to her on the occurring holiday (here, Lincoln's birthday), but this time Billy tries to shut her up before she can finish (she does anyway while dragged away).
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Subverted. Early in the film Clamp Enterprises had been suggested to be the typical evil (or at least amoral) corporation but when we finally meet Daniel Clamp he turns out to be a loveable Man Child who actually wants to use his massive resources to make the world a nicer place.
    • Clamp's oily assistant comes as close to being corrupt as you can without actually going over the line.
    • According to the DVD commentary Clamp was originally intended to be a more evil character, but John Glover's kind-hearted portrayal resulted in the character being adjusted accordingly.
  • Covered in Kisses: The female gremlin does this to a human security guard.
    • Forster gets his share too.
  • Crazy Prepared: Daniel Clamp has a video for his cable network to play in the unlikely event Clamp has to shut down due to the end of the world.
    • According to Joe Dante, he once toured the CNN main headquarters, where they have just such a video waiting to be played when the final hour comes.
  • Credits Gag - Daffy Duck appears during and after the end credits commenting on them ("You're THTILL lurking about? Don't you people have HOMETH?!?").
  • Continuity Nod: In the first film, Kate is flashed by a Gremlin in a trenchcoat while at the bar. In this film, the same thing happens... but she doesn't just take it.
  • Disc One Final Boss: Mohawk, who's been pretty non-interested in leading the other gremlins throughout much of the film, gets killed while the greater part of the gremlins are still creating mayhem. The Brain gremlin effectively assumed his place beforehand.
  • Efficient Displacement: Parodied; when the Bat Gremlin flies through a wall, the hole he leaves behind is shaped like the Batman logo.
  • Evil Elevator: The Gremlins commandeer one of the Clamp building's elevators with Kate inside it.
  • Evil Redhead: A scheming female boss who tries to seduce Billy and is a Jerkass to Kate. She ends up being trapped in Spider Gremlin's web! Guess who saves her bacon...
  • Genetic Memory: The Gremlins have an instinctive hatred of Gizmo. This seems to be passed down from George, Lenny, and Daffy (whom were born from Gizmo and helped Mohawk push him into an air vent) to the numerous gremlins that spawn from the aforementioned trio. How they know Gizmo by name is pretty much Rule of Funny.
    • Or they can sense what they perceive to be weakness.
    • Also, remember they did come out of him, so it's possible they share memories (which would also explain why Mohawk is so determined in his tormenting this time: he remembers that Gizmo killed him).
      • The Bat Gremlin flew towards the Fluttermans.
    • Alternately, they inherit Gizmo's memories and know that he would attempt to take them out from those.
  • Got the Whole World In My Hand: The Clamp corporate logo.
  • Groin Attack: Kate delivers a very hard and swift kick to a gremlin's crotch after he flashes her!
  • Hammerspace: Where the Brains Gremlin gets his glasses from.
  • Hollywood Acid: Complete with the sadly ignored warning label "Do Not Throw In Face".
  • Hybrid Monster: Several of the Gremlins become these during the course of the film. One even turns into a bolt of electricity by dunking one of the potions in the lab.
  • Idiot Ball: Gizmo just had to get out of the drawer Billy left him in and wander around an unfamiliar building (especcially after the residents of said building had already tried to dissect him), instead of just waiting for his owner and friend to come and take him home.
  • Impossible Shadow Puppets: During the theater takeover, one of the gremlins manages to create Abraham Lincoln with shadow puppets.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Gizmo's owner, Mr. Wing. Justified and lampshaded in-story by the fact that he is particularly old (think 90-plus), having reached the type of age where even a seemingly innocuous cold could be life-threatening.
  • Interspecies Romance: The very last scene.
  • It Amused Me: As Brain points out, shooting one of his less mature brethren in the face with a pistol is fun, "but in no sense civilized".
  • Japanese Tourist: Mr. Kazuchi.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Used in-universe with this exchange:

 Clamp: That thing that was in here a minute ago, that's dangerous! This guy's from the art department.

Forster: Well, ask him how he knows so much about these "green things".

Clamp: That's a good question Bill – how do you know so much about them?

  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • Some of Clamp's incredulous minions snarkily question Billy about the vagueness of the Gremlin rules.
  • Large Ham: Both of these were probably intentional, considering the enforced campy nature of the film.
  • Lego Genetics: How a number of the gremlins managed to turn into hybrids after raiding the genetics lab for Applied Phlebotinums.
  • Let's Get Dangerous: Gizmo has one of these moments.
  • Lighter and Softer: While the first film was (somewhat) more serious in tone, the sequel is played more for laughs. Possibly lampshaded by incorporating footage from the second Rambo film, a gonzo action flick sequel to a rather serious film about a man's difficulty coping with adjusting to normal life after fighting in Vietnam.
  • Kill It with Fire combined with You Have to Burn the Web.
  • Mad Scientist: Doctor Catheter, played to the hilt by Christopher Lee. Interestingly he subverts it later on when he rejects his experiments as immoral, and vows that he will not commit cruel genetic experiments on animals again.
  • Mook Promotion: A random Gremlin drinks a brain-enhancing formula and becomes the swarm's leader/spokesgremlin. (While the original leader becomes a skulking half-spider monstrosity.)
  • My Instincts Are Showing: Brain Gremlin's intelligence doesn't stop him from having the same sociopathic tendencies as the other gremlins.

 Brain Gremlin: Now, was that civilized? No, clearly not. Fun, but in no sense civilized.

  • One Steve Limit: Somewhat averted. There are two characters with the name "Daffy" in this film. One of the gremlins, and of course Daffy Duck appears at the beginning and end.
  • Planimal: A gremlin drinks a potion from the science lab and becomes a gremlin/vegetable hybrid.
  • Post Modernism
  • Pragmatic Villainy: When Mr. Wing holds up development on Clamp's latest business venture, Forster realizes how old and sick he is, and just waits for him to die.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Not long after Dr. Catheter decides to dedicate his life to good, he gets killed by the Electric Gremlin.
  • Reincarnation: Word of God states that Mohawk, the new leader of the gremlins, was Stripe, the primary antagonist from the first film reborn. Fortunately, Gizmo sends him back to the grave for good. Whether this is a literal reincarnation or figurative (as in, they fulfill similar archetypes) is unclear.
  • Rich Boredom: Mr. Clamp
  • Sealed Evil in a Can
  • Self-Parody: This film often parodies itself, the previous film and audience (and critics') reactions to the film.
  • Sexual Karma: In the sequel with a newly girlified gremlin "attacking" a hapless human male!
  • Shout-Out: This is a Joe Dante film, after all, so you will be getting Looney Tunes and Invasion of the Body Snatchers references (including the pod from the original film!), not to mention all of the referential gags to Batman, The Phantom of the Opera, and other Warner Brothers properties. Look fast for a pair of DC Comics (another Warners company) on the cabinet behind Billy's desk.
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: Definitely further over into comedy.
  • Smart People Speak the Queen's English: The Brain Gremlin in the sequel.
  • The Smurfette Principle: There's only one girl gremlin, and that's entirely due to gene splicing.
    • Well there was the crossdressing Gremlin briefly seen in the bar scene of the first film.
  • So Last Season: They try to get every Gremlin into the lobby by fooling them into thinking it's nighttime, then fry them with sunlight. Then come the thunderclouds. Cue Oh Crap moment.
  • Spikes of Villainy: Mohawk.
  • Stealth Pun: George and Lenny are named after the main characters from Of Mice and Men.
  • Strapped to An Operating Table: The Marathon Man version is spoofed.
  • Take That, Critics!: Surprisingly, one of the least bitter "Take That"s. Leonard Maltin, who gave the original Gremlins a negative review, appears as himself and is promptly mocked and attacked by the rampaging army.

  Maltin: I was just kidding! Ow! A ten! It's a ten!

 Daffy Duck: Oh no you don't!

 Grandpa Fred: Incredible as it seems, ladies and gentlemen, after their bizarre, bloodcurdling rampage of destruction, these strange creatures now appear to be mounting what seems to be... a musical number.

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