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. A spiritual ancestor of sorts to Snakes on a Plane.
This film and its sequel provide examples of:
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Actor Allusion: The Futtermans 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.
Artistic License - Biology: The twin scientists in the sequel guess that Gizmo is some kind of rodent, yet he lacks the buck teeth that all rodents share; if anything, he looks like a prosimian primate.
Ascended Extra: Murray Futterman is a relatively minor character in the first film, but has a much bigger part in the second, sneaking into the building the Gremlins are occupying and even pulling a Big Damn Heroes moment to save Billy.
Bilingual Bonus: The first Mogwai is bought from a Chinese shop. "Mo-Gwai" is Cantonese for "devil"
Body Horror: The death of Stripe in the first movie is a particularly grotesque example.
This can lead to a bit of Fridge Horror if you consider that this is the first time we see what sunlight does to the gremlins, but it also applies to the mogwai; what happens to Stripe could potentially happen to cute, cuddly Gizmo....
Not to mention the intense pain caused by reproduction via water.
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.
Cute Is Evil: The cuteness of the Mogwai/Gremlins blinds people to the fact that they could possibly be dangerous.
The Fair Folk: The novelisations outright state that the Mogwai/Gremlins are their direct inspiration, and they are modelled after a particular fey creature anyways. If you consider the novels' statements about them being aliens to be true, then they also refference the similarities between traditional fairies and the grays.
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.
Gizmo himself qualifies when he models himself after Rambo.
Laughably Evil: Most gremlins in general. They're both incredibly dangerous and very funny.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Disney Death: It appears that the Futtermans are crushed and killed by a snowplow-driving gremlin, but at the very end of the movie we hear a news reporter mentioning that he'd just spoken with the lovable old couple, who are still alive and well. Viewers who missed that often mistake their reappearance in the sequel as an Unexplained Recovery (although how they survived the encounter isn't shown, either).
Drowning My Sorrows: Mr. Futterman is put out of a job, and then finds out his beloved Kentucky Harvester has foreign-made parts in it.
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.
Nobody Dies: Sort of Retcon. In the first movie we see Mrs Deagle's body and a number of humans seem to die offscreen. But early in the second movie Kate mentions that fortunately nobody got killed.
Deagle might have just been knocked out. But one wonders how the science teacher survived. Maybe Kate was lying.
Out of Focus: Mrs. Peltzer has one awesomeAction 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.
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. To be specific, he thought it was safe to feed them as it wasn't midnight yet. His clock had been tampered with.
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 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) he pushes away an actual doll of E.T. while poking his head out.
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.
Too Dumb to Live: Kate's father had to have been a very stupid man. Jumping down your own chimney while overloaded with presents like Santa Claus is only asking for trouble.
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.
The final fate of the Mogwai/Gremlin that Billy lent to Mr. Hanson is never really explained.
In the novelization, Billy kills him using a fire extinguisher.
The two cops flip their car after a Gremlin cuts their brakes, and don't appear for the rest of the movie. It's unclear whether or not they survived (see Nobody Dies above).
Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: One particular Mogwai, stated as Earl in official media, is hinted in the film and novel as being one of the few Mogwai blessed with a more docile personality similar to Gizmo, that is until he is taken to the university to be experimented on and then happening on that sandwich, destining him as another psychotic Gremlin and to the same ill fate as all his other bretheren.
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).
In the first film, Kate was 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.
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.
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.
Doing It for the Art: Legendary Oscar-winning special effects artist Rick Baker was convinced to work on the film by letting him completely redesign the mogwai/gremlins, including making the new hybrids.
Even Evil Has Standards: In a deleted scene on the DVD, the Gremlins were clearly seen releasing the lab animals from their cages in the Splice of Life Laboratory, even one of them shouts, "GO! GO!" when he lets a dog out. The Vegetable Gremlin doesn't seem to mind when a released squirrel was munching on his head.
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 Jerk Ass 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 and attacked them.
Alternately, they inherit Gizmo's memories and know that he would attempt to take them out from those.
Hybrid Monster: Several of the Gremlins become these during the course of the film. One even turns into a bolt of electricity by drinking 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 (especially 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.
Impact Silhouette: Parodied; when the Bat Gremlin flies through a wall, the hole he leaves behind is shaped like the Batman logo.
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.
Lighter and Softer: While the first film was (somewhat) more serious in tone, the sequel is played more for laughs.
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.
*the Brain Gremlin is being interviewed about culture and civilization when another gremlin with a beanie pops in from the side and starts making a racket*
Brain Gremlin: You take a look at this fellow here.
*the Brain Gremlin takes out a gun and casually shoots the other gremlin in the head*
Brain Gremlin: Now, was that civilized? No, clearly not. Fun, but in no sense civilized.
Planimal: A gremlin drinks a potion from the science lab and becomes a gremlin/vegetable hybrid. Later we see another gremlin picking a bit of him off to snack on.
Pragmatic Adaptation: A weird quasi-case. When the movie was put on video, Dante realized the sequence of the Gremlins Breaking the Fourth Wall and taking over the projection room wouldn't fit the new format, so he made a completely different version of the scene where they cause the VCR to eat the tape.
And in the novelization, the Brain Gremlin locks the author into a closet and takes over the typewriter for a bit.
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, though it is implied to be the former as Mohawk goes out of his way to torment Gizmo for much of the movie, and in the first movie Gizmo was the character who killed Stripe.
Take That: One of the guys who's lampshading the possible problems with The Rules and being something of a smartass about it. Not only does he get attacked by a gremlin, the thing hauls off and punches him.
Take That, Critics!: Surprisingly, one of the least bitter Take Thats. 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!
Unexplained Recovery: The Futtermans sure seem to have recovered well from that whole snow plow thing in the first movie (it is mentioned in the first movie that they survived, but you have to listen carefully to hear it).
Villain Song: Frank Sinatra's New York, New York no less. And amazingly well-coordinated!
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.