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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Gremlins is an American comedy horror film directed by Joe Dante and released in 1984 by Warner Bros. It is about a young man who receives a strange creature (called a mogwai) named Gizmo as a pet, which then spawns other creatures who transform into small, destructive, evil monsters. This story was continued with a sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, released in 1990. Unlike the lighter sequel, the original Gremlins opts for more black comedy, which is balanced against a Christmas-time setting. Both films were the center of large merchandising campaigns.

Steven Spielberg was the film's executive producer, with the screenplay written by Chris Columbus. The film stars Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates, with Howie Mandel providing the voice of Gizmo. The actors had to work alongside numerous puppets, as puppetry was the main form of special effects used to portray Gizmo and the gremlins.

Gremlins was a commercial success and received positive reviews from critics. However, the film has also been heavily criticized for some of its more violent sequences. Critics alleged these scenes made the film inappropriate for younger audiences who could be admitted into theatres under its PG rating. In response to this and to similar complaints about other films, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) reformed its rating system within two months of its release.

In this film, the Amblin Entertainment logo makes its first on-screen appearance, displayed as "An Amblin Entertainment Presentation" as part of the end credits in place of the original logo.


Randall Peltzer (Axton) is an inventor of modest abilities and questionable success. From the fictional community of Kingston Falls, he travels to Chinatown in Manhattan to sell his inventions and pick up a present for his son, Billy. A young Chinese boy (Louie) there takes Randall to his grandfather's small shop, where Randall takes interest in a small cute furry creature called a mogwai (which in Cantonese translates literally as "monster"). Mr. Wing (Luke), the Chinese boy's grandfather and owner of the shop, refuses to sell the mogwai, even when Randall offers $200 for it. This is money that the Wing family desperately needs, however, so Wing's grandson secretly sells the mogwai to Randall. Though the creature seems innocent enough, the grandson warns Randall with three rules regarding the mogwai: 1. He must not expose him to bright light, especially sunlight, which can kill the mogwai. 2. He must not let the mogwai get wet (water causes reproduction roughly equivalent to one new mogwai per drop); and 3. The most important rule is that no matter how much they beg or cry; they must never, ever feed it after midnight (which triggers its metamorphosis into a beast called a gremlin). Although he is told the rules, he remains unaware of the consequences.

Randall names the creature "Gizmo" and brings him home to his son Billy. Billy (Galligan) has taken up a job at the bank to provide money for his parents, with whom he lives. He has a dog called Barney whose mischief makes him and Billy the targets of harassment by Ruby Deagle (Holliday), an elderly woman wielding much financial influence. Billy's coworker and love interest Kate Beringer (Cates), a local bartender, sees directly the misery in the town caused by Mrs. Deagle's business practices.

Billy is fascinated with Gizmo, who is highly intelligent, can hum a tune, and proves to be a very gentle and well-behaved creature. Unfortunately, Billy's friend, Pete Fountaine (Feldman), accidentally spills water on Gizmo. This causes Gizmo to go into convulsions and instantly multiply, spawning five new mogwai by a process that appears painful to him. These new mogwai are much more aggressive than Gizmo. They are led by the mogwai Stripe, who has a white mohawk hairstyle. Billy later brings one to Pete's science teacher Roy Hanson (Glynn Turman), and adds a drop of water to it to create another one. Roy aggravates the mogwai by sticking a needle in it for a blood test. Ignoring Billy's cautions, Roy leaves food out, which the mogwai promptly steals and eats after midnight.

Eventually, the new mogwai trick Billy into feeding them after midnight by unplugging his electric alarm clock from the mains. All the creatures, except Gizmo, who refused to accept the food, soon form cocoons around themselves. While Billy is at the bank, the cocoons hatch, and the mogwai emerge, having transformed into "gremlins". In this form, they possess fangs, claws, red eyes, and dark green reptilian skin, and are extremely reckless. Billy travels to the school to talk to Mr. Hanson, only to find him killed by the gremlin at the school. Billy is injured and races to warn his mother (McCain), who is now alone with the gremlins, and comes into conflict with them. She manages to kill three, using household tools as weapons. While she is being strangled by a surviving gremlin, Billy arrives and saves her by lopping its head off it into the living room fireplace with an ornamental sword. The only remaining gremlin in the house is Stripe, who escapes. Billy follows him to the local YMCA, but the creature escapes once more by jumping into a swimming pool. Realizing what is about to occur, Billy flees, while Stripe multiplies into a multitude of gremlins.

Billy then takes Gizmo to the police station, in an effort to warn the townsfolk. The policemen ignore them to investigate a series of bizarre accidents, which Billy insists are the work of the gremlins. Meanwhile, Stripe and his gremlin army attack the town, assaulting the population. Only one fighting back is Pete who manages to defend himself through his bedroom window from them all, including at one point cutting the Christmas lights some of the gremilns were trying to climb. Billy then rushes to Dorry's Tavern to rescue Kate, who has been bartending that night. The gremlins have taken over the tavern, are behaving in an exceedingly vulgar fashion, and force Kate to serve them. She eventually discovers they are frightened by light when she attempts to light one's cigarette. She then knocks down several through flash photography, and is later reunited with Billy. The two seek shelter in the bank while the gremlins wreak havoc upon Kingston Falls. Notably, the creatures kill Mrs. Deagle by supercharging her stairlift into a deadly catapult that launches her through a window, and almost kill Billy's neighbors, the Futtermans, by driving a snowplow through their house. And Kate tells Billy and Gizmo that her fears of Christmas culminated as a child when her father was accidentally killed trying to sneak down the chimney as Santa Claus. When Billy, Kate, and Gizmo reemerge, they find that the gremlins are gone from the streets and are happily watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in a local theater. Billy manages to blow up the theater, whereupon all the gremlins burn to death except Stripe, who had left briefly to obtain candy.

Billy pursues Stripe through a department store, but Stripe escapes and reaches a water fountain, hoping to reproduce once again. By this time it is morning, and Gizmo, having escaped with the help of Billy and Kate, opens a window blind and exposes Stripe to sunlight before he can spawn new gremlins. Screeching and groaning in agony, Stripe perishes, slowly melting into a puddle of green ooze.

At the end of the film, Mr. Wing returns to collect Gizmo to prevent any recurrence of trouble. After giving back the $200 that Randall paid, Mr. Wing observes that while Western society is not ready to properly care for a mogwai, Billy may one day be so. Randall, in a narration, ends the story warning the audience to take precautions in the case of any machinery failure in their homes—because a gremlin just might be present.

Cast and Characters

Character Name Actor Name
William 'Billy' Peltzer Zach Galligan
Kate Beringer Phoebe Cates
Randall 'Rand' Peltzer Hoyt Axton
Mr Wing Keye Luke
Pete Fountaine Corey Feldman

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Gremlins" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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