1984 was a year like any other, but a year nonetheless. I don't think there is any disputing that. I was a wee lad of only 3 years and as such had only just started smoking. I could also say "motherfucker" like a champ. I was a precocious little guy. You can't argue with the fact that it is hilarious to hear a toddler drop an F bomb. As long as it is not my kids. But this post is to sing the merits of 1984 (and one event in particular, but we'll get to that later), not to expound on the joys of juvenile cursing. So without further ado, let's see what happened in 1984....
1. The first Apple Macintosh goes on sale! A landmark event for nerds everywhere. I think this may even be tantamount to Jesus's second coming, for the computer set.
2. Australians finally get Medicare. Let me get this straight. An island that used to be a prison colony can get Medicare, but the USA still likes to allow insurance companies to decide who lives and who dies? Something seems odd about that.
3. The first MTV video music awards are held! I miss the days when MTV used to show music videos.
4. Ronald Reagan defeats Walter Mondale in the US Presidential election. Actually, mercilessly destroyed Walter Mondale is probably more apt.
5. Crack is introduced to Los Angeles. I know we all remember this, right?
6. Michael Jackson sets his hair on fire while filming a Pepsi ad. They really should have used this footage. Can you imagine that commercial!?!? Michael Jackson moonwalking across a stage while his head is fully engulfed in flames. Cue the huge flashing Pepsi logo. That's advertising gold right there.
But the event that would forever change the world happened on June 8. This is a day that rightfully should be expressed as an international holiday, where we would gather around the fireplace, mug of hot cocoa firmly in hand, and regale our loved ones with stories of how we first experienced this "event". And of course it would be a mandatory paid holiday, because we don't get nearly enough of those. So as if you haven't guessed by now, the event that I am referring to is the release of the greatest movie ever made in the history of the universe. GREMLINS! And if you think I am over exaggerating, you're wrong. This was proven and decided in the late 90's at a press conference in Zurich. Or maybe I just dreamed that. Is it weird that I dream about press conferences proclaiming Gremlins as the greatest movie ever? No, I don't think so either.
So let's delve a little deeper into the film, as a refresher to those of you that haven't experienced the magic in 20 years or so. Do I need to state the obvious and say "Spoiler Warnings" for a film that is 24 years old? If you haven't seen this movie, go and kill yourself now, because you haven't really lived anyway. I'll wait....
Our story begins in the quaint little town of Kingston Falls. Here we meet Randall Peltzer, who by all accounts, is a very shitty inventor. It is these shitty inventions though, that lead him to New York where he meets Mr. Wing. Mr. Wing is your typical Chinese movie stereotype. Full of wisdom and ominous as all hell. Like all other Chinese characters in the history of films he owns an antique shop where no one actually buys anything. Randall is looking for a present for Billy, his loving son, when he happens upon Mr. Wing's ancient dusty shop. Here he finds the perfect gift. A Mogwai. A cute little critter that talks in a voice which is guaranteed to make any woman instantly melt and want to hug and cuddle him. Randall offers Mr. Wing 200 bucks for said mogwai, only to have his generous offer rebuked. What up wit dat, Wing? I understand that Mogwais come with lots of responsibility, but why are you displaying the little fucker if you don't intend to sell him? I guess if Mr. Wing had kept him locked up in the storage room though, we wouldn't have much of a movie, so I digress.
Wing's grandson knows better though. He knows that his grandfather needs that $200, due to the fact that he hasn't made a sale over a hundred years. And before you can say "Ramen noodles", Randall and Mini Wing are making a shady back alley deal for the Mogwai, and the town of Kingston Falls will never be the same. Mini Wing does take the time to dictate three nonsensical rules to keeping a Mogwai.
1. Do not expose it to sunlight. Apparently, Mogwais are part of the vampire family.
2. Do not get it wet. Which always made me think: Mogwais must smell like ass.
3. Do not feed it after midnight. I wonder if they take daylight savings time into account?
Now we meet Billy, who illogically, gets to fuck Phoebe Cates. Little gremlin monsters, that I can believe. But Billy slamming Phoebe Cates, no sir. My suspension of disbelief does not travel that far. Billy means well, but he is kind of an idiot, and it shows. Three little rules to follow, and he can't even get that right. Before you know it, Gizmo (the mogwai) gets water splashed on him, and goes completely spastic. Little clumps of fur start popping off of his back (Gizmo's, not Billy's although that would have been a cool plot twist) and grow into new mogwais. But these Mogwais are decidedly more sinister, and soon trick Billy into feeding them after midnight. Remember, I said Billy isn't too bright. How the fuck do you let a bunch of little stuffed animals trick you, Billy? Really.
And that, my friends, is when the shit really hits the fan. Fried chicken + cute mogwai = evil, scaly, gremlins from hell. And they didn't hold back. These guys weren't just here to cause a little unpleasantness. They were actually killing motherfuckers. And forcing Phoebe Cates to serve them liquor. And watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarves! I mean, how evil can you get?
From there, things get worse and worse for the town of Kingston Falls, as the gremlins easily take over and cause all sorts of mayhem and destruction. This is where the movie really shines in my opinion. And not only because I like to see small towns destroyed, although that is pretty great. The evil gremlins are hilarious and every time I see it, I root for them. Sadly, it always ends the same way. The gremlins are destroyed and Billy saves the day. I hate happy endings for the sake of happy endings.
Not so fast! Mr. Wing shows up (conveniently AFTER the gremlins have already been destroyed) and snatches Billy's new best friend Gizmo, effectively shattering our happy ending. And then to add insult to injury, he slams the entire western civilization, by saying we're not ready to handle the responsibility of raising a Mogwai. Well maybe not Billy, but lets not lump all of us into that category of douchebaggery. Stereotyping is wrong Mr. Wing. I thought you were better than that.
So one of the things that I love most about this movie is the way people have remembered it over the years. 9 out of 10 people will happily remember this movie as "the one with the cute little teddy bear that drives a little toy car". While that description fits to a point, it is also a movie about sadistic demented monsters who will go out of their way to fuck your shit up. The movie is actually quite a bit darker than a lot of people tend to remember it, and I love that about it. Remember this speech from Phoebe Cates' character?
"The worst thing that ever happened to me was on Christmas. Oh, God. It was so horrible. It was Christmas Eve. I was 9 years old. Me and Mom were decorating the tree, waiting for Dad to come home from work. A couple hours went by. Dad wasn't home. So Mom called the office. No answer. Christmas Day came and went, and still nothing. So the police began a search. Four or five days went by. Neither one of us could eat or sleep. Everything was falling apart. It was snowing outside. The house was freezing, so I went to try to light up the fire. That's when I noticed the smell. The firemen came and broke through the chimney top. And me and Mom were expecting them to pull out a dead cat or a bird. And instead they pulled out my father. He was dressed in a Santa Claus suit. He'd been climbing down the chimney... his arms loaded with presents. He was gonna surprise us. He slipped and broke his neck. He died instantly. And that's how I found out there was no Santa Claus."
Remember, this is a film that was marketed primarily towards kids. Not only do they reveal the truth about Santa Claus, they do it in an anecdote involving the grisly death of a loved one. You're a genius Joe Dante. Except for Looney Tunes: Back in Action. What the fuck was that about, Joe?
So when was the last time you watched Gremlins? If it has been longer than 2 years, you need to rectify that immediately. I tried to do that last week, and realized that some asshole had stolen my copy. I don't know when, but I do know that this movie was definitely in my collection. And now it is not. And I am sad. You know what this means, right?
QUEST FOR GREMLINS!!!!
But not this post, because I've already wasted enough of your time today. Stay tuned....