Merry Christmas Rewinders! This festive season, we have not one but TWO chats where we each discuss our perennial must-watch movies. True to form, those grumpy Grinches Devlin and Matt have picked subversive, somewhat dark 1980s twists on some traditional stories in what we’re calling The Naughty List. First, Devlin talks about his love for Richard Donner’s livewire Dickens remix Scrooged, while Matt waxes Joe Dante’s car for the seminal, greminal Gremlins.
Then, those sappy lads Patrick and Gali restore our spirits in The Nice List with, first, the gorgeously designed, confusing, would-be seminal epic Santa Claus: The Movie, and then Richard Curtis’ Brit-thesp smoochfest Love Actually. We discuss what our criteria for a Christmas film are, our formative experiences with them, and our abiding affection for this most unusual of ‘genres’.
Matt’s Christmas (I Gave You My Heart)
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me, Dickens with Kermit, Super Duper Looper, Christmas in the trenches, penguin commandos, last TurboMan doll, Lifesavers hotline, too old for this shit, nude Jamie Lee, cute Peltzer pets, Clark Griswold, Ebenezer Bill, and a gunfight at Nakatomi.
A tad late for this year, but for the die-hard Yuletide fanatics out there, I’ve wrapped up two seasonal movie playlists: the elf-explanatory 12 Days of Crimbo 🎄, and Merry Chrisember! 🎄, a longer, December-spanning celebration of all things holidays! You know HorrOctober and Noirvember? Like that, but with a fashionably late Thanksgiving classic, a cavalcade of Christmastime crackers, and a New Year’s resolution. Take a sleigh ride over to my Letterboxd to open the presents.
Also, as we’re allowed to unwrap one gift early on Christmas Eve, here’s a sorta reduxed compendium of my Christmas playlist trilogy: A) Merry Christmas, You Filthy Animal, 2) Another Christmas in the Trenches, and D) Ornaments Out of Fishhooks (also available separately).
Joe Dante’s festive fable meets creature feature, Gremlins, shares its slimy birthday with another childhood staple of mine – Ghostbusters. The summer of ’84 peculiarly heralded the arrival of these two, genre-bending faves. I discussed my love for Ivan Reitman’s supernatural, SNL cast-caper on our recent HalloRe’ewind podcast and blog alongside Devlin, and mentioned a Ghostbusters & Gremlins double bill would’ve been preferable to my eventual Ghostbusters & Ghostbusters II pairing, but Gremlins is (along with Die Hard) my go-to Crimbo flick, and it seemed so much more appropriate to pick it here.
“Hey gang. It’s been a rough night for Rockin’ Ricky, but he’s still on the air!”Rockin’ Ricky Rialto, Gremlins
I’ve had a realisation over the last couple of weeks about these Rewind throwback films. We sometimes ask ourselves, “Do they hold up?” Perhaps we should be asking how much we’ve changed. Do we hold up? Have we forgotten who we were? The films don’t alter – unless George Lucas made them. Frame for frame, Gremlins is the same movie I saw as a kid. I feel the same way about Gremlins as I did back then, except I tend to turn my nose up at some of the more overtly childish, slapstick Dorry’s Tavern scenes, which I’ve aged out of a bit, but thoroughly loved as a boy.
How often have we heard fanboys moaning about the rubbish Star Wars prequels, and characters like Jar Jar Binks? It’s a kids’ film! Kids like Jar Jar. Yes, the prequels are inferior, but you love the originals because they captured your youth. You’re reframing something to fit you, but you’re fifty years old! Gremlins hasn’t altered, but the same can’t be said for me. It’s 2020; I am George Lucas’ Special Edition of Matt – and who says that’s an improvement? I often think I was a finer, purer judge of films as a kid, with that innocence and no agenda.
Brilliantly termed “icky mayhem” by Leonard Maltin, Gremlins desecrates the American Christmas fairytale in a dark, anarchic manner. It’s both mischievous kiddie horror, and jet-black satirical comedy; as unique as the strange creatures it portrays. For me, what makes Gremlins truly stand out from the crowd as a twisted little gem, is the way it acts as an essential annual antidote to the typical saccharine fare surrounding us this time of year.
Apparently, in ’84, filmgoers returned in droves to cinemas the second weekend after Gremlins’ initial release. I did too – not to the pictures, as I was only two years old, but once it was circled in the Radio Times, taped off the telly, and I’d claimed that VHS as my own, it was rewound and rewatched too many times to count. As I confessed with James Cameron’s Aliens, Gremlins is like an old friend, and an absolute must-watch each year at Christmastime. It may turn some folks off – typically the more mature, traditionalist members of your household, but to quote Marty McFly, “Your kids are gonna love it.”