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Joe Dante
Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton
Chris Columbus

A boy inadvertently breaks three important rules concerning his new pet and unleashes a horde of malevolently mischievous monsters on a small town.
Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby 5,1
Castilian Spanish Dolby 5.1
Latin Spanish Dolby 2.0
German Dolby 5.1
Italian Dolby 5.1
Czech Dolby 2.0
Hungarian Dolby 2.0
Russian Dolby 5.1
Latin Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:
Latin Spanish

Runtime: 106 min.
Price: $41.99
Release Date: 10/1/2019

• Audio Commentary With Director Joe Dante, Producer Michael Finnell, and Special Effects Artist Chris Walas
• Audio Commentary With Director Joe Dante and Actors Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller and Howie Mandel
• Additional Scenes
• Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
• Trailers
• Still Gallery
• Blu-Ray Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Gremlins [4K UHD] (1984)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 22, 2019)

Welcome to Gremlins, one of the final vestiges of the original “PG” rating! For the first 15 or so years of the MPAA’s system, no step between “PG” and “R” existed.

That meant some surprisingly racy flicks ended up in “PG” territory. For example, Logan’s Run and Clash of the Titans offered nudity that would never appear in a “PG” movie today.

However, copious nudity didn’t cause the creation of the “PG-13” rating – it occurred due to allegedly excessive violence and intensity. Two films directly led to the invention of “PG-13”: Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

The latter tossed in a lot of potentially frightening material, including substantial scenes of child abuse and nasty supernatural events. While I never felt it entered “R” territory – as some folks claimed at the time – it seemed perfect for the then-nonexistent “PG-13”.

On the other hand, I think the case for Gremlins seems less clear. Clearly the movie offers a lot of violence, but the majority of it resides firmly in the “silly” vein. Even when humans become injured, this occurs in a way that seems straight out of a Warner Bros. cartoon.

Be that as it may, Gremlins still inspired its own little tempest in a teapot 35 years ago. Does the film deserve to be remembered as anything other than a historical footnote?

You bet! Although I actually prefer its 1990 sequel, Gremlins remains a fun and lively experience.

At the start of the film, we meet the Pelzer family of idyllic Capra-esque Kingston Falls. Inventor father Rand (Hoyt Axton) travels a lot to peddle his wares, and during one trip, he seeks a special Christmas present for son Billy (Zach Galligan).

In Chinatown, Rand obtains a strange critter called a Mogwai. He gives the adorable beast to Billy and all seems well.

Unfortunately, it ain’t easy to care for a Mogwai, and the Pelzers learn this the hard way. Gizmo (voiced by Howie Mandel) gets wet, and that causes him (?) to reproduce.

This creates a few new Mogwai, including the ill-tempered Stripe. These critters aren’t as gentle and even-tempered as Gizmo, and they actively try to cause mischief.

That leads to another problem when Billy inadvertently violates one of the prime Mogwai directives: don’t feed them after midnight. He does so and the Mogwai involved – Gizmo passed on the eats – go into cocoon states. When this ends, they come out as different – and even nastier – beings.

The rest of the movie follows Billy’s attempts to contain and stop the gremlins’ reign of terror, as they run rampant throughout Kingston Falls and terrorize the population. Much comic mayhem ensue as Billy tries to take care of the situation.

No, that’s not much of a plot, but Gremlins offers a very entertaining experience nonetheless. Modern movies span genres more readily than they did even back in the Eighties, so Gremlins offered something genuinely unusual. Neither straight horror flick nor simple comedy, the movie fused those elements neatly and created a lively and amusing piece of work.

None of this would work without the compelling attributes of the gremlins themselves. Of course, Gizmo’s cuteness instantly attracts us – who wouldn’t want a pet like that? – but it’s the wild gremlins that make the film succeed.

The movie’s first half seems entertaining enough, but it all comes across as obvious exposition. That’s not a complaint, for we need to get all of that information before we can proceed. However, those segments lack a great deal of spark, as it feels like the movie badly wants to get to the good stuff.

When it does and all hell breaks loose, Gremlins reaches its zenith. Created by minds who clearly watched too many Looney Tunes in their childhood – and probably adulthood, as well – the movie revels in the lunacy of the gremlins.

At turns scary and hilarious, the creatures nicely span both concepts. Creature designer Chris Walas and his crew did an excellent job with the monsters, as they properly achieved the necessary cartoony balance.

The gremlins’ human co-stars fare a bit less well, especially in regard to Galligan, as he presents an exceedingly bland presence. Perhaps that was intentional, and it may even be appropriate.

After all, the gremlins become the stars of the show, and a more forceful lead actor may detract from that. Still, it’d be nice to see a Billy with some personality, as I never care much about him while in Galligan’s hands.

Nonetheless, that’s a small complaint, as most of Gremlins works quite well. A flick packed with giddy cartoon violence and nastiness, it provides a wild ride that rarely slows. A definite classic within its genre, Gremlins remains a very entertaining movie.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Gremlins appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect a pleasing presentation.

Overall sharpness seemed good. Due to the source, occasional examples of slightly soft spots emerged, but these remained minor, as the movie usually brought nice clarity and delineation.

No signs of jagged edges or shimmering popped up, and I saw no edge haloes. With a good layer of grain, I suspected no invasive digital noise reduction, and print flaws remained absent.

With a natural palette, the movie’s colors seemed well-depicted. The hues came across as full-bodied and used the disc’s HDR capabilities well. These added impact to the colors but never made them too loud or garish.

Blacks appeared deep and full, and the HDR gave whites/contrast good punch. Shadows felt smooth and appropriately dark. Movies from the mid-80s can look spotty, but this one impressed.

I also felt pleased with the DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack of Gremlins. Not surprisingly, the soundfield maintained a general emphasis on the forward channels, though the imaging picked up as the movie progressed.

Music showed good stereo separation, and effects displayed nice breadth and localization. At times, the material seemed somewhat speaker-specific, but the track displayed a few fine moments, such as the appropriate placement of the Volkswagen engine.

For the first half or so of the flick, surround usage seemed to tend toward general reinforcement, but the action picked up when the gremlins entered the film in force. The track showed solid life during those scenes, and they even offered some cool split-surround usage.

Audio quality appeared moderately dated but it held up fairly well. Speech seemed natural and distinct, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility.

Music demonstrated adequate dynamics, so the score and songs appeared acceptably vivid and lively. Effects also came across as a little thin, but they generally were accurate and crisp.

Bass response popped some punch into the material. For example, the gremlins’ metamorphosis showed solid low-end information. In the end, the audio for Gremlins worked well after all these years.

How did the 4K UHD compare to the 2009 Blu-ray? I thought the audio was a wash, as the shift from Dolby TrueHD to DTS-HD MA made no appreciable difference.

Visuals became a different story, as the 4K UHD looked better defined and cleaner, with stronger colors and blacks. Everything about the 4K UHD’s image brought vast improvements over the disappointing Blu-ray.

On the 4K UHD, we find two separate audio commentaries, the first of which came from director Joe Dante, producer Michael Finnell, and special effects artist Chris Walas. All three sat together for this running, screen-specific track. I enjoyed the commentary for Dante’s Innerspace, and Gremlins also provided a lively and entertaining affair.

As with the Innerspace track, Dante dominates the piece, but not to a tremendous extent, though all three men contribute a lot of good information. Given the heavy amount of effects required for the movie, the focus remains on technical elements, and we learn what an ordeal it was to make the flick. Walas still sounds as though he could fall into a Gremlins-related nervous breakdown at any minute!

In addition to the details of the taxing process caused by the creation of the critters, they talk about the film’s genesis and different story elements that changed along the way. I especially like Dante’s tale of how much pressure he received from the studio to cut the scene in which Phoebe Cates’ character explains her hatred for Christmas.

Unfortunately, the track includes a few too many empty spaces, and Dante even jokes about this tendency at one point. This still manages to offer a very entertaining and informative discussion.

The second commentary features Dante along with actors Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller and Howie Mandel. All five were recorded together for this running, screen-specific piece. The track starts off well and manages to remain interesting from start to finish, but it does peter out somewhat as it progresses.

Dante and Galligan dominate the commentary, but not to the exclusion of the others. Miller offers little information, which gets to the point where Mandel jokingly harasses him about his silence.

Mandel mostly tosses in wisecracks, many of which are actually fairly funny. Cates takes more of a “speak when spoken to” approach, but the presence of an off-microphone moderator helps get more information out of her.

A light tone manifests itself throughout the piece. On one occasion, Dante even half-jokingly disparages a Galligan story with the remark that no one cares about it.

The participants add a lot of nice material about the movie. They discuss their casting and their experiences on the set, and this makes the track quite informative and entertaining most of the time.

On the negative side, Dante repeats a few stories. This doesn’t happen frequently and it doesn’t really bother me, but I thought I’d mention it.

More problematic are the occasional empty spots. That tendency grows as the movie progresses, so although it never becomes severe, it seems much more distracting in the second half of the film.

Actually, one pause during the first act proves illuminating, as Galligan does an impression of actor Glyn Turman, and due to the blank spot, I heard Turman speak and could appreciate what a dead-on mimic Galligan is. Pauses aside, the actors commentary for Gremlins offers a largely entertaining and informative program.

More extras appear on the included Blu-ray copy, one that reproduces the original 2009 disc linked earlier, and we discover a collection of Additional Scenes. The package includes eight different segments, and these run as one 10-minute, 26-second piece.

None of the scenes seems terribly compelling. Since I’m a fan of the film, I’m happy to see them, and it’s interesting to learn what happened to Gerald. Otherwise, nothing special occurs here, though “there’s more to life than macaroni” may become my new motto.

The “additional scenes” can be viewed with or without commentary from Dante and the same crew heard on the actors’ track, though I’m not sure Mandel still stayed in the room.

These remarks add some good notes about the scenes, even if Galligan and Cates can’t remember when they shot some of them. Dante lets us know why the material failed to make the final cut, and we hear some good anecdotes along the way.

From 1984 comes a vintage featurette. This six-minute, 21-second piece shows shots from the set and sound bites from Dante, gremlin designer Chris Walas, executive producer Steven Spielberg, and actors Hoyt Axton, Phoebe Cates and Zach Galligan.

Those elements don’t offer much information, but the material from the set seems reasonably interesting. There isn’t much depth here, but the show appears worth a look.

The Gallery includes 30 stills. Most of these feature production photos, but some storyboards appear as well.

Lastly, the trailers domain provides three ads. We get the original clip for Gremlins as well as a reissue promo and a clip for Gremlins 2: The New Batch.

One disappointment about extras: in 2014, Warner put out a “Diamond Luxe” two-disc issue of Gremlins. While Blu-ray One simply duplicated the 2009 disc, Blu-ray Two added some additional bonus materials.

It’s too bad they don’t repeat here. With a retail price of nearly $42, I think Warner could toss in that third disc and still make a decent profit.

After 35 years, Gremlins remains a frantic and fun piece of work. It nicely mixes horror, action and comedy and packages the different elements into one entertaining piece. The 4K UHD offers very good picture and audio as well as a nice array of bonus materials. A semi-classic, this 4K UHD turns into by far the best home video release of the film.

To rate this film, visit the Special Edition of GREMLINS

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main