Watched May 24th, 2016.
Learning how to be scared, how to ride the rollercoaster of adrenaline and fight or flight in a controlled environment, one where you’re fairly certain there’s no real danger to your body or soul, is essential to the growth process. It’s one of the milestones like the training wheels coming off, the first day of school, the Learner’s Permit etc.
I know there are modern day equivalents of my own amazing “training-wheel” horror childhood, but I’m more protective in that way of my own children than my parents were and I don’t seek it out myself, so I’m not so familiar.
But my childhood had the best onramp for scares imaginable. Everything from scary adventure stories like Temple of Doom and The Goonies, to childish horror movies like this one, Critters and The Lost Boys, to real horror films with the themes of childhood and adolescence at their center (Child’s Play, Nightmare on Elm Street). It was a great time to be terrified.
The onramp for my boys has been pretty slow and safe. We watched Jurassic Park about a year and a half ago, and it was maybe too early. Son #1 loved it, but had no interest in watching any of the rest of the series anytime soon. Looking through our movie library, we crossed Gremlins the other night and he wanted to know the deal. We watched the trailer, I told him it would walk a similar line to JP, scary in moments, but overall about adventure and fun stuff. He was sold, 100%.
How does the movie hold up? The eyes of an 8 year old are a pretty good test, in my mind. He loved it, every moment. The very first transformation in the teacher’s classroom, which ends in a needle to the butt, almost made him ask me to stop the movie. He held on though, and eventually was laughing and cheering as Gizmo and crew rounded up the last of the Gremlins and saved the day. He’s already excited about watching this one again at Christmastime (it’s proper place in the calendar) and he can’t wait to watch Gremlins 2.
***BUT**** There is that terribly weird scene in the middle of the movie, where Kate is telling Billy exactly why she “hates” Christmas so much (a notion that’s been hinted at several times already) it’s a gruesome little story, which has exactly zero bearing on the rest of the film, other than to explain the absence of Kate’s Dad and the aforementioned Christmas hatred. It also spoils the big fat Christmas guest stuff, and for my kid at least, that whole scene just got skipped. I strongly suggest you do the same.
It’s absolutely normal to be scared of the dark. It’s important to start at an early age moving that fear into the “imaginary” box, experiences like Gremlins helped me do it, and I think they’re helping my sons 30 years later.
Buy it in HD on iTunes with special features included!