Remember the three rules when you pick up the new “Gremlins” home release, now in 4K UHD.

Before The Nightmare Before Christmas started the argument over whether it was a Halloween or Christmas movie, there was Gremlins. Considered a classic ‘80s film, the Joe Dante-directed (Innerspace), Chris Columbus-written (The Goonies) holiday nightmare is celebrating its 35th anniversary giving it the 4K UHD treatment for the very first time. If this was a film you loved as a child or, perhaps, are thinking about sharing with the next generation, this new release from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is the version you’ve been waiting for. Packed with plenty of previously unreleased special features, Gremlins has content to entice old audiences looking to find out more about the film they love, while beautifully upgrading the sound and picture, making the already frequently terrifying film somehow more grotesque. If you’ve been waiting to upgrade your DVD or VHS copy, now’s the time to do it.

If you’re unfamiliar with Gremlins, the premise is fairly simple. One day during the Christmas season, inventor Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) enters a Chinatown shop in hopes of selling the owner one of his latest inventions. While there, he hears a song coming from a strange creature, called a mogwai, and purchases it for his son, Billy (Zach Galligan). Unlike most pets, this one comes with three specific, hard-set rules. When a friend of Billy’s accidentally breaks one of the rules, the mogwai, named Gizmo by Billy, begins a replication process where several more creatures like himself are made. While they have Gizmo’s cuteness, they lack his gentleness. It doesn’t take long for the new creatures to molt further, taking on their final, more malevolent form, and setting about to terrorize the town.35th Gremlins Anniversary

It’s fairly safe to say that there are things from the ‘80s that would never fly in a PG-rated film today. I’m not talking about neon shirts, hair bands, and ankle warmers, but melting faces, ghostly terrors, full or partial nudity, and situations of extreme peril. Some nudity is allowed in PG-13 films, but not typically anymore as that tends to lead to a harder-R rating. Instead, PG-13 films are usually where the more adult, more traumatic, yet night safe-for-young-audience content resides. Gremlins would easily be listed as a PG-13 film by modern standards due to the murderous gremlins who prey on the townspeople of Kingston Falls, but also due to the content of the story. Phoebe Cates’s Kate Beringer brings up early in the film the high rate of suicides during the holidays right before Billy tries to ask her out and, later, Kate tells the protracted story of her father’s death by chimney. All this film was missing was Artax drowning in the swamp of sadness and Gremlins would’ve hit The Neverending Story levels of trauma. (Though that’s an impossibility as they were released one month apart in the same year.) All of this is to provide the set-up to exclaim: Gremlins is way more violent than I remembered! But it looks beautiful in 4K.

Let’s be clear on one thing, a 4K film does not make it on par with a contemporary release. The movie still retains the grainy, slightly smoky look that the original film offers. That doesn’t go away. What it will do is make the colors more vibrant and the blacks more dark. The initial scene in Chinatown within Mr. Wing’s shop is brightly lit in the original version, but now seems draped in shadows, adding to the mystical tone the sequence tries to obtain.  The sequence where school teacher Roy Hanson (Glynn Turman) tries to track down a loose gremlin in his classroom takes on greater peril as the projected pulsing heart valve at the front of the classroom presents with a deeper red and more detail. In this particular instance, the heart draws the eye away from Hanson creating a distraction from the action and degrading the tension. However, later, when Billy and Kate are trying to set a trap for the gremlins in the movie theater, the red glow of emergency lights fill the screen with a sense of menace that permeates every aspect of the screen. But the pièce de résistance takes the form of Stripe’s death by sunlight, where the green and brown skin seemingly melts right off his bones. It takes an already terrifying moment and makes it morbid and gross to mesmerizing effect.

The special features are more for the cinephiles, the lovers of lost content and irrelevant tidbits, but are no less fun for people feeling nostalgic for Gremlins. Available on both 4K UHD and Blu-ray are two sets of commentary featuring members of the crew: one that focuses on the production side and one that focuses on the performances. This is a fantastic opportunity to listen to Galligan, Cates, and Dick Miller (who passed in January of this year), along with Dante, discuss a film which has followed their careers for the last 35-years. These commentaries are the only bonus features offered on the 4K UHD disc, so you’ll need to switch to either the Blu-ray or digital editions to access the remainder. On those formats you’ll find everything from the featurette, commentary, trailers, and more. One to be aware of is the six-minute featurette “Gremlins: Behind The Scenes” which focuses mainly on the Chinatown set with commentary from Dante, Axton, and Cates. If you wondered about deleted scenes, there’re 10-minutes of additional material which can be watched with or without commentary. Like trailers? You can watch two versions for Gremlins and one for the sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch.

There are a few things that don’t age well, like the representation of Chinese culture in the opening sequence, but, by and large, Gremlins remains as charming and horrifying as ever. The animatronics for Gizmo, Stripe, and the rest of the Gremlins do appear slightly dated by modern tech, yet they remain as emotionally evocative as ever. Yes, it’s easier to tell that Gizmo’s head is attached to a servo when his head bobs while singing, but the articulation of terror on Gizmo’s face as fur babies explode off his back still feels like watching a real creature in horrific pain. Same with Stripe, whose character design and articulation never appears anything less than nightmare-inducing. Perhaps that’s just childhood memories getting activated by watching a film unseen in close to 30 years, but, whatever it is, the sweetness, the hope, and, yes, even the comedy, remain just as delightful as they did in 1984.

Available on 4K UHD Combo Pack and digital October 1st, 2019.

Gremlins Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the following previously released special features:

4K Ultra HD:

  • Filmmakers’ Commentary with Director Joe Dante, Producer Michael Finnell and Special Effects Artist Chris Walas
  • Cast Commentary with Director Joe Dante, Zack Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller, and Howie Mandel


  • Filmmakers’ Commentary with Director Joe Dante, Producer Michael Finnell and Special Effects Artist Chris Walas
  • Cast Commentary with Director Joe Dante, Zack Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller, and Howie Mandel
  • Gremlins: Behind the Scenes Featurette
  • Additional Scenes with Commentary
  • Photo Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Additional Scenes
  • Cute.  Clever.  Mischievous.  Intelligent: Making Gremlins
  • Gremlins: The Gift of the Mogwai (motion comic)
  • The Last Gremlin (motion comic)
  • From Gizmo to Gremlins: Creating the Creatures
  • Hangin’ with Hoyt on the set of Gremlins


Categories: Home Release, Recommendation

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