Gremlins is one of my top five favorite films. It’s also the film I force my family to endure every Christmas. You can keep your Die Hard and Charlie Brown special to yourself. Every December the twenty-fifth, I take a stroll through Kingston Falls. Considering that Joe Dante did the impossible and made Gremlins 2 one of the best sequels ever (I find it difficult to argue with people who contend that the sequel is better than the original. It’s very likely that they’re right) while also purposefully doing his best to kill off the property, the looming threat of another Gremlins flick has always given me the creepin’ heebie-jeebies. Today, that feeling returns once again.
Warner Bros has tapped Carl Ellsworth to write the script for a Gremlins remake. Who is Carl Ellsworth? Let’s look at some credits for the guy: Disturbia. Red Eye. Remakes of The Last House on the Left and Red Dawn. He’s also responsible for the upcoming Goosebumps picture starring Jack Black as R.L. Stine. Forgive me for feeling less than enthusiastic about this choice.
But, if I’m being completely honest, I can’t foresee myself feeling enthusiastic about any choice when it comes to remaking Gremlins. The oft-repeated argument against remaking the film has to do with the creature effects; there’s almost no question that the gremlins will now be CGI instead of practical puppets. That’s certainly a powerful argument against remaking the film (CGI can never match the inherent charm of a fully realized puppet), but the other caveat I often come around to is this: how the hell do you even do a new take on Gremlins? The story of the original is essentially a spoof on the classic “small town invaded by monsters” movie, and that doesn’t really resonate with our cinematic landscape anymore. Plus, the gremlins in the original were definitely outlandish and cartoony, but they still managed to be threatening and scary. Replicating that balance seems nigh impossible, especially after the second film took the creatures into unfettered goofiness (the only scary gremlins are Mohawk and the bat gremlin, and even his creepiness is diffused thanks to the Batman logo gag).
I’m not an anti-remake guy. If there’s a reason to tell a story in a new way, I’m all for it, but Gremlins really is one of those lightning in a bottle films. Trying to update it for modern audiences or copy-and-pasting what worked originally seems like the most fruitless of endeavors.
I do wish someone would come along and make a new “tiny monsters” movie. I enjoyed the last one I saw (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark) and the sub-genre is one I have a lot of affection for in general. Instead of remaking Gremlins, make up some new fun critters for us to be scared silly by. …That’s not an endorsement to remake Critters, Hollywood.
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