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Saturday, December 13, 2014


Good day, everyone!  And a very happy Saturday, the thirteenth to you.

Yeah, yeah.  I know that Friday the 13th is supposed to be the scarier and weirder day of the lot, but there's no reason why Saturday the 13th can't have its share of unusual circumstances behind it.

Case in point, this happens to be the thirteenth day of THE POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR.  And for the thirteenth day of the calendar, we're going to be taking a look at a film that is absolutely non-traditional Christmas fare.

Basically it is a film that is set during the Christmas season that ends up being more of a horror movie.  Not exactly the kind of film that would bring you comfort and joy, is it?

Here's the thing.  While this film would probably be more suited for the Halloween portion of the blog, it will definitely fit for Christmas as well.  After all, the film begins with the exchanging of what could be considered one of the coolest and most unique gifts ever given for a Christmas present. 

I don't know how many of you ever received a pet for Christmas, but those of you who have gotten a pet for the holidays may be able to relate to this movie - albeit very loosely. 

I never did get any sort of pets for Christmas.  Back in my childhood days, my allergies were so out of whack that literally every animal on the planet made me sneeze!  Of course, since I have grown up, my allergies are not as strong, and I have since owned at least one cat who has since passed away.  Though I do remember hearing about kids in my class who did receive puppies, kitties, bunnies, and even a ferret for a pet during the holidays.

And certainly a pet can be a fantastic gift to get for Christmas.  But with owning a pet comes great responsibility.  You have to know what foods the pet can and can't eat, you have to make sure that the pet gets enough exercise, and that the pet has proper shelter.  And sometimes all it takes is one mistake for your dream pet to become a nightmare to take care of.

Of course in most cases, taking care of domesticated animals is a challenging, but fun experience overall.  But what if the animal isn't exactly domestic?  What if the animal was so exotic that nobody really knows how to take care of them?  Before you know it, you could have an entire army of animals invading your neighbourhood, scaring the innocent people who live within it!

Such is the case of the 1984 film "Gremlins", our feature presentation for today's movie posting.

Released on June 8, 1984, "Gremlins" was never designed to be a festive favourite like "White Christmas", "Holiday Inn", or "The Santa Clause".  But because the film is set during the Christmas season, that makes it fair game for discussion during the advent calendar.  The film stars Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, and Howie Mandel as the voice of this cute little guy.

Meet Gizmo.  Cute little fellow, isn't he?

He's an ancient creature from China known as a Mogwai.  There aren't too many of these creatures around, and as far as a pet goes, Gizmo is about as rare a pet as you could find.

The perfect present for a college student, wouldn't you think?  Or so Randall Peltzer thinks, anyway.

Randall (Axton) is trying to find the perfect Christmas present for his 21-year-old son Billy (Galligan), and he believes that Gizmo would definitely be the gift that keeps on giving.  However, the owner of the store refuses at first to sell Gizmo to Randall, reasoning that taking care of a Mogwai is more difficult than he or anyone else ever imagined.  Nevertheless, Randall is determined to pay any price for Gizmo, and the store owner relents, as he has fallen into a financial crisis and needs money badly.

Basically, taking care of a Mogwai should be taking care of a dog or a cat.  However, there are three major rules that you have to take into consideration if ever you should have a Mogwai in your possession.


1.  Do not expose a Mogwai to direct sunlight - it is instant death to them.

2.  Do not expose a Mogwai to water.  They do not like getting wet.

3.  You can feed your Mogwai whatever he wants before midnight.  When the clock strikes twelve, no more food for him/her.

So, you'd think that Billy would be extra careful when spending quality time with his new pet, which for the most part, he is.  Of course, there was that accident with the glass of water that caused five more Mogwai to spawn from Gizmo's body.  In turn, those five Mogwai grow up to have a completely different temperment from Gizmo.  Gizmo is sweet, lovable, fluffy, and kind.  The group that is lead by a particularly cruel Gremlin named Stripe is bold, mischievous, and out of control. 

Billy naturally grows a bit concerned, and takes one of the newly spawned Mogwai to school where he shows his former science teacher.  He sprinkles water on the Mogwai, in which a sixth Mogwai is born, and the teacher agrees to keep the newborn Mogwai for future tests.

At the same time, Billy meets up with his friend Kate (Cates), and the two make a date after Kate finishes up her shift at a local tavern.

But unbeknownst to everyone in the doomed community of Kingston Falls, Stripe and his buddies plan on making the community their own personal playground this Christmas.  They purposely disable Billy's alarm clock so that they will trick Billy into feeding them after midnight.  At the same time, the Mogwai that Billy's teacher was doing experiments on also finds some food.  Only Gizmo resists temptation and doesn't eat a bite, suggesting that Billy has taken care of him correctly, and has at least taught him a sense of right and wrong.

Of course, the next night, all hell breaks loose.  We get the sense that something terrible is about to happen when the Mogwai that is at the lab breaks free, and does something rather shocking to Billy's former teacher (it involves a candy bar).  It also doesn't help matters much that five giant cocoons have spawned in Billy's room, and when they hatch, five grotesque looking Gremlins come out of hiding and try to make Billy's mother the main course in her own kitchen.  Kate somehow finds herself caught up in danger as well when the Gremlins come around the tavern.  And before you know it, the winter wonderland of Kingston Falls becomes a living, breathing hell.

A hell that Billy has to find a way to stop before innocent lives are lost.

Now, doesn't that movie just make you want to roast chestnuts on an open fire?  I know, it's not the most traditional Christmas film out there...but hey, every advent calendar has to have one weird day, right? 

I thought that I would conclude this entry with some trivia facts about behind the scenes stories and other miscellaneous nuggets of information.

1.  Frank Welker does the voice of Stripe - as well as hundreds of various other cartoon characters over the years from Scooby-Doo's Freddy to countless voices in Transformers.

2.  The film was written by Chris Columbus, who went on to work on "Home Alone", and the first few Harry Potter films.

3.  The movie that the Gremlins watch in the theatre scene is "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves".

4.  The theatre in "Gremlins" was also used in "Back to the Future".

5.  One of the first films to receive the newly created PG-13 rating.

6.  The term "mogwai" in Cantonese means gremlin, or devil.

7.  No CGI was used in the making of this film; all the gremlins used were animatronics costing around $35,000 each!

8.  In the tavern scenes, listen to the screams that Cates makes.  Chances are that the loudest one was made when a cockroach crawled past her (unseen) while filming the scene!

9.  Howie Mandel only voiced Gizmo.  The other Gremlins were voiced by Michael Winslow.

10.  Frank Welker was the one who actually suggested Mandel for the part of Gizmo.

11.  Judd Nelson and Emilio Estevez were both considered for the role of Billy before it was handed over to Zach Galligan.

12.  Hoyt Axton is said to have improvised the majority of his lines.

13.  This film was actually meant to be released in December 1984 - which would make the Christmas theme make more sense.  The reason why it aired six months earlier?  Because Warner Brothers - the company that produced the film -  really had no other competition at the box office from other films, and they took a gamble.  That gamble paid off, as "Gremlins" made over $153 million at the box office.

And there you have it.  Another movie post down, and another day to check off.

Coming up on Day #14 - a Christmas classic, courtesy of a band that called themselves the Peppermint Kandy Kids?  How intriguing.  There couldn't be a personal touch to tomorrow's blog...could there?

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