Does It Hold Up is a chance to re-experience childhood favorites of books, movies, TV shows, video games, and other cultural phenomenon decades later. Have they gotten better like a fine wine, or are we drinking cork?
Every kid has a favorite stuffed animal or security blanket. For my childhood neighbor and best friend Alex, it was a stuffed replica of Gizmo, the fuzzy-faced critter from the children's horror film Gremlins. Released a year before either of us were born, a Christmas didn't go by without a screening of the film at Alex's home. I remember the popcorn, the Cherry Coke, and the crustless sandwiches, prepared by his mom; but the movie, the story of a young man and his dangerous pet, is hidden beneath a nostalgic haze.
This year, I tried to remember what it was about Gremlins that had Alex and I coming back to it year after year. I've now watched the film twice in as many weeks, and I can't say what it was that made the film work nearly three decades ago. I can say it doesn't work today — not in the traditional sense.
The truth about Gremlins is hidden beneath a nostalgic haze
Gremlins isn't the movie I remembered. It's genre-less, bouncing like a loose tennis ball between action, horror, comedy, romance, drama. Whatever the case, it's not a kids' movie: the violence is too grotesque and the racial stereotyping, which may have played fine in the 1980s, is just awful. It's also watchable in its awfulness, each scene more inexplicable than the last.
I worked with Verge video editor slash Gremlin nut Ryan Manning to create a synopsis and criticism of the strange film that launched screenwriter Chris Columbus' career, the man who would later direct one of the best Christmas films of all time, Home Alone.
I don't know how I'll break the news to Alex.
Note for the video: I mention that (spoilers) the racist neighbor dies. While there's no reason to believe he survives this film, I've been told by Manning the neighbor makes an appearance in the sequel. Of course he does.