RAND: Are these things real?
KID: I told you. Everything's real.
Rand is a guy who made an electronic chicken to crack eggs, yet he thinks the stuff in this shop is weird or fake? How rude.
MR. FUTTERMAN: These goddamn foreign cars, they always freeze up on you. You don't find American machinery doing that. Our stuff can take anything. See that plow? Fifteen years old. Hasn't given me a day's trouble in fifteen years.
Mr. Futterman is a little xenophobic, yes, but his anti-foreign vehicle commentary is dripping with both irony and foreshadowing. Mr. Futterman gets run over by his own American plow when it's taken over by gremlins.
PETE: Hey, look, that one's got a cute little stripe on its head.
Pete's the youngest character in the movie, and youngsters are generally more accepting of foreignness and change. Pete thinks Stripe's adorable… until it bites him. Maybe these foreign creatures are dangerous after all.
DAD: I bet every kid in America would like one of these. They might even replace the dog as the family pet. Think about it, the Peltzer Pet. This could really be the big one.
Rand envisions a world where he transitions from inventor to importer, bringing over a foreign creature and packaging it in a way that makes American kids want to buy it. Considering he's better at telling stories than he is at inventing, this just might work.
MR. HANSON: Can I keep one of these here, run some tests on him?
The mogwai are foreign creatures. Mr. Hanson's a curious American, so he does what all curious Americans do: he sticks needles in them. He'd probably dissect the thing if he the opportunity to.
MR. FUTTERMAN: Gremlins! You gotta… you gotta watch out for them foreigners because they plant gremlins in their machinery. The same gremlins brought down our planes in the big one. […] That's right. World War II.
Mr. Futterman falls into the category of an "I told you so!" character. His lunatic ramblings turn out to be right. Foreign things are dangerous! This whole movie is like his worst nightmare.
BILLY: They're gremlins, Kate. Just like Mr. Futterman said.
When the mogwai mutate into green, gross, violent creatures, they get a different name: gremlins. That name distances them even further from normality, making them seem more foreign and dangerous.
MRS. DEAGLE: I'll catch the beast myself. Then he'll get what he deserves. A slow, painful death. Maybe I'll put him in my spin dryer on high heat.
Mrs. Deagle is one of the few violent human characters. She's like a human gremlin, threatening to harm Billy's dog. Someone check the back of her head for a zipper. She might be gremlins in a human suit. (Hey, there's an idea for a sequel.)
[STRIPE bites Pete's finger.]
It's just a little nip, but right away you know that Stripe means trouble. Gizmo is peaceful and never tries to harm anyone. But Stripe is a troublemaker even when he's still a cute little fuzzball.
[BILLY finds BARNEY tied up with Christmas lights.]
The bad mogwai, Stripe and his gang, are initially pranksters, rather than outright violent. But when they mutate into bigger creatures with sharper claws, things get dangerous. Always have your mogwai declawed.
MOVIE: Can't you see? They're after you! They're after all of us! Our wives, our children, everyone! They're here already! You're next! You're next! You're next! You're next!
Billy likes to watch old horror movies, and this one foreshadows the tide turning from relatively harmless pranks to violent acts by the gremlins. Hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband, because gremlins are hurting everybody out here.
[The GREMLINS play darts with GIZMO pinned to the board.]
Poor little Gizmo. It shows us how mean the other gremlins are when they pin him to a dart board and use him as target practice. Lucky for Giz they have bad aim.
[MOM's gremlin massacre.]
The '80s introduced us to amazing action stars: Rambo, Robocop, and Billy's Mom. This is a violent scene you can root for, as Mom liquefies a gremlin in a blender, stabs one with a knife, and microwaves another one. She has to fight violence with violence.
[STRIPE attacks BILLY with a chainsaw.]
The violence in the film ratchets up the intensity as we approach the finale. Stripe with a chainsaw is one of the craziest scenes, because it's the first time we see, on screen, a gremlin attack another human with the sole purpose of killing him. Stripe means business.
Like a vampire from Buffy, Stripe melts in the sun. It's gross and drawn out, showing us that filmmakers are a) willing to push this as far into the horror genre as possible and b) proud of their special effects. That's some A+ goo, guys.
KATE: It's when a lot of people get really depressed.
BILLY: That's funny, you because I always thought everyone was happy during the holidays, no matter what.
KATE: Well most people are, but some aren't. While everybody else is opening up their presents, they're opening up their wrists.
BILLY: Cheery thought.
KATE: It's true. The suicide rate's always the highest around the holidays.
BILLY: Now I'm depressed.
This film can be one that changes your opinion of the Christmas holidays. It isn't always happiness and ho-ho-hos.
MOVIE: "They're like huge seed pods!"
Billy likes to watch horror movies, and this scene from Invasion of the Body Snatchers foreshadows the gremlins own mutation. Their cocoons, too, look like festering seed pods.
PETE: What'd you say this was called? A putrid stage?
MR. HANSON: Pupal. Pupal stage.
PETE: Like a butterfly.
MR. HANSON: Yeah, right. Right. This is a cocoon, and inside he's going through changes. Lots of changes.
PETE: Like my mother.
MR. HANSON: No. No, that's different. This is called a metamorphosis. It's a change in form and in appearance.
Metamorphosis. Pupal stage. Cocoon. Gremlins is educational, too.
BILLY: Maybe you'd like to go out on a date?
Billy and Kate's relationship changes from friendly co-workers to potential love interests when he asks her out on a date. Okay, maybe not all change is bad.
[STRIPE attacks and jumps into pool at YMCA.]
The filmmakers should have commissioned the Village People to write a song for this scene. "Young Gremlin, you can do what you feel…" Stripe goes to great lengths to mutate and really change the game when he jumps into the pool. This is the tipping point, and there's no going back to the way things were.
MRS. DEAGLE: They're here! They've come for me. I… I'm not ready. I'm not ready yet. I'm not ready.
Does your opinion of Mrs. Deagle change in her final moments when she begs for her life to be spared? Or is it too little too late?
GRANDFATHER: You teach him to watch television?
The white people of Kingston Falls aren't the only ones resistant to change. Grandfather doesn't want Gizmo to be Americanized. First, television. Next, Mountain Dew and microwave taquitos.
GRANDFATHER: Perhaps someday you may be ready. Until then, Mogwai will be waiting.
Implies Billy needs to change before being able to take care of Gizmo. What kind of change? He should get dad to invent a little mogwai-sized rain slicker.
RAND: I was trying to move a little merchandise maybe find a present for my kid.
Does Rand know his son well? Does he pick out a good gift for Billy, if we ignore the murderous rampage side effect? Or does his action show the irresponsibility of some parents buying random gifts for their kids?
GERALD: Look at you. You're practically supporting your whole family.
The family issues in this movie are subtle, and speak to the larger culture of suburbia. Gerald, the bank boss, is a pompous yuppie, who looks down on Billy for having to work to support his family. Billy's working class family doesn't exactly fit into the suburban utopian stereotype.
BILLY: Is something wrong?
MOM: No, it's a sad movie.
Mom's watching It's a Wonderful Life, but she's really crying because her family life isn't wonderful. Here we get another suggestion of the stress lying beneath the surface of the Peltzer family. Mom's stressed because dad is a failed inventor, and the family is struggling financially. The last thing they need is for him to be bringing home expensive Xmas gifts. If Dad had brought the family a hug and a card, none of the terror would have happened.
MRS. DEAGLE: Kopeck, you stop that, you bad kitty!
Mrs. Deagle's only family now is her cats. With her nasty attitude, she gives crazy cat ladies a bad name.
KATE: The worst thing that ever happened to me was on Christmas. Oh, God. It was so horrible. It was Christmas Eve. I was 9 years old. Me and Mom were… were decorating the tree... waiting for Dad to come home from work. A couple hours went by. Dad wasn't home. So Mom called the office. No answer. Christmas Day came and went, and still nothing. So the police began a search. Four or five days went by. Neither one of us could eat or sleep. Everything was falling apart. It was snowing outside. The house was freezing, so I went to try to light up the fire. That's when I noticed the smell. The firemen came and broke through the chimney top. And me and Mom were expecting them to pull out a dead cat or a bird. And instead they pulled out my father. He was dressed in a Santa Claus suit. He'd been climbing down the chimney on Christmas Eve, his arms loaded with presents. And he was gonna surprise us. He slipped and broke his neck. He died instantly. And that's how I found out there was no Santa Claus.
This is one of the greatest movie monologues ever, and it reminds us to think about other families during the holidays. It might not always be a happy time. Also, don't try climbing down the chimney. Ever.