We all know the rules by now from the first two Gremlins movies: Keep them away from sunlight – it will kill them. Don’t get them wet. You don’t want to find out what happens when they get wet. And the most important rule, whatever you do, don’t ever feed them after midnight. (Although I will forever be puzzled how the definition of ‘after midnight’ actually makes sense.) An important technical note: The creatures only become gremlins once they are fed after midnight – before that they’re called mogwais, fluffy little creatures that could even replace dogs as man’s best friend.
If only having a mogwai as a pet didn’t come with so many responsibilities! Evidently a greedy entrepreneur had the same thought, and through the advantages of a new scientific process, his company makes these rules obsolete—the mogwai can finally become the perfect Christmas gift. That’s the premise writer/director Ryan Patrick establishes with Gremlins: Recall, decades after the first two movies. But surprise! As always, even with the benefit of these new safety measures, something goes terribly wrong.
Gremlins: Recall is an unusually excellent fan film—Patrick is a Staff-Picked music video director, & DP Isaac Bauman has had his work showcased on this site many times. The puppetry on display for the mogwais and gremlins is not state-of-the-art, but is certainly of a higher caliber than one would expect for a film of this type, and very effective. Even more interestingly, the film does not stop at simple fan-service, it actually presents a promising vision for a franchise reboot by adopting the The Force Awakens playbook: stay true to the original’s spirit, expand upon the narrative in a way that is very close to the first installment yet still re-defines it for a new generation, while switching the gender of the main character.
“I had the idea to make a Gremlins fan film for a while now. I always wanted it to be a touch campy, a touch b-movie in feel. It’s a careful balance, because you don’t want to just make a “bad” movie. The original Gremlins is a classic, but it was a constant discussion of how do we update the tone and feel of the movie while (hopefully) doing the original some justice.” – writer/director Ryan Patrick
Unlike famous fan films of the past few years like POWER/RANGERS, this is not holistic reimagining, as Patrick and the team stay true to everything a fan would want from a new Gremlins movie: a cute mogwai for heroine Claire (Katherine Rodriguez) to take a liking to, mischievous hijinks from those nasty gremlins she has to fight, interspersed with the right balance of gore and dark humor. With Claire’s concerns about the mogwai’s treatment there’s also an emotional story theme that hints at a discussion around animals rights—although it is arguably not as intense as Phoebe Cates’ character’s monologue about why she hates Christmas in the original film.
One of the most unusual Xmas movies to become a cult phenomenon, and among five to ten films I watch ritually every holiday season, the first Gremlins became a break-out hit when it was released in 1984. Produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Chris Columbus, who would go on to make another Christmas classic with Home Alone, director Joe Dante was picked for his ability to successfully combine horror and comedy.
Like with most successful franchises, talks about a potential Gremlins 3 have surfaced here and there over the years. A report from August suggest that a script for the film has been completed. I’m calling it right now though: take note Hollywood – if those in charge ever think about a reboot, sequel, prequel, mini-anthology series or Snapchat immersive experience – look no further than director Ryan Patrick to keep the original’s spirit alive and give Gremlins into the the capable hands of a filmmaker who can build upon its legacy.