Welcome to Week Two of Seasonally Appropriate Monologues. This week, we go dark with a tale of death. Send the kids away and enjoy!
In the early 80's, Phoebe Cates was kind of the biggest thing in the world. Like Sarah Michelle Gellar at the peak of Buffy big, and much of this popularity rested on two films of the period (three if you count 1982’s Paradise, which most folk only know nowadays thanks to recommendations from Mr. Skin). The first was 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the teen flick that saw the start of many a great career (though it’s still mostly known for THAT pool scene).
Gremlins got much notoriety on release for many reasons, but its biggest and most memorable aspect was the quintessential small town American Christmas mixed with the violent and darkly comic anarchy of the titular creatures run amok. It might be one of the most gleeful and cherished alternative Christmas movies today, but at the time it sure caused a stir. This scene in particular because it deals with death, dark humour, even harsh truth, in the most direct manner. Even Mrs Deagle’s attack draws more of a laugh than when Kate (Phoebe Cates) tells the story of her worst Christmas.
There’s something to this scene that almost stops the film dead in its tracks for a moment. Although there is violence in the rest of the film, it’s always so damn cartoonish and crazy that it’s very easy to get swept up in the motion of it all. The film has a steady and quick pace, which goes through the roof when the Gremlins show up. However, this scene is almost the first time the film sits still long enough to register the horror of what’s actually happening, ironically by recounting an unrelated story from years before. If you overlook the brief cuts over to Gizmo, you could probably forget that this is a creature feature. For these couple of minutes, death and Christmas are linked closer than anything in the rest of the film.
Setting the scene: The Gremlins are everywhere. In the streets, in the houses, in the YMCA, and in the bar where Kate works. Using a camera flash to make her escape, she meets up with Billy and Gizmo, where they all must make a run for it to hide in the bank. Finding it utterly trashed, but Gremlin-free, the trio attempt to pull themselves together. Kate mentions that this will be just another reason to hate Christmas. Billy asks her what she means, so Kate explains…