Movie Review: ‘Gremlin’ Is A Film That Struggles To Get Outside Of The Box

June 7, 2017

Written by Capt McNeely

Georgia Division ZADF Twitter: @ZADF_ORG

When you give a loved one a gift it can come in all shapes and sizes, and in all manner of containers – like a box. Granted, when said box changes hands, almost everyone on the giving end hopes it won’t be re-gifted…except when it comes to this particular box. It’s a dilemma that Jimmy faces when he finds himself re-gifting this particular box to his mother, Mary. But this situation becomes somewhat more grave when he learns that his mother has guests: her granddaughter Julie Thatcher, her granddaughter’s husband Adam, and their two children, Anna and Charlie. Jimmy passes the box along to his mother with one simple caveat: she MUST give the box to someone she truly love sand the recipient must do the same, and so on down the line.
Unfortunately for Mary, she doesn’t begin what should have been a long line of successive hand offs, thus causing her own demise at the “hands” of the creature the box contains within. Her grandson bares witness to the incident, but neither his parents nor police responding on site believe his story and just chalk it up to a figment of a wild imagination. Soon enough the Thatcher family will discover that the box contains a very real threat, and the time for them to properly deal with it is ticking away.

Gremlin, which has no connection and bares no similarities to Joe Dante’s 1984 classic, was written and directed by Ryan Bellgardt. The poster does somewhat mimic the one for Gremlins, save for the fact that it’s not a pair of fuzzy little hands and instead is a bunch of bug like appendages emerging from the box.  The story features a curse similar to that of The Ring or, more recently, It Follows. However, this box is not a curse that can be passed along to a complete stranger, it must be given to someone the current holder of the box truly loves. It’s a concept that should have worked, especially with the extra family drama that was thrown into the mix, but it just ended up feeling a bit …flat. The story was an example of the old saying “hurry up and wait”.  While a great deal occurs in the first third of the film, the film drags along with continued attempts to get rid of or destroy the always there and indestructible box in any other way than following the rule, as well as a slow moving police investigation following the grandmother’s death. It felt like the cinematic equivalent to racing ahead of other cars in traffic only to end up sitting at a long red light.

The acting overall while adequate, was not overly impressive. But that’s not to say that there weren’t some good performances. Mike Waugh as Jimmy, Kristy Boone as Julie, and Katie Burgess as Anna all delivered performances with some genuine dramatic appeal. They each also conveyed at least the requisite sense of fear and urgency when it was appropriate.

The concept of the creature and the CGI used to produce many of the effects were underwhelming. The little buggy “gremlin” creature looked like a shoddy miniature version of the bug creatures from Starship Troopers, with the addition of a little, annoyingly, screechy mouth. And as for blood and gore effects it would have been nice to see more practical effects rather than use any CGI blood splatter, punctures or gashes.

To Josh McKamie’s credit, the cinematography was well done. His composition of shots, camera movement and tracking were a great help in making the film look good. One specific shot that really stood out was similar to a scene near the end of Poltergeist (1984), where the hallway seems to grow longer before Jobeth Williams sprints down it to save her children. Also, Andy Swanson did a respectable editing job, piecing together the finished product. Despite these favorable elements, the film still would have benefited from darker grittier look to add to the horror milieu.

Potential…it’s a word I use a lot. I think that’s because even though it’s not always realized, I can still spot it. In this case the film needed better pacing and the story needed “a little more meat on the bone” throughout the film. The cast suffered from a couple of instances of a mismatch in chemistry between certain characters, and dialogue could have used some real polish. And so with that, I’m just going to leave this right here. 5 / 10

If any of my Little Monsters would like to check this film out for themselves, Gremlin will be coming to VOD this July.

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