Gremlins (1984)

This unconventional Christmas movie for kids (and adults) deals with the pesky, mischievous monsters of the title, which wreak havoc on a small town during Christmas season (although, oddly enough, the movie was originally released in June). While the movie provides a cavalcade of creatures to entertain the kids, especially the adorable Gizmo (voiced by Howie Mandel before his current game show gig), Dante’s anarchic humor gives the movie an offbeat, unpredictable edge (it was one of the films that inspired the MPAA to create the PG-13 rating, although it received a tame PG).

Especially noteworthy is the sequence in which the gremlins are hatched in the young hero’s house, while his blissfully unaware mother bakes Christmas cookies and hums along to the easy-listening version of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” by Johnny Mathis. Like Tales From The Crypt, the syrupy music is a perfect counterpoint to the horrific events going on upstairs. Also noteworthy is Phoebe Cates’ weirdly funny monologue about a horrific Christmas experience—her father dressing up as Santa and dying after getting stuck in the family’s chimney—that forever ruined the holiday for her.

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