[Fresh on 4K] Warts and all, ‘GREMLINS’ makes for a worthy addition to your Ultra HD collection

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Connor Bynum // Film Critic

GREMLINS

Rated PG, 106 minutes.
Director: Joe Dante
Cast: Zach GalliganPhoebe CatesHoyt Axton, Corey Feldman, Zach Galligan, Harry Carey Jr., Polly Holliday, Frank Welker, Howie Mandel, Jonathan Banks and Dick Miller

Ready to feel old? GREMLINS is turning 35 this year, and to celebrate, Warner Bros is releasing the classic monster flick on 4KUHD. While it’s not without its fair share of issues, this re-release should keep long-time fans satisfied.

Movie Grade: B

GREMLINS is one of those movies that your parents will insist is one of the greatest things ever made, But it’ll also leave you wondering what all the fuss was about. It’s campy, it’s corny, and it’s likely to instill the urge to take a long shower once it’s over.

Set in the magical time of the 1980s, Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) is gifted with a mystical creature called a mogwai – a cuddly and sweet little guy named Gizmo. Mogwai only has three rules: Don’t get them wet, don’t expose them to bright light, and never feed them after midnight. Naturally, every single one of these rules is violated, and hijinx ensues. Evil and disgusting versions of Gizmo chaotically take over Billy’s hometown in a delightfully chaotic fashion. It’s a simple film from a simple time, and it’s best enjoyed with a good drink.

Courtesy of Blu-ray.com

Video/Audio Grade: B-

GREMLINS is presented in 4K UHD by means of a native 4K digital intermediate. However, unlike the 4K presentation found in older films such as BLADE RUNNER, this film’s age is never painfully apparent.

Many exterior shots are swimming with film grain, textures on Gizmo’s fur are often soft and blurry, and many visual effects appear downright laughable. In many cases, the increased resolution robs the film of much of the magic that likely made it work so well when it was released. One-shot in particular near the end of the film features a herd of gremlins swarming the city streets. This shot is accomplished using stop motion animation, and frankly, it doesn’t look good.

Although the higher resolution is not without its merits, the gremlins are truly disgusting creatures and have never looked worse (in this case, this is a positive). Each of these practically captured puppets is bursting with oozy detail. Their skin is covered in a glistening slimy glaze, their nasty teeth are gut-wrenching, and their claws are fierce. Additionally, the numerous scenes that only feature human characters have held up quite nicely. Skin textures and facial details all come through with elegant clarity.

With all that in mind, the inclusion of HDR10 is kind of a mixed bag for this disc. Some scenes, such as when the villainous gremlin, Stripe, creates his army of gremlin clones by jumping into a swimming pool looks fantastic. What was already an impressive practical effect is greatly enhanced by the increased color depth. Some darker scenes are exquisite but such iconic moments like when the gremlins take over a bar are uncomfortably crushed. Perhaps this was an attempt to hide newly visible wires brought to light by the higher resolution, but it’s still an unfortunate decision all the same.

On a somewhat disappointing note, there is no Dolby Atmos or even a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track to be found on this disc. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is perfectly fine but ultimately comes off as an afterthought as it rarely attempts to have any fun with the rear channels. The audio quality itself is crisp and clear, with the dialogue and musical score maintaining a relative balance from start to finish. It’s just too bad that we aren’t treated to an improved audio track to accompany the enhanced visuals.

Extras Grade: C+

Other than two commentary tracks, there are no extras contained on the 4K disc itself. All extras can be found on the included 1080p Blu-ray of the film; however, viewers who own previous home releases will find nothing new. The features themselves are indeed worth a look as the hefty amount of practical work seen in the film is worth exploring further. It’s just too bad that nothing new was added to celebrate the film’s 35th anniversary.

All included extras listed below:

  • Filmmakers’ Commentary with Director Joe Dante, Producer Michael Finnell and Special Effects Artist Chris Walas
  • Cast Commentary with Director Joe Dante, Zack Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller, and Howie Mandel
  • Gremlins: Behind the Scenes Featurette
  • Additional Scenes with Commentary
  • Photo Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Additional Scenes
  • Cute. Clever. Mischievous. Intelligent: Making Gremlins
  • Gremlins: The Gift of the Mogwai (motion comic)
  • The Last Gremlin (motion comic)
  • From Gizmo to Gremlins: Creating the Creatures
  • Hangin’ with Hoyt on the set of Gremlins
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, Canadian French, Parisian French

Final Grade: B-

This 4K presentation undoubtedly leaves more than a few things to be desired, updated extras, and a worthy audio mix, to name a few. Yet, GREMLINS is undoubtedly a product of its time. Like many things from the 80s, GREMLINS has its fans, and the good things that did make their way onto this re-release should certainly justify adding this one to your collection.

GREMLINS is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.