Gremlin (singular) is a new and unique monster movie which features a puzzle box in the vein of ‘Hellraiser’, a horrific curse ala Ringu, and a vicious little creature whose size is inversely proportional to its murderous appetite.
The plot revolves around the mysterious puzzle box and the unfortunate family it is gifted to. Whilst the film is conservative in offering up its secrets (regarding the box), at least until a stylised exposition montage reveals all towards the end of the film, you can ascertain a few facts from the get go. First off, the box contains a little critter which crawls somewhat innocuously out of the box to murder its next victim. Upon its return to its metallic sanctuary bright blue symbols light up and begin to count down. One by one the new family are besieged by the creature and must race against time to discover a way to break the cycle.
The film is quick to establish its objective, to put you into a the middle of an already fractured household, to set an emotional backdrop to a realistic set of characters for whom to route for and empathise with, in contrast to the faceless fantasy foe. To an extent the film does a fair job of this. On the exterior the family look typical, however emotions are frayed between a tearaway daughter, a disaffected son, a cheating husband and a wife with self-pity written all over her face regardless of the situation see the critter only worsening an already spiralling situation. Indeed, you could say that whilst the family is tearing itself apart metaphorically, the titular Gremlin does it literally of course.
It’s an oddly emotive scenario through which to tell a rather esoteric creature horror, but it sets a tone and focus surrounding love and loss, which ultimately is a subtext the film carries intrinsically in its concept.
This element of the film also gives the film good grounding and some integrity, but… and I hate to single out actors in horror movies, but the actors needed to be more convincing in their roles than they were. It took the edge off the film for me, and the only thing that would stop me whole sale recommending it to everyone I know. There reactions were well off, their interactions with each other were disjointed at best, and at times just simply bizarre. It wasn’t the scripting, nor do I think the direction. Indeed, in the action scenes where characters were pitted against monster, the acting issues seemed to go away!
As for the monster, well, without the option of a man in a suit, we must settle for 100% CGI. The creature effects are, for the most part, a solid effort. Naturally, we aren’t talking uber realism, but cool never the less, and more than good enough to give it a memorable identity – kind of like a ‘Hellraiser’ spin off, a Cenobyte pet if you will. He a vicious little shit to, preferring to toy a little bit with his prey before finding a satisfying number of methods to send his victims to the other side, my favourite being an ‘Alien’-esk birthing. The gore effects are nice and bloody, and there are plenty of kills to keep you entertained. Indeed, the creature maintains a degree of mystique right up until the exposition section I spoke about in my opener, and I would have loved for the film to have franchised and perhaps would have been a little more satisfied overall if I had not found out the creature’s origin – and witness it’s slightly less convincing ‘alternate’ form in the films explosive and budget betraying finale.
Overall, I do recommend this movie, pure entertainment and a great concept to boot. There are reservations as I have stated above, but all in all, if you get the opportunity to pick this up, then I suggest you do so. A true diamond in the rough.