Gremlins (4K UHD Blu-Ray Review)

The incredible success Steven Spielberg had in the late 70s and 80s was in a word: unprecedented. Only his pal George Lucas could claim similar blockbuster status in the same era. Beyond Spielberg’s great achievements in directing, he also had a knack for spotting budding talent to take on more ideas that would feel “Spielbergian.” After the release of the biggest domestic film of all time, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Spielberg produced many 80s hits like Poltergeist, Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Smack dab in the middle of the Reagan era is Joe Dante’s 1984 horror-comedy hybrid Gremlins. Fans of the tiny creatures that ought never to be fed at night can scream, “Bright light!” as they should order this new 4K package set for release on October 1. As someone old enough to have seen this on the big screen, I can attest this is the best Gizmo’s adventure has ever looked. But first, the film itself….


Beginning in a dark, neon-lit Chinatown alley, we hear the voice of Randall Peltzer (entertainer Hoyt Axton), who proclaims he has a story to tell. Peltzer’s a big bear of a man with heart, and a love of the inventions he hopes will make him a mint for his family. Imagine John Candy’s Del Griffith from Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), but selling whacked out shower caddies for the on-the-go guy as opposed to shower curtains. On a fateful night in a tiny shop of oddities, Randall encounters a mysterious little creature.

While the shop owner has no intention of selling this “Mogwai,” his grandson tells him there are three rules that must never be broken. The creature hates bright lights, so the sunlight would kill him. Do not get him wet. And finally, most importantly never, ever feed him after midnight. Randall ends up striking up a deal with the grandson to acquire said Mogwai and bring it back to his tiny hometown of Kingston Falls. He wants to surprise his son Billy with this “different and unique” Christmas gift. Mucho comedy and just enough horror ensue, as all three rules are broken.

Director Joe Dante, who had just made The Howling (1981), and new writer Christopher Columbus, who would eventually make Home Alone (1990), use an Amazing Tales-like concept to delve into state-of-the-art puppetry and stop-motion effects. All in service of what would be a staple of Dante’s work: mixing pop culture America in a blender and letting it rip.

As a time capsule of the 80s, this one is aimed straight at teens who didn’t get to sneak into R-rated flicks like The Terminator that same year. Gremlins was rated PG but for the time, this really pushed the rating. Though most of the deaths are of the literally hundreds of chaos-prone gremlins (this is why you don’t get them wet or feed them after midnight, after all), it can be pretty graphic, and quite clever. Billy (Zach Galligan) along with a young Corey Feldman have sweet moments with the cute Mogwai named Gizmo, such as watching classic old movies on television, but one of the best set pieces has Billy’s mother Lynne (Frances Lee McCain) battling several tiny green beasties on her own, armed with only a blender, a microwave, and other kitchen items. It’s even better than you’re imagining.

Every teen boy’s crush from Fast Time Ridgemont High (1981), Phoebe Cates, shows up to save her town too. She also has some fun turns interacting with the best puppets not under the Jim Henson banner.

Gremlins is light on plot, as it amounts to, “Gremlins wreak havoc on a small town on Christmas Eve,” but Dante has such a gleeful way with taking ideals of Americana popularized in Norman Rockwell’s art, and Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life (seen a few times in the film) that it’s easy to forgive the thin story. The film’s run time feels only slightly padded at 106 minutes.

There’s an incredible feat of puppetry where literally hundreds of gremlins are entranced at a movie theater watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, capturing the joy of movie watching mixed with the dirty, messy, ugly side of a midnight crowd. Fun times!

Anyone with a passing love for the 80s or Spielberg-produced flicks should definitely check this out. It’s certainly no Back to the Future – even though at times, it looks like it was filmed on the same small-town sets minus the clock tower.

If you’re a fan already, then what you really want to know if this solid B movie has found a way to pop in 4K…



  • Encoding: HEVC/H.265
  • Resolution: 4K
  • HDR: HDR10+
  • Aspect Ratio: 85:1
  • Clarity/Detail: The image is crisp and sharp throughout for a mid-budget 80s film so grain can be high, especially at night. Still, there’s surprising rich color palate like in the opening credits or the use of the colors red and green.
  • Depth: The image has that 4K pop that you buy these discs for. Everything looks like a set, but that’s part of the fun.
  • Black Levels: Black levels are solid and better than previous releases, but it’s not on par with WB’s own The Shining that is much more a stunner with deep blacks and reds.
  • Color Reproduction: My HDR signal popped up on my TV when hitting play although this is not Dolby Vision so metadata on the dynamic range while consistent can be limiting going from deep blacks and bright lights, I mean, lights.
  • Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are natural and rendered well.
  • Noise/Artifacts: Slight but mostly not a big deal. I did notice some artifacts near the big finale when all the gremlins are hitting the streets at night, but that could also be a product of the process of stop-motion in the 80s.



  • Audio Format(s): English, Spanish, Canadian French, Parisian French all 7.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, Canadian French, Parisian French
  • Dynamics: Dialogue is clean. Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic score is brought back to life! No pops, or other weird range issues.
  • Low-Frequency Extension: Lots of rumbles from noises around the Peltzer home to the right amount of background sound effects are terrific.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Every skitter scatter of baddie gremlin Stripe, and his cohorts is a feast for the ears as they move about from the left to the right of your 7.1 speaker set up. Also sounds excellent even with a soundbar.
  • Height: Electronic bleeps of the era register quite well.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is loud and clear.



Gremlins gets unboxed on its way home with a ton of awesome extras ported over from the various previous releases (note: some of these are only available digitally). The 4K Blu-ray comes with a matte slipcover, bundled Blu-ray and a with Movies Anywhere digital code. The extras include:

  • 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 (SD, 6:21) A quick look at the making of the film with the cast and crew. Chris Walas, the Gremlins designer, is seen clearly having a blast managing puppets of Stripe riding a tricycle and Gizmo driving a pink Barbie convertible.
  • Additional Scenes with Commentary
  • Photo Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Additional Scenes
  • Cute.  Clever.  Mischievous.  Intelligent: Making Gremlins (HD, 29:14) – A terrific new doc looking back on the inception of the story by young screenwriter Columbus all the way to Dante talking about seeing kids today wearing Gizmo t-shirts. Nearly all the big names involved are interviewed with the most significant exception being Phoebe Cates and the late composer Jerry Goldsmith.
  • 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 Gremlin (SD, 4:18) – A short collection of interviews and outtakes featuring Hoyt from 1983 when the film was shot.



I hadn’t seen Gremlins in decades, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. There’s always a chance a movie one grows up with is not quite the masterwork one remembers. I’m happy to report that Spielberg was right to take a chance on director Joe Dante and screenwriter Christopher Columbus delivering a (mostly) jam-packed devilish good time that looks and sounds the best it ever has with this Warner Bros. new 4K transfer.

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