Two More Demonic Films Are Box Office Smashes
By Gene Hogberg
In the PGR of June 29, 1984 we described the summer’s first violence-filled box office smash-hit in the United States, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM. On its heels came two other weird films. One movie is GREMLINS, all about devilish creatures (portrayed by Star Wars-type muppets) set loose to prey upon an unsuspecting community. A reviewer in TIME magazine, June 25, reports:
In GREMLINS, a fantasy co-produced by Spielberg and directed by Joe Dante, a boy’s cuddly, otherworldly pet spawns a generation of vicious creatures that, in one scene, terrorize the boy’s mother in the kitchen. She retaliates by churning up one gremlin in a food processor and exploding another in a microwave oven.
In its June 17 issue, NEWSWEEK has this to say, and not disapprovingly:
One person calls it “E.T. with teeth.” You could also say it’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” with Muppets …. Once the gremlins emerge from their gelatinous cocoons, only one question re- mains … : will they wipe out the town, or will [the hero and her- oine] stem the gremlin tide?…
Like Spielberg’s other summer shocker, INDIANA JONES, GREMLINS is sure to arouse outrage in some circles over its gleeful – carnage…. The movie’s demonic toyshop, in which Ken and Barbie grow fangs and turn into juvenile delinquents …. Unlike the re- lentless INDIANA JONES, which may leave audiences more worn out than refreshed, this Punch and Judy nightmare is exhilarating because the viewers participate in the jest. … If you like your summer popcorn movies laced with a little more poisoned butter, GREMLINS is not to be missed.
Another box office biggie is GHOSTBUSTERS, currently even more financially successful than GREMLINS. It is about three parapsychologists who set up shop as, as one reviewer calls them, “exorcists for hire.” The June 18 issue of PEOPLE magazine reviewed GHOSTBUSTERS as follows, in a “just-a- bunch-of-laughs” commentary:
Forget the bad taste, bathroom humor and tacky sight gags: GHOSTBUSTERS is irresistible nonsense [about] university parapsychologists tossed out of academia for their unorthodox ways.. .going into business to serve the public’s “supernatural elimination” needs…
Sigourney Weaver is one of their first customers: the fridge in her apartment is a gateway to hell. Psychic phenomena run amok. The ghosts are an untidy lot–they cram leftovers, belch and spew goo on everything in sight. But it’s the Aykroyd-Murray high ]inks that provide inspired lunacy. Facing a spirit with a firm “Freeze, potato face,” Aykroyd is a hoot. And whether it’s a come-on (“I make it a rule never to sleep with possessed people”) or a complaint (“It slimed me, it slimed me”), Murray’s delivery is a fail-safe mechanism for laughter. Director Ivan (STRIPES) Reitman keeps the Aykroyd-Ramis screenplay zipping right along, creating something like ABBOT & COSTELLO MEET THE EXORCIST. Aykroyd and Murray make the perfect summer tonic for raising spirits.
It looks like the spiritual underworld has Hollywood pretty much doing its bidding these days.