Okay, so it's not really a Christmas movie in the traditional sense. It's more like a light horror comedy that takes place around Christmas. It's less in the tradition of 'White Christmas' and more in the tradition of... actually this is the first Christmas horror comedy I can think of. And being that it was rated PG, I saw it probably way earlier than I should have.
But with that said, 'Gremlins' represents some of my first toe-dips into horror. It was kinda great at the time (I think I was around 5 or 6 when I first watched it). It had the cuteness of Gizmo (Howie Mandel), the kindness of Billy (Zach Galligan), the prettiness of Kate (Phoebe Cates), and that seemed to give a good balance to the otherwise scary premise.
The story centers on Billy, whose father (Hoyt Axton) brings him home a Mogwai from Chinatown while trying to sell his latest invention. The Mogwai, Gizmo, comes with a set of rules - don't get it wet, keep it away from light, and whatever you do, don't feed it after midnight (which is obscure, but we kinda roll with it). Eventually we learn that water makes them multiply, light is just plain bad for them (sunlight could kill them), and feeding them after midnight causes them to cocoon and eventually turn into Gremlins.
Gremlins, in this case, are mischief making, violent, and hilarious. But they're just frightening enough that when watching this as a kid, you kinda fear one may be lurking under your bed. These Gremlins wreak havoc on the town, and it's up up Billy, Gizmo and Kate to stop them, even if they do end up sidetracked by horrific stories about the harsh realities of Santa Claus - something this film has since become famous for to such an extent that they make fun of it in 'Gremlins 2'.
Of course, anyone familiar with this movie realizes that the Gremlins, in a way, are villains we kinda route for. When we see them causing mischief. But the biggest villain of this movie isn't any of the Gremlins, not even Stripe (Frank Welker), who's pretty much the Gremlin's leader. It's Mrs Deagel (Polly Holliday). Her biggest claim to fame is her desire to slowly murder Billy's dog. So yeah, we really wanna see her meet John Wick one day. But don't worry, she's also a reason to route for these crazy critters.
Surprisingly enough, though the Mogwais and Gremlins don't say a whole hell of a lot, the cast of voice actors is impressive. Aside from the two I've already mentioned, Peter Cullen (the one and only Optimus Prime), Michael Winslow (the sound effect guy from 'Police Academy'), Mark Dodson (Salacious Crumb from 'Return of the Jedi'), Bob Bergen (No Face and the Frog from 'Spirited Away' are among a few of the more well-known. That's an interesting tidbit I actually only just learned.
The film is considered a classic of an 80s monster movie, and it really fits in with its era. As time has passed, it hasn't aged incredibly well, but we still hold it close to or hearts as an important piece of nostalgia. Even though I say that, a newcomer could watch this and still have a lot of fun with it. I really don't think it was ever meant to be taken that seriously to begin with. It's still one I hold close to my heart.