I guess it isn’t too easy doing a Death Of The Month in December: one is always tempted to do one from a Christmas film but there aren’t too many great death scenes in those. I was considering doing a scene from David Cronenberg’s Rabid where a shopping mall Santa is accidently gunned down by cops in a shoot-out, but I couldn’t find a clip of it anywhere, so I’m going for this beauty which I’m sure nearly everyone reading will remember. I can never decide which is the best movie – Joe Dante’s Gremlins or his 1990 sequel. The original 1984 picture is slightly scarier, far more coherent and has a lovely Frank Capra-esque like feel to it, while the sequel is far more inventive and funnier. Either way, both films still remain fantastically entertaining and still hold up technically today – in fact even the creatures in the first one, which were limited by how much they could move, look more convincing to me than if they’d been done with CGI, which is what would be the case if the film was made today.
For death scenes, the first one has the edge. Surprisingly [actually, no, not surprisingly] Gremlins wasn’t too well received by the critics when it came out, many of whom disliked the dark humour present in some scenes of what they thought was a family movie [it isn’t really, it’s more of a ‘kid’s first horror film’], most notably the scene when Kate tells of how her father got stuck down the chimney dressed as Santa, a scene which even the studio found questionable and didn’t want in the movie. They also didn’t like the death of Mrs. Deagle, the scene here, which to me is a great mixture of humour and horror. I guess you could say that depicting the death of an old lady for laughs is tasteless, but it’s not as if the person involved is a nice character. Brilliantly played by Polly Holliday, she’s a horrible old bat, influenced perhaps by Miss. Gulch [aka the Wicked Witch of the West] from The Wizard Of Oz, and maybe even Scrooge, mean to everyone and with a particular vendetta against the hero’s dog.
The cat-loving cow comes down the stairs on her stair lift to feed her cats, but they seem to be disturbed by something. A thing comes in through the cat-flap, and Mrs. Deagle hears noises outside despite her TV being on, and goes to the door armed with a jug of water which she intends to throw over the carol singers she expects to see. Well, it is carol singers, but not human ones. The Gremlins are singing from books but the tune they are singing is of course Jerry Goldmith’s great rag-style theme. Mrs. Deagle recoils in horror, and you actually do feel a little sorry for her for just a couple of seconds as she cries: “It’s not my time”, though the feeling goes. She starts to go upstairs in her stair lift, but unbeknownst to her the Gremlin in the house has fiddled with the controls. She goes shooting up at top speed, past a picture of a man smiling on the wall. I’m guessing it’s her husband, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d poisoned him. Cut to a shot from outside of her crashing through a window, then one of her chair upside down in the snow. It’s generally assumed that she’s dead, but we don’t see a body. She could still be alive, though I like to think some kind Gremlin would just happen to be wondering by and would finish her off.
It’s a great shame that Dante seems to be just doing TV work these days. His films, though they tended to fail more than succeed at the box office, are to me always a pleasure to watch and have a unique feel to them, kind of Steven Spielberg meets Tex Avery. Anyway, treat yourself to a good chuckle and watch Mrs. Deagle take a nice flight.