Gremlins – 4K UHD Blu-ray Review

gremlins_4k

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Film Title: Gremlins
Release Date: 1984
Rating: PG
Runtime: 106 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Studio: Warner
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
High Dynamic Range: HDR10
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 (labeled as 1.85:1)
Version Reviewed: 4K UHD Blu-ray
Release Date: 10/1/19
Director: Joe Dante
Cast: Zach GalliganPhoebe CatesHoyt Axton, Frances Lee McCainKeye Luke, John Louie, Corey Feldman, Dick Miller, Polly Holliday, Scott Brady, Glynn Turman, Jonathan Banks, Judge ReinholdHowie Mandel, Frank Welker

Jump to Sections: Movie | Video | Audio | Bonus | Closing | Screenshots
Full 4K Tech Specs found at the bottom

gremlins_4k_1click to view a 4K Screenshot

The Movie

“Gremlins” was a 1984 comedy/fantasy film with a nice touch of horror, executive produced (and presented) by Steven Spielberg. Spielberg is a filmmaker who really needs no introduction. This movie was directed by Joe Dante, best known for also directing films like “Piranha” (1978), “The Howling” (1981), “The Burbs” (1989), “Matinee” (1993), and [this film’s] sequel “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” (1990). The screenplay was written by Chris Columbus. Most know Columbus for directing films such as “Adventures in Babysitting” (1987), “Home Alone” (1990), “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993), “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (2001), and its  first sequel “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” (2002).

The story here is simple and starts out with a father looking around China Town for a gift to give his son for Christmas. The father, “Randall Peltzer” (Hoyt Axton), is also an inventor trying to sale his flawed gadgets. He manages to be led to a shop by a boy who takes him to his grandfather’s store. Randall gives the man his sales pitch for his invention, to no luck, and informs the store owner (Keye Luke) he’s looking for a really unique gift for his son. He manages to find a cute little creature called a Mogwai that he brings home to his son.

Randall tells his wife and son “Billy Peltzer” (Zach Galligan) there are three strict rules he must follow to take care of the Mogwai. The rules include not getting it near bright light, not getting it wet with water, and lastly to never feed it after midnight. Let’s just say one of those rules will be broken and as a result, some not-so-cute or friendly creatures are spawned – referred to as gremlins. These pesky little creatures decide to cause all kinds of mischief all throughout the small town where the Peltzer’s reside. Along the way, Billy will get some help from his co-worker and obvious crush “Kate” (Phoebe Cates). The local law enforcement does not prove to be much help and it’s essentially up to these two young adults to save the day. I won’t get into any further detail to avoid any real spoilers, for those who have never seen this film.

The film’s title is a bit of a homage to the term gremlin that aviators (pilots) mostly in World War II used to describe it when a military aircraft had mechanical problems. This was actually discussed in a 1943 Robert Clampett directed “Bugs Bunny” cartoon Falling Hare – from the “Merrie Melodies” (eventually “Looney Tunes”) series. There’s even a character in the film who served in the military (we assume as a pilot) that is constantly cursing foreign parts and cars, claiming they have gremlins. This character, “Murray Futterman” (played by the late Dick Miller) is pivotal to the story here. As it’s later that Billy and Kate use that information to describe the Mogwai creatures that run amuck around town.

Movie Rating: 4.25 (out of 5)


gremlins_4k_2click to view a 4K Screenshot

Video Quality

“Gremlins” comes to 4K UHD Blu-ray presented in what appears to actually be the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, despite the packaging claim to be in the original theatrical 1.85:1 aspect. This isn’t anything new, in fact, the original 2009 Blu-ray actually had the very same issue. Speaking of that original Blu-ray, it’s definitely worth noting that this 4K presentation has been cropped slightly on the top (seen in screenshots comparisons) as well as a bit on the sides in some shots. I’m honestly not at all sure why this choice was made (to crop) nor am I really getting why we have always received the film in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It’s a bit perplexing. Maybe these transfers have actual “gremlins” causing this?

The movie was shot on 35mm film using the Arriflex 35 lic and Panavision Psr R-200 cameras with spherical lenses, according to IMDb.

The first thing that you’ll notice here in comparison to the original Blu-ray is a whole lot more detail in every single shot. There’s also finally more visible film grain able to have enough bandwidth to not become pixilated or such. All of the visual imperfections found occasionally on the original Blu-ray have now been cleaned up (seen via screenshots comparisons). It’s a nice improvement, just in terms of the 4K video quality. The addition of High Dynamic Range (via HDR10) brings more realistic colors and a much more solid black level. Flesh tones also appear to be more accurate thanks to HDR.

Lastly, the practical special effects hold up really well here for a film celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. It’s a very solid 4K presentation in terms of video quality, the cropping and incorrect aspect ratio are forgivable, and it in comparison to the Blu-ray can be impressive. Still, it’s not quite as amazing visually as some of you might have expected it to be. I personally find it to be impressive and a nice improvement. Sorry.

Video Quality Rating: 4.25 (out of 5)


gremlins_4k_3click to view a 4K Screenshot

Audio Quality

Audio here is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audiounlike the original Blu-ray (from 2009) that featured a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless mix. I’m honestly not sure why they [Warner] opted to redo this film’s surround mix in a new format and did not feel the need to give it an Atmos mix. The beautiful original music by composer Jerry Goldsmith proves to get a very nice amount of rear channel presence and comes with a decent amount of bass from the subwoofer. Some of the original music featured in the film sounds pretty impressive as well with classic Christmas songs such as Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) performed by Darlene Love and even briefly a bit of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” performed by Johnny Mathis. These songs set the holiday vibe with an innocent nature and help prepare us for things to go amuck when the Gremlins start to wreak their havoc. The 5.1 lossless mix delivers these tunes in a nice manner.

It is worth noting that not only did this 4K release not get an Atmos mix but also neither did any other Warner 4K titles released on the very same day (October 1st, 2019). This film perhaps could have benefited much if it had received an atmospheric object-based mix, but that’s not the case. I would have, in all honestly, liked to have heard this in Atmos and not in yet another lossless 5.1 mix, that we pretty much heard back a whole ten years ago. 

Regardless, this film still sounds good here in the new DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless mix. Dialogue is delivered distinctly through the center channel with no volume adjustments needed. The sound effects come across pretty realistic and are effective here. Still, with that being said, I found this mix to be pretty much identical to the original Blu-ray’s audio presentation – but if it’s not broke, there is really no reason to fix it. Right? It is enough to certainly do the film the justice that it deserves and should leave most of the fans pleased. It is a solid mix with a handfull of somewhat impressive moments along the way, namely near the end of the film during some of the action scenes.

Audio Quality Rating: 4.25 (out of 5)


gremlins_4k_4click to view a 4K Screenshot

Bonus Materials

Bonus materials physically included on this release include:

  • A Digital Copy of the film via is included via Movies Anywhere, which is compatible with services like Apple’s iTunes and VUDU. Here you get a paper insert inside the packaging that contains a code you put in at the URL listed.
  • A Blu-ray Disc of the film is included. It features a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound mix.

The 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc contains the following extras:

  • Two Audio Commentaries:
    • Filmmakers’ Audio Commentary with Director Joe Dante, Producer Michael Finnell, and Special Effects Artist Chris Walas
    • Cast Audio Commentary with Director Joe Dante, Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller, and Howie Mandel

Bonus materials are primarily found on the Blu-ray Disc and are ALL presented in SD (standard definition) video with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound. These include:

  • Two Audio Commentaries:
    • Filmmakers’ Audio Commentary with Director Joe Dante, Producer Michael Finnell, and Special Effects Artist Chris Walas
    • Cast Audio Commentary with Director Joe Dante, Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller, and Howie Mandel
  • Gremlins: Behind-the-Scenes Featurette” (6:21 – SD) was a brief promotional piece from 1983 (the year before the film came out) put together that includes some on-set footage as well as interviews with Joe Dante (director), Hoyt Axton (“Randall Peltzer”), Steven Spielberg (executive producer), Zach Galligan (“Billy Peltzer”), Phoebe Cates (“Kate Beringer”), and Chris Wales (Gremlins designer). You also get to briefly see a few clips from the original “Bugs Bunny” “Looney Tunes” cartoon that discussed Gremlins that pilots referred to in planes when things would go mechanically wrong all the way back during World War II.
  • “Additional Scenes” (10:26 – SD) include an optional audio commentary with the film’s director Joe Dante, explaining why the scenes were cut from the final version of the film and such. Here you’ll see an extended opening to the film, a few scenes featuring actor Judge Reinhold’s character, and a tad bit more backstory. This is very cool and worth watching (after the film) if you’re a fan and haven’t watched it previously.
  • “Photo Gallery” (SD) lets you navigate manually, using your remote control. The photos here are comprised of some on set, some behind-the-scenes, and even some storyboards. There aren’t really many photos but they do prove to be worthwhile.
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:08 – SD)
  • Theatrical Trailer #2 (1:04 – SD)
  • “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” Trailer (1:30 – SD) is for the film’s 1990 sequel.

Overall the bonus materials here include two audio commentary tracks (on both the 4K and Blu-ray Disc) that are very entertaining and informative as well as roughly 20 minutes of extras. It’s not a whole lot of extras but it does still manage to do its job, especially if you’ve never taken the time to listen or view them before or it is your first time seeing this film. I won’t lie though, it will leave you wanting a bit more. It really would have been nice to have seen a 35th-anniversary retrospective or something with the cast and crew members. Maybe next time around? Let’s hope so.

Bonus Materials Rating: 2.25 (out of 5)


gremlins_4k_5click to view a 4K Screenshot

Closing Thoughts

“Gremlins” was by no means your typical Christmas film, as it takes place during the holiday. It’s also by no means your typical horror film but instead, more of a comedy blended with the fantasy genre. Joe Dante (as director), Chris Columbus (as screenwriter), and executive producer Steven Spielberg left a lasting impression on a lot of us that grew up during the 1980s and learned to love this film. There are also some great performances here not just from the actors onscreen but also by comedian Howie Mandel as the voice of “Gizmo” – the cute little Mogwai. Also, be sure to look for a cameo from the legendary animator Chuck Jones, as well as some smaller roles from folks like Judge Reinhold, and Jonathan Banks (of “Breaking Bad” & “Better Call Saul” fame).

The movie would go on to get a sequel roughly six years later (also directed by Joe Dante), “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” (1990). Speaking of it as a film franchise, there is actually an upcoming Gremlins sequel (tentatively titled Gremlins 3) in development with Chris Columbus and Steven Spielberg already signed on to executive produce – according to IMDb.

In terms of video quality on this 4K UHD Blu-ray release, it is a presentation that does come across solid and pretty impressive with the amount of newfound detail. However, the fact the aspect ratio is incorrectly in 1.78:1 when claiming to be in the original 1.85:1 is a bit of a bummer. It’s also a bit confusing as to why the actual film seems to have been cropped at the top and slightly on the sides. The cropping and aspect ratio issues are forgivable (to me), but will surely upset some purists. I personally really don’t mind it.

The 5.1 lossless audio mix that is found here comes in a new format (DTS-HD Master Audio) but it really doesn’t seem all that much different than the mix (in Dolby TrueHD) found on the Blu-ray counterpart. I am a bit disappointed they didn’t opt for giving this movie a Dolby Atmos mix, especially considering the original score composed by the late legendary Jerry Goldsmith.

Lastly, you get the same old bonus materials from a decade ago included on the Blu-ray as well as the two audio commentaries conveniently found on the 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc. It’s not a whole lot but it is enough to leave any fan of the film with something to learn about how it came to be and enjoy. Still, it would have really been nice to have seen some new extras produced for this, considering it is celebrating the 35th anniversary.

In terms of 4K UHD Blu-ray release, this gets:
4.25 (out of 5) for video quality
4.25 (out of 5) for audio quality
2.25 (out of 5) for bonus materials


Overall Verdict:
Recommended


Available As:

2019 4K UHD Blu-ray Release


4K UHD Blu-ray Screenshots:

View Blu-ray vs. 4K Screenshot Comparisons


Packaging:


4K UHD Blu-ray Technical Specifications:

Title: Gremlins
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 (labeled 1.85:1)
Exact Runtime: 1:46:12
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (with a DTS 5.1 core), Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Czech, Hungarian, Russian
Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Russian, Swedish, Thai
HDR: HDR10
Disc Size: BD-66
Disc Use: 57.76GB total / 55.7GB for film