If there is one name that looms large over the cinematic landscape of the 1980s, that name is Steven Spielberg. Spielberg had already proven his credentials with his break-out Jaws, and cemented his reputation with Raiders of the Lost Ark: both movies were popular and critical successes, and have proven enormously influential over the last three or so decades. But ET the Extra-Terrestrial, released in 1982, brought Spielberg superdooper fame. ET was, at the time, the most successful film ever produced, making more money at the box-office than Star Wars, garnering nine Academy Award nominations, and making Reese's Pieces famous. Today the film has a 98% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
It also has a lot to answer for. ET pretty much set the formula for kids' movies in the '80s. Twinkly suburban setting? Check. Lonely kid, usually a caucasian boy? Check. Kid-heavy cast? Check. Fantastic being/ability/occurrence that adults find frightening or incomprehensible, but which improves lonely kid's life? Check. Valuable life lessons? Check. External authority subverted? Check. Central importance of family reasserted? Check and check.
And somewhere, amidst all these Spielberg-inspired - even Spielberg-created - sweet and unchallenging exercises in schlock-making for the kiddies, something else sneaked in. The Spielberg-produced Gremlins.
Gremlins is not a great movie. It's not even a very good movie. But it is a deeply, profoundly weird movie.