Welcome back to Look of the Week, celebrating the best in TV and film sartorial excellence, past and present across sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and other genre classics!
Despite its original June release date in 1984, Gremlins is quintessentially a holiday movie. It is set over Christmas, there is snow on the ground, and director Joe Dante is less than subtle when paying homage to the most festive of all movies, It's a Wonderful Life. If the appearance of the fictional town of Kingston Falls (filmed on the same set as the following year's Back to the Future) wasn't enough of a clue, not to mention mean-spirited Ruby Deagle (Polly Holliday) as a gender-swapped version of Mr. Potter, then Mrs. Peltzer's (Frances Lee McCain) choice of viewing hits this tribute over the head. The big Yuletide style clues are dished out via the Santa hats and on-theme knits worn by those who don't even enjoy this holiday.
Not everyone is feeling in the jolly mood, including Kate Beringer (Phoebe Cates), who has a trauma-laced reason for eschewing this holiday. Even before Stripe and the Gremlins gang trash stores and bars, the town of Kingston Falls has seen better days. Many are out of work or struggling to get by with what they have. Kate is working two jobs, but she isn't getting paid for the one at the bar. She should get hazard pay to cover the shift from hell (and for dealing with cheesy chat-up lines).
The holiday season is tough, but Kate still digs out a reindeer-covered sweater to get in the spirit and puts on that service smile — hopefully she gets to keep her tips.
Everyone remembers this decade for its fashion excess, but 1984 hasn't quite hit the MTV of it all. Instead, everything is either a shade of beige or worn with a turtleneck underneath. A plaid shirt is one way of adding some flavor. The layering is ideal for the snowy climate, later doubling as a form of protection against the ferocious Gremlins. Billy Peltzer's (Zach Galligan) sweater is a ragged mess by the end, but at least he wasn't ripped to shreds.
For those leaning into the fashion fads of this period, it is the Gremlins drinking Dorry's Tavern dry before they head to a movie who yearn for trends. One is going full Flashdance in leg warmers; another is wearing a fetching shade of lipstick paired with statement earrings.
At the bank, Kate's puffed-sleeve, high-neck floral dress is low-key Victorian in style and a precursor to the Vampire's Wife silhouette, recently worn by actresses including Natasha Lyonne, Laura Dern, and Elisabeth Moss. Billy's clip-on tie might not be the height of sophistication, but his sweet flirtation with Kate and penchant for wholesome-looking sweaters is endearing.
Not so cool is his lack of reading the room when it comes to Kate's disdain for the holidays. He will regret this later when she tells what is quite possibly the bleakest Christmas Eve story ever told on film. I have seen this movie more times than I can count and this scene is just as chilling even after multiple views.
The film's promo images from 1984 look more sitcom-like or something you would find in the Netflix sweet holiday romance tab rather than a story of festive trauma and creature shenanigans. Then again, the characters do experience all the typical obstacles of a rom-com alongside the less typical Gremlins onslaught. This includes the flashy boss trying to woo Kate with the promise of his fancy apartment and cable as an incentive to hang out. Later she walks home in the snow with Billy, the conversation hitting on some heavy points. Blissfully unaware Billy can't understand why so many people find the holidays depressing; however, Kate is all too aware of the seasonal mental burden.
It's not that Billy is particularly perceptive or aware of his surroundings. He doesn't even have a hat to protect against the elements, revealing that his cluelessness extends to his lack of winter attire, whereas Kate is sensibly wrapped up in cute bobble beret and long scarf. Nevertheless, she isn't the only one who looks great in headwear.
Long before Baby Yoda stole the show, Gizmo took ownership of our hearts — can you imagine the power they could wield if this pair somehow entered each other's orbit? Imagine the potential! Someone get Disney+ and Warner Bros. on the phone now; the HBO Max crossover is begging to be made.
Giz goes through a tough time throughout Gremlins, whether he is being used as target practice or having water spilled on him or unnecessarily bright lights shone in his face. Before the latter causes him to cut his head, Billy puts a Santa hat on him, and it is one of many very cute moments for Gizmo.
Later, Giz is wrapped in a plaid scarf after the arduous final battle, another very good look on him. What this movie proves is that you can kick ass in all manner of sensible knit. This isn't Chris Evans in Knives Out levels of swoon-worthy sweaters. No, these grandpa-looking cardigans, vests, and crewnecks are unlikely to be thirsted over (OK, maybe there is something hot in a grunge-leaning way). Thankfully, Kate livens up her sweater game at the end of the movie; instead of returning to her festive emblazoned number, she adds some Fair Isle to the Gremlins sweater collection. And at least she has a new Christmas Eve tale to tell.
Whether you lean toward reindeer-covered seasonal attire or would rather stick to a beige knit, Gremlins is a surprising source of sartorial inspiration.