Politics Magazine

New Gremlins

Posted on the 03 December 2023 by Steveawiggins @stawiggins

I haven’t seen the movie Gremlin in years.  I’m adding it to my Christmas list this year, however.  Probably because I watched Shadow in the Cloud recently.  And although that gremlin wasn’t cute, it led me on a journey of discovery, and that counts for something.  I have to admit, first of all, that I’d never heard of Roald Dahl before a kind family member sent us some of his books when our daughter was young.  We became rather hooked.  His novel The Gremlins was among those we read but there was something I didn’t know (one of trillions of somethings, of course).  And that is that Roald Dahl was probably the reason anyone outside the Air Force knew about gremlins at all.  Dahl was a pilot with the Royal Air Force.  His first children’s book was the aforementioned Gremlins.

New GremlinsImage credit: US Government, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I first learned about gremlins from The Twilight Zone.  “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” came close to giving me literal nightmares.  (And Nope reminds us that there may be things in the atmosphere that we really know nothing about.)  That particular episode was based on a short story by Richard Matheson.  It was also incorporated into the 1983 Twilight Zone movie which I have, unaccountably, never seen.  Of course, I saw Gremlins in a theater back in my college days.  That was before I understood, or really had any interest in holiday horror.  This is one of those instances where the birth of a monster can be traced and its lore can be watched to grow, in real time.

Dahl took something he’d heard about—gremlins weren’t believed to exist by anyone—and made it literal, in the form of a children’s book.  Soon after, other vendors, such as cartoon creators, picked it up.  In the Twilight Zone it began its transition to horror.  Then a regular horror movie was made of them.  All of this has taken place since World War II and there are plenty of people alive who were around at the time.  Shadow in the Cloud was a reboot of a monster generally underused.  There are few times people feel as vulnerable as when they’re flying.  Heck, climbing a tall ladder is enough to give me the willies.  And the movies have shown us that even on the ground we’re not really safe from the monsters of our imagination.  That’s why it seems like a good idea to me to watch Gremlins again.  And to dream of the monsters we invented.

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