In Gremlins (1984), Kate tells Billy the story of a horrible Christmas, how her father wanted to surprise the family by climbing down the chimney, but slipped, fell, broke his neck, and had his corpse stuck in the chimney, only to be found when the family tried to light a fire.

Why was this story included in the film? I don't recall it serving any purpose except for Kate hating Christmas. It feels a bit out of place to me.

  • If it helps anybody else, this is the specific scene: - ending with "and that's how I found out...there was no santa claus". – Bilkokuya Nov 8 at 11:55
  • Was this scene before or after the mother put a Gremlin in a blender and sprayed it's guts all over the kitchen walls? – cgTag Nov 8 at 21:49

Because it's funny:

Here’s the thing, though: it’s funny. Gut-bustingly, brutally, aggressively funny. I’d always found it funny on my own; everything about the way it’s framed hints that despite the tone it’s not intended to be taken seriously. The fact that it cuts away to Gizmo at all is hilarious. He’s a ball of fuzz that can’t get wet or go in sunlight, the Earth’s most abundant resources. Who the hell cares what the fuzzball is doing? But there’s also the reactions from everyman Zack Galligan, who’s surrounded by an enormous festive silhouette reading, “Christmas!” It’s patently farcical and utterly human at the same time, playing the scene as absurdist but also satirizing the thick, saccharine pap that typifies most Christmas movies. Bad things happen at Christmas too; bad things are happening just outside the bank where Cates and Galligan are hiding. When Christmas sucks for you, no matter the cause, it sucks hard.

It’s hard to describe precisely how well this scene plays in a packed theater. It comes almost immediately after the movie’s most memorable effects blitzes, when Cates is serving dozens of gremlins at the bar across the street. Dante is almost manic in his depiction of gremlins indulging in as many vices as possible: gremlins drinking, smoking, flashing in a long trench coat when they have nothing to flash, gunning each other down, rocking ski masks and attempting old fashioned ‘80s muggings, breakdancing, gambling. Name something your parents told you not to do, and the gremlins are doing it in the bar. When it finally ends, the crowd in the theater is dizzy with ascending laughs, and then Dante gives them just enough time to breathe as Cates and Galligan escape and look for somewhere to hide. Then he hits them with the Worst Christmas Story Ever Told. And he knocks them down all over again.


It’s honestly shocking that a mainstream movie has such an uncompromising, bleak exchange. This is the part they try and leave out of kids’ books, but it’s also the engine that drives this occasionally cruel, frequently hilarious, and bizarrely heartfelt film. Christmas is a wonderful time of year, except when it isn’t, and when it isn’t, it’s the worst. Kate’s dad didn’t just die; he died stuck in a chimney, dressed like Santa Claus. That’s not a tragedy; that’s a fucking novelty song.

But he’s still dead, and Kate is still fatherless. And the Gremlins are still tearing up the town. It’s only funny when it’s not your home being destroyed, when it’s not your loved one rotting just a few feet away. It’s only merry when you’re happy and safe and get to spend the holidays with the people you care about. If it’s December 24 and your parents are gone, and your siblings won’t speak to you; if you’re getting older, and your future stretches out like a wasteland of broken promise and barren ambition; if you know that the next time you hear “Wonderful Christmastime,” you might finally snap and crash your junk heap of a car into the nearest Salvation Army Santa, then all of those holiday greetings can sound like the shrieks of the mocking damned.

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