British Board of Film Classification

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Gremlins

Joe Dante's 1984 horror-comedy features rampaging little creatures who would most certainly find themselves on Father Christmas' naughty list.

Gremlins was submitted to the BBFC in June 1984, and the issues it raised for examiners were similar to those discussed during the classification of Indiana Jones And The Temple of Doom only one month earlier (see the examiner reports for Temple of Doom here). The film's distributor - Columbia-EMI-Warner - wanted a PG certificate for Gremlins, and it had already been rated PG in the U.S. Reflecting a complex mix of horror, adventure and comedy in an age rating that caters for family audiences is a careful balancing act for BBFC examiners, especially in this case as the examiners saw the film as a clear 15.  Without the benefit of 12 and 12A categories in 1984 the BBFC had a much more stark choice to make between the PG and 15 certificates.

The reports note that the film's action is set in environments most familiar to children - school and home - with attacks on recognisable authority figures, such as a teacher and mother, further increasing the potential to unsettle younger viewers. One report describes Gremlins as "in general too disturbing for children and [playing] far too highly with childish fears and insecurities while having fun with the adults". The gremlins themselves, once fed and watered, are nasty things to look at and the final 'melty' sequence is a gruesome sight. Numerous moments are cited in the reports as contributing to the film's overall "adult view of the world", including the dark tale told by Kate (Phoebe Cates) that explains why she dislikes Christmas so much. Plus there are several violent incidents which involve household appliances that raise concerns about children injuring themselves by imitating the action, a concern which remains a serious classification issue for examiners today.

BBFC Director James Ferman explained in a letter to production company Amblin Entertainment that the accumulation of horror was too much for a PG certificate in the UK, and making cuts or reductions to scenes would "damage a good film and undermine what it is you are trying to do". The BBFC gave the uncut film a 15 certificate in August 1984. Gremlins remained a 15 until November 2012, when a submission of a theatrical re-release was given a 12A certificate.

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