Gremlins Blu-ray review

Whatever you do, no matter how hard it begs, don't feed this Blu-ray after midnight...

Even if he'd never made another good film (don't worry, he made plenty) I'd always have time for director Joe Dante thanks to this classic 1984 horror-comedy.

Arguably one of the best Christmas movies ever made, this winning combination of Looney Tunes-infused gags and outstanding creature effects, Gremlins is a film I can watch over and over again without ever tiring of it. While I also adore the sequel (a fine example of the kind of off-the-wall that makes you wonder how Dante ever got the chance to make another major Hollywood film), there's no denying that the original Gremlins is a much tighter and story-driven piece of cinema, serving likeable characters and a sturdy narrative that doesn't become overwhelmed by the endless joke-driven set pieces.

Compelling package
As successful as the film has been over the past 15 years, here in the UK we've only ever been granted a barebones DVD release. Thankfully, this new Blu-ray release puts things right with a much more compelling package. First up is the VC-1 1.85:1 encode, which has been sparking plenty of debate in online forums across the Atlantic. Numerous posters have claimed that the new hi-def imagery is little improvement over the old DVD release, but having sat through all 106mins of the disc, I have to wonder about what they're talking about.

Sure, Gremlins isn't the most sparkling example of HD imagery you'll ever see, it's awash with grain and dark scenes struggle to fully resolve fine detail, but compared to the dull, artefact-ridden standard definition version it's like night and day. The picture is is far clearer, much more detailed and colours look significantly more accurate (without resorting to artificially pumping them up). Given the natural, if rather heavy, level of grain in the image, my own personal opinion is that any softness in the image is entirely due to the source material not the encode itself.

Audio comes in both lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 flavours. The former, naturally, suffers from the limitations of the original recordings, but thankfully it doesn't try too hard to force surround effects. Instead the rears are employed for more subtle atmospherics and enhanced dynamics when there's a horde of Gremlins storming the streets. While the 2.0 mix isn't lossless, it still does a fine job of replicating the film's original audio mix and should please purists who dislike the idea of surround sound remixes.

Features galore
Where the disc really scores for UK-based fans is with its collection of extra features as it brings across all of the added content from the old US Special Edition DVD. Heading up the bonus features are a pair of lively and informative audio commentaries, the first featuring director Joe Dante, producer Michael Finnell and special effects artist Chris Wallace, the second finding Dante joined by actors Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller and Howie Mandell (the voice of Gizmo).

These are joined by the archival Gremlins: Behind-the-Scenes promo featurette (6mins), Additional Scenes with Commentary from Dante and the cast (10mins) and the same sans the commentary track (you can't switch the audio mid-stream, meaning you have to go back to the Special Features menu and select the version you want), a Photo Gallery containing a collection of 30 images including promotional stills and some storyboards, two theatrical trailers and the trailer for Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Unsurprisingly, all of the bonus video material on the disc is presented in 480p.

Warner Home Video, All-region Blu-ray, £18, On sale October 19