‘Tis the season for silver bells, red ribbons, and green reptilian creatures hell-bent on death and destruction. Yes, the movie GREMLINS is as seasonal as songs about date rape (Listen to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” a little closer). It’s a Christmas classic on par with such masterpieces as A MIRACLE ON 34TH, THE BELLS OF SAINT MARY, and IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE …according to me.
It’s the kind of film the whole family can enjoy. It’s PG! This is partly because it was made before the PG-13 rating was created, but it’s relatively kid-friendly nonetheless. However it wasn’t always that way, though. Joe Dante and Steven Spielberg’s holiday gem was not originally intended to be so tame. GREMLINS could have easily been an R-rated movie.
Writer Chris Columbus’ early drafts of the script reveal that the Mogwai were supposed to be less cute and much more vicious. The earliest script I could find is Columbus’ second draft dated April 27, 1982. The most jarring difference between this draft and the finished product is the absence of “Gizmo.” The sweet furball we’ve all come to love is nowhere to be found. The creature Billy receives as a Christmas present from his father is just another nameless Mogwai-turned-monster with no allegiance to its human caretaker whatsoever.
The other major difference between the early draft and the 1984 film is the kill count. Although it is implied that many Kingston Falls inhabitants died at the hands of the Mogwai on Christmas Eve in the actual film, only one person in the film actually suffers that fate—and even this death is questionable. Mr. Hanson, the school biology teacher, is found lying face down under his desk with a syringe in his butt—implying that the Mogwai he was experimenting on killed him. Did Mr. Hanson actually die from his injuries? Possibly. All we know is that Mr. Hanson did not make it into GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH.
On the contrary, LOTS of people die in this early draft of the script. Here are some explicit death scenes that were scrapped from the final film:
BARNEY THE DOG
For any animal lover, the scene in GREMLINS where the Mogwai hang Barney from the porch with Christmas lights is already cringe-inducing, but it could have been much, much worse for the Peltzer family pet.
Billy’s mom is easily the most badass person in the film. In the timespan of a minute, she chops a Mogwai up in a food processor, savagely stabs one to death with a kitchen knife, and microwaves another. In the early draft, she doesn’t get a chance to show off her ninja-like skills with home appliances.
In the movie, Corey Feldman plays a tough kid who can’t be fazed by anything. Originally, the character was a nice boy who sang Christmas carols…and gets killed.
One of the most famous scenes in GREMLINS is when mean Mrs. Deagle’s stair lift malfunctions and it sends her flying out her window—chair intact. It’s hilarious, despite the fact that she most likely didn’t live through the accident. Although, I think her overall bitchiness warranted a much more gruesome death, like this one:
Despite the fact that there is a Burger King prominently placed in the Kingston Falls main street set, the fast food establishment is never referenced in the film. Maybe it was initially planned to be featured like this deliciously macabre scene at McDonald’s
Many things changed between this early draft and the final film, but one sequence remained untouched. The “Santa” monologue. You know what I’m talking about. It is the most terrifying and soul destroying scene in the entire movie and it has nothing to do with gremlins. In this draft, Dorry, the owner of Dougal’s Antique Store—later Dorry’s Tavern—delivers the worst Christmas story of all time
And in case you were wondering, Dorry dies too.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this look into what GREMLINS could have been. It’s fun to think about all the green goo and blood we missed out on, but in the end I think the finished product achieves what it set out to do: Spread holiday cheer and asexually reproduced monsters.
Want more? You can read Chris Columbus’ entire second draft of GREMLINS here.