“Gremlins” is a classic holiday horror movie with plenty of laughs to balance out the scares. Yet the initial script for the movie was a much bleaker genre exercise. “I wrote it as a straightforward horror film,” screenwriter Chris Columbus told Collider, adding that his original version would have definitely been R-rated. This version, explained Columbus, would have had a higher body count: “Mom’s head comes rolling down the stairs, [and] Billy and Kate go into a McDonald’s and none of the food is eaten but all of the people are eaten.”
Many of the characters in the first draft are one-dimensional and hard to actually care about. The sole personality trait of Billy’s mom (Frances Lee McCain) is her Valium addiction, while Billy (Zach Galligan) doesn’t immediately fall in love with his pet Mogwai like he does in the final film. In fact, he comes very close to killing the cute furry creature before it even transforms into a monster. In the initial draft, there were no “good” gremlins like Gizmo; instead, the Mogwai were all bloodthirsty monsters.
Luckily, Steven Spielberg intervened, feeling the movie could use a lighter touch. Columbus recalled Spielberg telling him, “What you’ve done could be great, but it’s an R-rated horror film. There’s a way that what you’ve written can reach a much wider audience.” And if Steven Spielberg says you should change the script, then you should change the script.