Gremlins Was Far More 'Gruesome' Before Steven Spielberg Stepped In

There are few PG horror movies that have managed to balance genuine horror with the family-friendly nature required of that rating quite as well as "Gremlins." Director Joe Dante's 1984 creature feature is a bonafide classic the likes of which any director would be thrilled to have on their resume. And its sequel, "Gremlins 2: The New Batch," is one of the most insane follow-ups in mainstream cinema history. But it all could have gone down a very different path were it not for the intervention of Steven Spielberg, who helped tone things down a bit in a way that, ultimately, made the movie what it is.

In an interview with The Guardian in 2017, Dante dove deep on what it took to bring "Gremlins" to life. The director revealed that the original script was quite different from what actually made it to screen. Namely, it was more violent and gruesome, which would have changed the nature of the film entirely. Spielberg, however, recognized a better way forward.

"The original script was more gruesome, with Gizmo morphing into Stripe, the bad gremlin. But then Spielberg had the brilliant idea, which I think makes the picture remembered today, not to turn him into a monster but to have him carried around in the backpack of the hero Billy [Zach Galligan], like in a 'boy and a dog' movie."

Chris Columbus of "Home Alone" and "Harry Potter" fame penned the script for the movie. It seems his original plan would have been a bit more PG-13 than what we ultimately got. And, as Dante implies, had they stuck to that plan, it may not have been for the better.

Spielberg to the rescue

There are few filmmakers who can wow audiences of all ages quite like Spielberg, with movies like "E.T." and "Jurassic Park" on his resume, among many, many others. His sensibilities and that classic Amblin vibe permeate "Gremlins" in a wonderful way. That whole "boy and a dog" thing between Gizmo and Zach Galligan's Billy is truly what helps make the movie what it is. For as ugly as Spike and the other Gremlins are after things go south, we always have the adorable Gizmo to lean on to bring things back to cute AF. Balance.

Had Gizmo merely turned into Spike, it would have altered the entire dynamic of the movie. That's not to say it would have been bad, and it kind of would have made sense for Dante at the time. He was coming off of movies like "Piranha" and "The Howling" earlier in his career — more straight-up horror efforts. But his sensibilities, combined with the likes of Spielberg and Columbus putting their best foot forward, made movie magic.

"Gremlins" earned more than $150 million at the box office against a comparatively tiny $11 million production budget. That may pale in comparison to what the movie has generated between cable, home video, and merchandise in the years since its release. Heck, we even have a new animated series on the way in the form of "Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai." Does it become a hit without toning down the gruesome nature of that original script? Maybe not.