For children of the ‘80s, Gremlins holds a special place in the heart. Director Joe Dante’s allegedly wholesome family entertainment, produced by Steven Spielberg at the height of his Amblin powers no less, was actually a deceptively sinister little film. It was for all ages, to be sure, but in its heart, it was subverting its Frank Capra-esque iconography by having the Gremlins turn into PG movie monsters. And if Gremlins 3 had happened, screenwriter Carl Ellsworth promises it would’ve leaned into that sinister quality while also being every bit as nostalgia-drenched as Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
“The last time I touched [the script] is now going on three years ago,” Ellsworth told ComingSoon. “I was so excited to do it. I got the chance to work with Chris, and I loved the story we came up with. I’m so bummed that it hasn’t seen the light of day yet. What might have been, what could have been!”
Ellsworth went on to add that the treatment he was co-writing with Chris Columbus—the screenwriter of the original 1984 Gremlins movie—would’ve landed closer to that film’s malevolent spirit than the wacky hijinks of Gremlins 2.
“[I’m] not discounting the second one by any stretch, but I saw it as very much a passing-the-baton story, staying in the tone of the original. I think it helped get me the job. I said, ‘Yeah there’s a lot of humor in the movie, helped by the classic Jerry Goldsmith score that gives us a license to laugh, but it’s first and foremost a horror movie… These little creatures—what they’re really doing, they’re cold-blooded little murderers, you know?”
Ellsworth also said his plans were to have Zach Galligan’s Billy Peltzer and Gizmo, the cute adorable Mogwai puppet you shouldn’t feed after midnight or get wet, return in the same way that Han Solo and Chewbacca showed up in J.J. Abrams’ trip down Star Wars memory lane.
Of course it did not turn out that way. Instead WarnerMedia has pivoted to developing Gremlins as an animated series for HBO Max. While that doesn’t mean we won’t ever see a Gremlins 3, that film is certainly sounding like it’s been put back on the shelf.
For children of the ‘80s, the sight of Billy and Gizmo back in the snow, surely surrounded by Mohawk-adorned Gremlins, sounds exciting. But to be honest, I always preferred the subversive madcap anarchy of Gremlins 2. Considering that movie flopped, I understand the logic of returning to the first film’s sensibility, but nothing beats seeing Gizmo wearing a Rambo bandana.