Chris Columbus on why 'Gremlins' is a Christmas movie — and the dark Santa story the studio wanted to cut out

Chris Columbus insists he’s not a holiday junkie, but his credits suggest otherwise. The famed writer-director just helmed Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles 2, a sequel to the 2018 original he produced. He directed the contemporary Christmas classic Home Alone, which he came to helm after getting dropped from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

And then, of course, there’s the movie that launched his career, 1984’s revered creature feature Gremlins, which marked his second screenplay credit after that same year’s Reckless.

“The reason why I’m fascinated by Christmas is it’s the time of year when people are at their most emotional, and happiest, yet there’s a whole other side of the population that’s incredibly depressed, potentially out of work, particularly this year,” Columbus says in a recent interview with Yahoo Entertainment (watch above). “So you take that and you set it against the backdrop of, back in the day something like Gremlins, and that’s an interesting stew to me.

“When people should be celebrating with their families, these ridiculously evil monsters are terrorizing the town and killing everyone. That is fascinating.”

There are countless indelible sequences in GremlinsGizmo’s watering and mom’s microwave revenge come immediately to mind — but perhaps the most notorious moment involves a bit of expository storytelling, in which Kate (Phoebe Cates) horrifyingly recalls how her father died in a Santa-comes-down-the-chimney gag gone wrong. A YouTube clip of the scene (below) has been dutifully titled “The Worst Christmas Story Ever.”

Columbus says the scene was based on a piece by National Lampoon cartoonist Gahan Wilson that ran in Playboy magazine. It depicts a woman with a pair of chimney cleaners who look at the skeleton of Santa Claus on her carpet with the caption, “Well, we found out what’s been clogging your chimney since last December, Miss Emmy.”

The executives at Warner Bros. were not thrilled by the scene after the film’s first preview screening.

“The studio almost made us cut that initially,” Columbus admits. “But it was [director] Joe Dante and my favorite scene in the movie.” Producer Steven Spielberg also had their backs.

“I didn’t have much say at the time, I was just a screenwriter [and] it was only my second movie. But Joe and Steven talked some sense into them.”

Gremlins is currently streaming on Amazon.

Watch Chris Columbus share memories from the making of Home Alone:

— Video produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by John Santo

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