A lot of different elements go into making a horror movie work. Even the classics, though they often start out with highly compelling ideas, might originate as something very different from what fans now know and love.
Even the smallest changes can completely alter a movie – imagine Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger in different outfits, for example. Whether fans realize it or not, these small changes make all the difference.
It’s especially true of titles because, whether conscious or not, a movie’s title paints a picture of what it’s going to be about. The title alone can change the tone of the film.
With that in mind, here are seven classic horror movies that started out with some surprising original, working titles:
The Babysitter Murders
John Carpenter’s Halloween is now synonymous with the holiday. Most fans make it a requirement to watch the film every October. But, when Carpenter was first approached for the feature, it was actually called The Babysitter Murders. Producer Irwin Yablans suggested the film was set on Halloween night, and be simply titled Halloween.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a very clear and direct title that provides a strong picture as to what the movie is about – that bluntness certainly served it well in the long run. Headcheese is a much more ambiguous title, although still fitting, and while it would have still serviced an exploitation cult classic, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a title that evokes such evocative imagery, it simply couldn’t have been anything else.
Sadomasochists From Beyond The Grave
Before settling on Hellraiser, Clive Barker was looking for a title for the adaptation of his novella, The Hellbound, Heart that would provide viewers with a clear sense of the movie’s themes and somewhat shocking nature. He toyed heavily with calling it Sadomasochists From Beyond The Grave, while a female team member also tossed out the suggestion What a Woman Will Do For A Good F**k.
Before Child’s Play, Don Mancini’s original script—which changed significantly from the final feature—was titled Blood Buddy. This title fit the concept of a boy who makes a blood pact with his new doll, leading the toy to unleash his owner’s repressed anger, but it doesn’t fit the bill for what the project eventually became. Child’s Play definitely evokes the creep factor that this first feature provides in spades.
Both Warrington Gillette and Steve Dash were excited to take on the role of Jason, not because they wanted to play a killer in a slasher movie, but because they assumed it was a big part given that Jason was also the title of the script at that point. They assumed he was the lead character, only to find out they’d be playing a masked prowler with no lines.
Although Alien is now considered one of the all-time sci-fi horror greats, co-writer Dan O’Bannon took most of his inspiration from B-movies of the fifties and sixties. Much of the plot is drawn from Planet Of The Vampires, for example. Alien is a direct, but still mysterious, title whereas Star Beast would have made those original inspirations much more evident.
Sex Crime Of The Century
This one is arguably a more appropriate title for Wes Craven’s The Last House On The Left, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a better one. This title just spoils how shocking the movie winds up becoming, whereas Last House on the Left is much more mysterious, therefore making the impact greater.
Perhaps the most ironic title on this list, Scary Movie was writer Kevin Williamson’s original title for Scream. The original title does sort of showcase the meta nature of it, but Scream just sounds like more of an engrossing thriller. Of course, eventually Scream got popular enough for a parody, which was itself titled Scary Movie. So, it turns out that the most meta thing Scream was responsible for wound up happening in real life.