What’s a name anyway? Well for starters, people are going to remember it. The idea behind the title of a movie is to grab people’s attention. Think of some of your favorite horror movies and what the title is. Pretty catchy, right? Some are bold and right to the point, while others are just plain catchy. Titles like Halloween or Friday the 13th stick to the name of the day they are celebrating, since they are well known, giving it a special kind of ring and get you in the mood to view them come the holiday.
But not all titles are, well, very good. Some of the most cherished and beloved horror films out there were originally supposed to be named under a different title, but fortunately due to a last minute decision by a marketing person or producer, the title was changed to what you know and love. Let’s take a look at some of them, shall we?
The Babysitter Murders (Halloween)
It’s hard to imagine a series so iconic as Halloween being called something else. Of course, this was before a franchise was in mind. The first, and originally thought to be a stand alone, film was originally supposed to be called The Babysitter Murders, which to me sounds like a Lifetime movie loosely based on real events. Supposedly the events of the film were to take place over the span of several days, but due to budget reasons, the film ends up taking place over the same evening and what better evening than the scariest night of them all than Halloween? I heard John Carpenter was influenced by Bob Clark’s shocking slasher Black Christmas and wanted to do a sequel based on that wherein the killer would be escaping an asylum and wreaking havoc on Halloween. In any case, I’m sure we are all glad the title was switched, giving us a reason to marathon the series every October.
The Book of the Dead (The Evil Dead)
Producer Irvin Shapiro said it best to director Sam Raimi when he said, “Nobody will want to see a movie if they think they have to read!” Fearing that the younger audience might be turned off at literally interpreting the title, Raimi ended up changing the name to The Evil Dead. Sounds much better, don’t you think? While the title is pretty catchy, it goes without saying that The Evil Dead is by far more eye catching and more alarming. Good Call, Irvin.
A Long Night at Camp Blood (Friday the 13th)
Here’s another that sounds like it would have belonged somewhere else. I’m picturing a drama/comedy centered around camp counselors telling ghost stories while trying to hook up. This was never the shooting title, however, but Victor Miller’s working title for the script (Jason was also called Josh at this point), but his partner in crime, Sean S. Cunningham, believed that a catchier title, say Friday the 13th, was much more interesting and rushed out (he had previously been wanting a movie with this title, but had no idea what it would be until he read Victor’s script) to place an ad in Variety. The rest is history. Can you imagine if the original title stuck? I don’t know about you, but A Long Night at Camp Blood Part VI: Josh Lives doesn’t sound nearly as frightening. Sounds like Josh pulled through that operation who were hoping he would.
Scary Movie (Scream)
Well, isn’t this a coincidence? Although the parody film Scary Movie would later use that same title, riffing Scream, believe it or not, that was its working title. It’s fitting all the same, Scream being a meta-flick on all the scary films of the 80’s, poking at the tropes, but a single word representing what you do when you are most terrified certainly fits the bill much better. Of course now we can’t imagine the original title being nothing more than a series of parody flicks recycling the same jokes.
Star Beast (Alien)
I actually love the original title for this. Star Beast sounds like one of the dozen Star Wars/Alien clones that Roger Corman would later shovel out or perhaps something Troma would distribute alongside Nightbeast. As much as I do love that title, it wasn’t fitting for the realism and world Dan O’Bannon and Ridley Scott created, so to O’Bannon’s distaste for the title, he changed it to Alien after noting how many times the word appeared in the script. It’s the perfect example of how impactful one word can be, as it’s both a noun and an adjective. Also I can’t picture James Cameron’s sequel Star Beasts or the later Star Beast: Resurrection and Star Beast Vs. Predator once the crossover happened.
Batteries Not Included (Child’s Play)
You mean that cute film about apartment tenants seeking the aid of a mechanical alien so their building won’t get destroyed? Nope, I’m talking about the film where a serial killer possesses a doll. Unbeknownst to Tom Holland and crew that Steven Spielberg was already in production with a movie under that same title, it was changed to Blood Buddy, which doesn’t sound that good when you think about girls becoming women… (ok, that’s lude and I apologize), so another change was made to the memorable Child’s Play. Although, the Batteries Not Included title does play a part in the scene where Andy’s mother discovers that her son’s doll was operating the whole time without batteries in a very memorable scene.
Psycho only went under the production title of Wimpy, but was never truly intended to be named that. It was rather a nod to second-unit camera man Rex Wimpy who appeared on clapboards and production sheets, as well as some stills. If they had actually gone with that name, I can’t imagine a film called Wimpy scaring the pants off of people for the past 55 years.
Head Cheese (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)
That title sounds like it should be a teen sex-romp in the vein of Porky’s or Meatballs, but it’s a reference to a meat jelly (my new band shall be called Meat Jelly) made from the flesh of the head of calf or pig. Mmm, meat jelly sure does sound appetizing. Sure, if you know what head cheese is, it fits the content in the movie, but doesn’t quite have a ring to it. Before Head Cheese, the film was to be named Leatherface, which was used later for a sequel, but the creators landed on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Why? Because it puts a picture in your head before you’ve even seen the movie. It’s visceral, it’s mean and it gives the image that the film is much more bloody than it actually is.
Rabbits (Night of the Lepus)
MGM was right in thinking that a movie called Rabbits wouldn’t suit a horror film. Your friends would make fun of you for being scared of a movie called that. Instead, they opted for the latin term lepus, meaning hare, and figured a ‘night of’ would be wildly successful since it worked for Night of the Living Dead. Well, they were halfway right.
Here Comes the Boogeyman (Jeepers Creepers)
Hmm, that title is okay, but it sounds like something from the 80’s that nobody remembers. So let’s change that title to something else, like maybe after the name of a familiar and catchy jingle? I don’t know if that was how the decision actually went down, but for whatever reason, the title was changed to Jeepers Creepers and nobody has made a loveable tune seem so dark and creepy since Halloween II using ‘Mr. Sandman.’
Did I miss one? Let me know in the comments below!