I love reading behind the scenes and development stories about my favorite films, and this being spookyweek and all, I thought it would be fun to hunt down a few horror movie tidbits. Most of you already know Michael Myers’ killer face was really only a mutilated Captain Kirk mask painted white, and The Exorcist’s Linda Blair spewed pea soup as vomit, but did you know A Nightmare on Elm Street is based on actual happenings? Pull up a chair, my friends…
1. Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) in Scream is named in tribute to Donald Pleasance’s Halloween (1978) character, Dr. Sam Loomis. Scream scriptwriter Kevin Williamson—who went to see the film with his girlfriend when he was 12 and she, 13—said seeing John Carpenter’s Halloween changed his life: “Halloween was my revelation. I already knew my love of movies was bordering obsessive but had no idea of how fixated I was until the experience of Halloween. The movie frightened me beyond belief.”
2. Carrie was Stephen King’s first novel, published in 1973. After reading the book in 1975, Director Brian DePalma bought the rights and set about making the film (released in 1976). King was still such an unknown, the film trailer featured his name incorrectly spelled.
Sissy Spacek was so committed to her role that she insisted upon being buried so it would be her hand (not a double’s) in the final scene.
3. King’s young son, Joe Hill appears as “Billy” in George A. Romero’s Creepshow, the adaptation of two of the author’s short stories (the other tales were written by King specifically for the film).
4. Poltergeist (1982) actresses Heather O’Rourke (Carol Ann) and Dominique Dunne (Dana) both died young (12 and 22, respectively), contributing to some people’s belief that the film is cursed. Two other actors involved in the Poltergeist trilogy died under relatively normal circumstances (Will Sampson—complications following surgery, Julian Beck—cancer).
5. A multitude of strange happenings occurred during the making of The Omen (1976), including planes carrying cast/crew being struck by lightning (Gregory Peck and scriptwriter, David Seltzer—in separate planes); a producer nearly being struck by lightning while filming; director, Richard Donner being hit by a vehicle while exiting his car; the special effects man, John Richardson was involved in a car accident that beheaded his girlfriend; Donner’s hotel being bombed by the IRA; dogs attacking their trainers; lions killing a guard; and a near miss with a chartered plane (not used by crew) that had engine trouble…the pilot ended up flying with his own family, the plane crashed and everyone was killed. (Additionally, Peck’s son Jonathan committed suicide a few months before filming began.)
6. Repulsion (1965) is the top rated horror movie at Rotten Tomatoes. The top-grossing horror film (of all sub-genres) is The Sixth Sense (1999), with a lifetime gross of $293,506,292.
7. Guinness lists the Saw seven film franchise as the most successful horror series; total gross $733,271,976.
8. In Ginger Snaps (2000), actresses Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins play sisters Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald; the two also played sisters in Another Cinderella Story (2008) and have appeared separately on Supernatural.
9. Gary Oldman nicknamed the wig he wore in Dracula (1992) “Mickey Mouse ears” and “butthead.” His character was parodied as Count Burns in The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror IV.”
10. Grindhouse (2007) tops the horror movie highest body count with 310 dead (MBC).
11. John Carpenter’s idea to feature a killer behind an expressionless mask (Halloween, 1978) was inspired by Georges Franju’s Eyes without a Face (1960).
12. Asked about the most difficult The Cabin in the Woods scene, director Drew Goddard called the control room “a nightmare.” ”..there’s a scene going on in the room while a killing is happening at the same time on the security monitors. We had eighty screens that needed to be synced. In a big budget film you’d just blue screen all those screens, but we had to have a guy at a computer syncing all of those screens. I had particular ideas about what I wanted on those screens, and the beats in that were happening as we were doing dialogue. So screens are playing, actors are performing dialogue, and we’re moving the camera. When it came together it was the best moment of the shoot.”
13. The Cabin in the Woods was influenced by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Big Trouble in Little China, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Hot Fuzz and John Carpenter’s The Thing (Goddard).
14. Bosco chocolate syrup was used for blood in Night of the Living Dead and Psycho.
15. A Nightmare on Elm Street was inspired by a series of Los Angeles Times articles about Asian refugees who suffered “nightmare deaths.” “The victims had much in common, Kirschner found, first and foremost that nothing seemed to be wrong with them before they suddenly died. ‘These are all healthy men with no previous symptoms; the average age was 33,’ he says. ‘The situation is almost always the same. It only occurs in men and it only occurs in their sleep. The report is they cry out and die or are found dead the next morning.’”
16. The Conjuring is one of several films based on paranormal investigations by Lorraine and Ed Warren, including Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror, The Haunted and A Haunting in Connecticut. The Warrens are self-declared experts whose accounts have often been disputed or outright declared hoaxes. In 2007, suit was brought against the couple over events described in Gerald Brittle’s The Devil in Connecticut before it could be brought to film. A relative of the “possessed” boy claimed the story fake and said, “The Warrens told my family numerous times that we would be millionaires and the book would help get my sister’s boyfriend, Arne, out of jail. I knew from day one it was a lie, but as a child, there was nothing I could really do about it.”
17. Ridley Scott was not the first choice of director for Alien; he was fifth in line. “I think just before me they gave Bob Altman a read.” Scott was also not offered Aliens, which he would have done if he’d had the choice. From a recent interview:
Q: “You were passed over?”
RS: “Yeah. Well, welcome to Hollywood.”
Q: “What were the complaints about the film? “
RS: “The first film had absolutely no fat. It was all lean. People said the characters weren’t developed enough. I said, ‘What do you need to know when you’ve got an alien charging down the hall after you?’ Get real. You’ve got this monster that’s gonna rip your head off in 20 minutes.”
18. David Cronenberg recently donated memorabilia from his films, including The Fly (telepod) and Dead Ringers (tools) to a traveling display that begins at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. In a related interview, Cronenberg said he’d also loaned James Spader’s Crash leg brace (“sculpture”), which the director usually displays at his home. “It’s a beautiful metal thing, you know, a structure. So I expect to get it back.” David Cronenberg: Evolution begins at TIFF November 1; it will continue internationally (dates TBA) thereafter.
“Instrument for Operating on Mutant Women” (from Dead Ringers:
Cronenberg and production designer, Carol Spier based The Fly telepods on his own motorcycle engine; they’re basically upside-down Ducati cylinder heads.
19. The idea for Sinister (2012) came to scriptwriter C. Robert Cargill in a dream: “I had a nightmare. I had gone to see The Ring, and I’d stayed up all night writing, so I was exhausted, and I was like, you know, I’m going to take a little nap before the rest of my day, after seeing this scary, scary, terrifying movie. And then sure enough I had this horrifying dream of going up into my attic, finding a box of Super 8 films, spooling one up, and it was the opening scene from the movie.”
20. The Blob (1958) was inspired by a 1950 Philadelphia Inquirer report that police had found a mysterious mass of a jelly-like substance (possibly star-jelly) that vibrated on its own. When one of the officers touched the substance, it dissolved, leaving only a residue of “odorless scum.”
21. Roman Polanski’s only issue with Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby was that the director himself was agnostic; he didn’t believe in god or the devil. To make the story credible, Polanski created doubt in Rosemary’s sanity, giving the audience the choice of believing her supernatural experiences were real or imagined.