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John Carpenter’s Halloween originally had a much worse title

The original idea for naming the Halloween franchise really was a case of first the worst, but John Carpenter saw the light in the end.

Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode and Michael Myers from Halloween

The Halloween franchise carries such a striking iconography, from the masked killer at the heart of it all, to that fear-inducing theme tune, right down to the simple yet effective title. It could all have been ruined, though, if John Carpenter had gone with the original name for his film back in 1978.

What if Halloween, one of the best horror movies of all time, had actually stuck with the plan and been named The Babysitter Murders instead? In a Vulture article detailing the birth of the classic slasher movie franchise, it’s revealed Irwin Yablans, the producer of the movie, first pitched the idea to John Carpenter with a rather lacklustre title that honestly, would have held it back from becoming one of the best movies in the genre.

Eventually, The Babysitter Murders became Halloween, after Yablans had something of an epiphany. He told The New York Times: “The thing that baffled me is that in 75 years of moviemaking, nobody had ever used the title Halloween for a picture.”

It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? After conjuring up the story of a “madman stalking and killing babysitters,” Yablans quickly contacted John Carpenter, with whom he had just collaborated on Assault on Precinct 13, and persuaded him to take on this new movie with a shoestring budget.

“I dreamed up Halloween on an airplane. I was coming back from a film festival in Milan, and I was looking for an idea that wouldn’t cost money because I didn’t have any money. I couldn’t afford to buy a book or a play. And it happened to be Halloween night,” Yablans added.

Ultimately, Yablans, Carpenter, and the team decided to act swiftly and get the $300,000 project completed in time for the annual celebration it was named after, in order to capitalize on what was essentially free marketing. And the rest, as they say, is history. If you were to watch the Halloween movies in order now, you would be tied in to a 13-movie marathon, which spans four (rather messy) timelines.

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Back in 1978, however, no one knew what had hit them, with the film attracting fairly negative reviews from the likes of Variety and New York Daily News. Roger Ebert loved it, though, writing in his review at the time, “Halloween is a visceral experience. We aren’t seeing the movie, we’re having it happen to us. It’s frightening.”

Michael Myers is a big part of that feeling, of course, and he remains one of the most formidable horror icons to this date. I think the overriding reason for his lasting legacy is pretty similar to the title of the film, in that he is simple and to the point. There’s no messing around with Michael, he is just a pure, relentless killing machine, and sometimes that’s all you need.

I do wonder if the original film would have attracted the audiences and the praise it did, though, had it stuck to the title of The Babysitter Murders. To me, that sounds more like an amateur true crime podcast, and is not the kind of film title that would get me rushing to the theater. Hindsight is a fine thing, though, and obviously at the time of conceiving the idea, Yablans went with the instincts that served him so well in coming up with the story in the first place.