Nothing beats a good horror flick—but the stories behind the scenes are sometimes even more chilling than what we see on screen. From Scream to Psycho, Jason to Jaws, we’ve collected these chilling facts about the most iconic horror movies in history. Read these with the lights on!
Horror Movie Facts
1. Kill Kill Kill…Ma Ma Ma…
The eerie “ch ch ch…ah ah ah” sound effect from the Friday the 13th franchise haunts many a horror fan’s dreams, but it’s not just random noises. Harry Manfredini, the composer for the original film, took inspiration from the line where the killer, (Spoiler!) Pamela Voorhees, says “Kill her, mommy!” in her son Jason’s voice.
Manfredini reduced the words “kill” and “mommy” to “ki” and “ma,” spoke these sounds into a microphone, heavily distorted them, and voila!
2. Putting the Cart Before the Horse
In the post-Halloween world, Sean Cunningham desperately wanted to film the next big slasher flick, and he was going to do so by any means necessary. He actually took out an ad in Variety featuring Friday the 13th’s iconic logo smashing through glass and a release date: November 1979. Except he had one big problem: he hadn’t filmed anything yet—he didn’t even have funding!
He eventually got the money and made the film, but couldn’t quite get everything together by November: Friday the 13th came out in May of 1980.
3. How About “Scary Camp Kill Much”?
Friday the 13th is synonymous with horror today, but it almost had a completely different name. When the film was still just Cunningham’s distant pipe dream, he envisioned calling it Long Night at Camp Blood. Just as catchy?
4. I Wouldn’t Go There
Friday the 13th’s Camp Crystal Lake was a real camp, Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco. The summer of 1979 ended, the campers all went home, and the filmmakers got free rein of the campground in September. In fact, Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco is still in operation today—hopefully with no homicidal maniacs running around.
5. Get Out of My Dreams and Into My Car
When aging actress Betsy Palmer took the role of Pamela Voorhees in Friday the 13th, it wasn’t because she believed in the project or loved the horror genre. In her words, “I desperately needed a new car…If I hadn’t needed a car, I don’t think I would’ve done Friday the 13th.”
6. Secret Killers
Betsy Palmer played Pamela Voorhees, the killer in Friday the 13th, but several of the movie’s early kill scenes don’t feature her at all. Filming began before the part of Pamela had been cast, and since the killer isn’t shown for the much of the movie, members of the crew simply stood in for the part.
7. Walk on the Wild Side
In an odd coincidence, the New Jersey woods where filming took place for Friday the 13th were also home to rock star Lou Reed. Apparently, he actually came by the set on occasion, and at night, he even performed for the cast and crew.
8. Not Safe Blood
Fans loved the realistic gore in Friday the 13th—but there was a serious cost to creating those effects. Back in the late 70s, FX artists used “Safe Blood” and “Not Safe Blood”—and it was important not to confuse the two. If the fake blood was going to get on an actor’s face, then it was imperative that “Safe Blood” be used. Well, apparently the FX team on Friday the 13th missed that memo.
In the scene where Bill (played by Bing Crosby’s son Harry, of all people) is killed by arrows, the team did not use Safe Blood, and when it got in the actor’s eyes, it nearly blinded him.
The director of Scream, Wes Craven, would hide the voice actor who voiced Ghostface, Roger L. Jackson, on set during shoots. When the actors would get taunting calls from the killer, they were actually hearing Roger, hidden somewhere on set. Are we hearing voices?
In Evil Dead II, you can see Freddy Krueger’s glove above the door in the tool shed. Gotta hand it to the director, we missed this the first time.
11. Bloody Hell
It took about a year of technical work to get the blood pouring out of the elevator just right for the iconic scene in The Shining; but it only took three days to film once they were able to consistently achieve the desired effect.
12. Bloody Hell Part II
Sissy Spacek was chillingly devoted to her role as the titular Carrie. To avoid breaking continuity, Spacek decided to sleep in bloody clothes for three days while filming the film’s prom scene. Looks like she’s willing to bleed for her art.
John Carpenter hid many homages to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in Halloween. He even cast Jamie Lee Curtis, the daughter of Psycho star Janet Leigh, as the lead in Halloween. Like mother, like daughter.
14. A Green October
The thing with a movie called Halloween is that you kinda need to set it in October. The only problem was: it had to be shot in the spring in order to have it ready for a fall release. In order to give the movie the proper ambiance, production designer Tommy Lee Wallace personally painted dozens of bags of fake leaves to spread all over the exteriors of the set.
However, anyone paying close attention would notice that the neighborhood trees look curiously green for October 31st.
15. Pants On Fire
Danny Lloyd, the actor who played Danny in The Shining, wasn’t told that he was shooting a horror movie. Danny believed he was going to film a drama.
16. Nightmarish Part II
The high school janitor in Scream is named Fred, and wears a green and red sweater as a nod to Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare On Elm Street, which Wes Craven also directed. The janitor was played by Craven himself.
17. Too Real
Filming The Blair Witch Project was utterly harrowing for Heather Donahue, one of the film’s lead actors. She was worried that the director was making a snuff film, and had taken her and the other two cast members out to the woods to kill them. Luckily for her, and all of us, she was wrong. The film only took eight days to shoot.
18. Final Destination(s)
To film the premonition scene in Final Destination 3, the actors had to ride the roller coaster 26 times. It must have been emotional roller coaster having to ride that…roller coaster over and over again.
19. Not So Final Destination
Final Destination was originally an idea for an episode of The X-Files that never got written.
Virginia Madsen, the lead actor in Candyman, wasn’t sure if she should take the role. If she passed, the producers were considering giving the role to Sandra Bullock, who was relatively unknown at the time.
21. Potty Break
Psycho was the first time a flushing toilet was shown on screen. Countless poop jokes have followed—thanks, Alfred.
22. Turn Back Time
In order to make Samara’s walk even creepier, The Ring filmmakers shot the actor walking backward, and then reversed the shot.
23. Count It
In all of Nosferatu, Max Schrek, the actor who plays Count Orlock, only blinked once. That’s once in a 1-hour and 34-minute long film. His eyes must have been dry when the filming was a wrap.
24. Exercise Your Right
The Exorcist was the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. The movie would go on to rack up a total of 10 nominations and would win three.
25. Shy Guy
The shark in Jaws doesn’t appear in the film until an hour and 21 minutes into the film. While part of the reason behind this is to build suspense, the biggest reason behind it was that the mechanical shark built for the film rarely worked as intended. The end result is a truly terrifying entrance.
It took over seven years for Aliens to get made. Talk of a sequel began shortly after the success of the first film, but disputes over money from the producers delayed the project.
27. Beam Me Up
The mask Michael Myers wears in Halloween is a stretched out, whitewashed Captain Kirk mask from Star Trek. Set your phasers to creepy.
28. Double Whammy
A double amputee stood in for Richard Dysart for the scene in The Thing where Dr. Copper has his arms chomped off by Norris’s chest-cavity-jaw. The special effects designer found a double amputee to participate and made prosthetics with wax bones and jelly veins. Once the mechanical jaws closed down, the actor pulled his arms back, causing them to sever and produce horrific visuals.
29. That’s Dynamite!
Kurt Russell threw an actual stick of dynamite while filming The Thing. The explosive was allegedly more powerful than the actor anticipated, and Russell was thrown back by the ensuing blast. Carpenter wasn’t complaining though: Russell was unhurt, and the unexpected shot looked so good he put it in the final cut of the movie.
30. That Probably Won’t Pass the Bechtel Test
The Thing pushed visual effects to a new level, but progressive it was not. Aside from the voice of MacReady’s computer, there isn’t a single woman in the entire cast.
31. Days to Terrify
The beauty of Halloween is in its simplicity: John Carpenter and Debra hill wrote the entire script in just 10 days.
The production team of The Blair Witch Project used pre-programmed GPS trackers to lead the actors to plastic canisters hidden in the woods. The canisters contained the direction their character was going in on that day, but they were told not share their directions with each other. Everything else was improvised by the actors.
33. Paranormal Bank Activity
Believe it or not, but Paranormal Activity is the most profitable movie of all time. With an initial budget of $15,000, the movie went on to gross $193 million worldwide. That’s over one million percent return on investment!
34. Scary Movie
Scream was originally titled Scary Movie, but the Weinstein brothers changed the name after hearing Michael Jackson’s song “Scream” in their car. Good thing they weren’t listening to “Beat It.”
Before Joel and his brother Ethan Coen were a famous writer-director duo, Joel was an assistant editor on Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. He was inspired by Sam’s pitch trailer, eventually making one for his own movie Blood Simple.
36. Hack It
Gene Hackman was slated to star in The Silence Of The Lambs, but decided to pull out of the project after he saw a clip of himself at the 1989 Oscars as FBI agent Alan Parker from Mississippi Burning. He didn’t want to follow up such a dark character with an even darker one.
37. Modeling Career
The creature from The Creature From The Black Lagoon was modeled after the Oscars statue given to winners of the award.
The Craft wanted to ensure all the witchcraft they were portraying was authentic, so they hired Pat Devlin as a consultant. Pat is a member of a large Wiccan religious organization, known as the Covenant of the Goddess, and was the organization’s first officer for their Southern California Local Council.
39. House of History
John Carpenter used an actual house to film Halloween, and it’s still standing today—though not in its original location. For years, it sat at 709 Meridian Avenue in South Pasadena, California, but in 1987, it was lined up to be demolished. To save it, the house was relocated to 1000 Mission Street in South Pasadena, and it was eventually named a historical landmark. So don’t worry, it’s not going anywhere.
40. Spoiler Alert
Both The Hollywood Reporter and Variety published spoilers for the film Psycho months before it was released, despite Hitchcock’s best efforts to keep the ending a secret. Mum’s the word, Alfie.
41. Dance For Me
One of the most chilling scenes in The Silence of the Lambs almost wasn’t included at all. Buffalo Bill’s famous dance scene wasn’t in the script, though it was in the book. Ted Levine, the actor who played Bill, was insistent that the scene be included to help the audience understand the demented character better. Thanks Ted, we’ll never hear “Goodbye Horses” by Q Lazzarus the same again.
42. Too Scary
A man sued Warner Brothers for injuries he obtained from fainting after attending a screening of The Exorcist. Warner Brothers settled the deal out of court, which usually means big bucks. What’s the next big horror film that’s coming out?
43. Too Sane
Stanley Kubrick thought Robert DeNiro wasn’t psychotic enough for the role of Jack in The Shining. This decision was made after Kubrick watched Taxi Driver. Sure, Kubrick, not psychotic enough.
44. Too On The Nose
The original title for Halloween was The Babysitter Murders. Way to not beat around the bush with that title, guys.
45. Tastes Like Barf
The vomit used in The Exorcist was Andersen’s Pea Soup. The special effects team tried using Campbell’s Pea Soup, but they weren’t happy with the way it looked.
46. Jacked Up
Jack Nicholson was once considered for the role of Hannibal Lecter in Silence Of The Lambs. The role would eventually go to Anthony Hopkins, who was perfect for the part.
47. Stunt Doubles
Church, the cat in Pet Sematary, was actually played by seven different cats. Must have been just as confusing for the cats as it was for the cast.
48. Whites Only
The robe Ghostface wears in Scream was originally supposed to be white, to better show the blood and gore once he got busy. Wes Craven had it changed because he feared it would look too much like the robes of the Ku Klux Klan. Good choice Wes.
49. Saw That Coming
The original Saw film only took 18 days to film due to its limited use of sets. That’s smart, no matter how you cut it.
50. Bugs Me
The cocoons used in Silence Of The Lambs were made of gummy bears and tootsie rolls. Still looks gross, if you ask us.
51. Nice Do
Pennywise’s hair was actor Tim Curry’s actual hair in the original It miniseries. The only thing production did to it was dye it red and style it to give it that crazy look.
Bosco chocolate syrup was used as blood in the original Night of the Living Dead. The film was shot in black and white, and chocolate syrup had a similar appearance to blood on black and white screens.
53. Gein Momentum
Serial killer Ed Gein was so twisted, he has inspired three major horror films. These were Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Silence Of The Lambs—not to mention a whole lot of cheesy straight to video movies. When police raided his farm, they discovered masks, bowls, and lampshades made of skin, decapitated heads, and even a belt made of nipples.
54. Hedging Their Bets
The Thing has a famously dark ending, but the film’s editor, Todd Ramsay, was worried that such a bleak finale wouldn’t test well. Just in case, he told Carpenter to film a second ending, one where MacReady is rescued and takes a blood-test which proves he wasn’t assimilated by the Thing. To the relief of fans everywhere, while the scene was filmed, Carpenter stood firm to his original vision.
Tony Todd, the actor who played the titular character in Candyman, had to go to disturbing lengths for the film. He actually put real bees into his mouth to film the movie’s climax. It’s a good thing he wasn’t allergic, because the show must go on.
56. All Work
Stanley Kubrick is thought to have personally typed out all 500 pages of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” that was used in The Shining, but it’s not known for sure whether that’s true. Kubrick never addressed the rumors before his death.
57. In the Blood
The Halloween novelization reveals that Michael’s great-grandfather killed a couple at a harvest dance on Halloween. Great-grandpa Myers then identified his victims by name before he was hanged, even though he’d never met them, saying he heard the names in his dreams.