What makes a good title for a horror movie? Hollywood doesn’t seem to know these days, as evidenced by names like Oculus and too many nouns ending in “ing” (The Awakening; The Conjuring) or adjectives that are rather tame sounding, like Sinister and Insidious. This week’s new release As Above, So Below is either a good title or a bad one, depending on whom you ask, but I’d say its only real problem is that it doesn’t immediately sound like a horror movie.
That doesn’t mean it’s not worth seeing, just maybe that it won’t as easily draw audiences as, say, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That’s a title that tells you what you’re in for. Other titles that you know are going to be scary movies include Pet Sematary, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Night of the Living Dead, The Evil Dead, Drag Me to Hell and something as simple as Paranormal Activity.
There’s also the basic but fun one-word titles like Jaws, Psycho, The Thing, Critters, Grabbers, Slither and Scream, all of which give you an idea of what to expect. Then again, not basic can be great, too. You can’t go wrong with one of my personal favorite clever titles: Chopping Mall. I also think Child’s Play is another good one.
I’ve always trusted Stephen King to have titles that work in part because of how they sound, even if they don’t seem to indicate a horror movie on their own at first. He must think of phonetics when coming up with titles such as The Shining, It, Misery and especially the hard-c ones: Cujo, Christine and Carrie. Anything that makes you think of the sound of a word like kill.
But if you’re not good with what sounds scary, you just need to incorporate words that people associate with and want in their horror: kill, blood, corpse, dead, evil, hell and children are always pretty dependable. Here’s a perfect one that a friend of mine (with a private, nonembeddable Twitter account) reminded me of: Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things.
What is the best horror movie title of all time?
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