When it comes to cult classics from the 80’s, leaving John Carpenter out of the conversation would almost equal to an artistic sin. Despite early struggles in the industry, Carpenter established his very particular personality as a filmmaker from the beginning with the sci-fi comedy Dark Star.
Turning low-budget projects into straightforward but delightfully enjoyable movies was one of Carpenter’s trademarks. Few other directors dominated the late 70’s and early 80’s commercially as he did, and though his streak was cut with the poorly received The Thing, it would eventually become a cult horror film.
Highly imaginative, Carpenter enjoys bringing a strong sense of humor into his stories. This playfulness has produced many films that often go over the top and do not take themselves too seriously (Escape from New York, They Live), though he has also proved his mastery at conveying horror and tension (The Fog, Vampires).
Carpenter is also known for frequently composing the music for his own films –another one of the elements that cemented his reputation as a multi-faceted artist and cult director.
(1974) Dark Star
(1976) Assault on Precinct 13
(1980) The Fog
(1981) Escape From New York
(1981) Halloween 2
(1982) The Thing
(1986) Black Moon Rising
(1986) Big Trouble in Little China
(1987) Prince of Darkness
(1988) They Live
(1992) Memoirs of an Invisible Man
(1995) Village of the Damned
(1995) In the Mouth of Madness
(1996) Escape From L.A.
(2001) Ghosts of Mars
It’s difficult to make a horror film that can make a big enough impression with audiences to spark an entire franchise. Many directors have attempted to capture an audience with stunning monsters, open-ended story lines and intense special effects. However, audiences are difficult to please and it’s not uncommon for these movies to fall directly into obscurity.
But there are times when a horror movie is good enough to really get the attention of horror film addicts and the general movie-goers as well. These films, for some reason or another, just have the chemistry of a horror film concocted in a perfect manner to attract an audience and keep them wanting more.
For the aspiring horror film writer, these films are crucial for understanding what balance of story and characters is necessary to create a perfect franchise and the best way to start is at the beginning. Contained in the list below is the premiere films of several different successful franchises spanning from the 1970’s to today. Upon close observation, an aspiring screenwriter may be able to recognize a pattern and therefore figure out a “formula” for creating the perfect scary movie. For those who choose to set upon this journey, I wish you good luck in finding the Holy Grail of the horror industry.
- (1968) Night of the Living Dead Script [Transcript]
- (1978) Halloween Script
- (1979) Phantasm Script [Transcript]
- (1980) Friday the 13th Script
- (1984) Nightmare on Elm Street Script
- (1984) Children of the Corn Script
- (1987) Hellraiser Script
- (1988) Child’s Play Script
- (2004) Saw Script
- (2007) Paranormal Activity Script