Following the release of Bob Clark’s Black Christmas in 1974, the director felt he could do one more horror film, before saying goodbye to the genre for good.
Also around this time one (roughly 1975/76), John Carpenter was co-writing a script with fellow USC alumni James P. Nichols which held some ideas that would transition into Halloween in 1978. Nichols would work with Carpenter on Assault on Precinct 13, before going on to work in the sound departments for features such as Sphere and Malcolm X.
The script was entitled Prey, and followed three teenage girls (Laurie, Linda and Annie, anyone?), as they set out to climb Mount Tobias, before being attacked by two mountain men who seek to torture and kill them.
The exposition was that the families who lived near the mountain retreated further into the woods following the Civil War and interbred to keep their bloodlines pure.
Prey, pre-dates John Carpenter’s writing collaborations with Debra Hill, so maybe lacks the tightness of dialogue seen in Halloween, but stills offers tension and a tale where ultimately a female comes out on top.
Clark said of potentially working with Carpenter,
“John was a fan of Black Christmas, and he got Warner Bros. to hire me to do his first movie in 1976. It was about some killers in the mountains of Tennessee. We virtually cast it. John asked me at the time, ‘Do you ever want to make a sequel to Black Christmas?’ I said, ‘John, your movie is my last horror movie. I love ’em, but I didn’t come in to be just a horror maven…I came in to be a director, so I won’t do another one.’ He said, ‘Well if you did do it, what would it be? Because I bet you thought about it since (Black Christmas) did so well.”
The story has become Hollywood folklore in recent years that Halloween was a loose sequel to Black Christmas, which was Clark’s original intention, but he would again have kept the killer’s identity hidden.
Alas, with Clark’s passing in 2007, we will never know how far away he was from working with Carpenter on Prey.
Carpenter would go on to direct, arguably the definitive slasher Halloween, but elements of his idea were certainly replicated in the same year as Michael Myers’ big-screen debut, with Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes. Although a stretch, there are also elements that can be atoned to slasher-clone The Final Terror from 1983.
A script does exist for Prey but is in extremely short supply and will certainly cost a small fortune today from some Hollywood memorabilia collector.