Welcome to Written in BLOOD! This monthly series will take a look at the long-lost novelizations of some of horror’s finest films! Sometimes these novelizations stay very true to the final product, and sometimes they go completely and absolutely bonkers! Either way, we will examine the details and the subplots written in these books that add to the stories we already know and love.
Normally, I write these articles to point out the differences between horror films and their novelizations. I try to shed a light on interesting things that may have been cut for time and wacky side plots that never should have been written down in the first place (I’m looking at you, Papa Jaques). All of the horror novelizations I’ve read are chock full of such differences and ridiculous exposition. That is, until I picked up Nicholas Grabowsky’s Halloween IV.
“my favorite horror novelization […A] perfect accompaniment to the film.”
This novelization is a near word-for-word recreation of the classic 1988 film, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. The dialogue, the set pieces, the devices, and even the facial expressions of the characters are almost identical to their celluloid counterparts. Seeing as most novelizations are based on the script and written before the film is released, this means that either A) Grabowsky had seen a cut of the film before writing or B) They did not deviate from the script at all during shooting.
Don’t get it twisted, I’m not implying that Grabowsky’s book is bad. Quite the opposite, actually. It perfectly captures the spirit of Halloween 4, and its descriptions of the town of Haddonfield transport you right into the spooky mindset of October 31st. In all honesty, it has been my favorite horror novelization that I’ve ever read. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the film. So, while we may not have the same type of material for this article, there is one thing that Grabowsky’s book did very well that sets it apart from the movie.
We have been watching Michael Myers do his thing since 1978. We grew up with him; we got old with him. I could recognize his profile and mannerisms anywhere. His slow gait and little turn of his head are iconic, but what we never had before was a look inside the shape. Now, there’s not a lot of internal dialogue in this book, but when you compare that to several films where we had no clue what Michael was thinking, even a few paragraphs can feel like an entire universe added to his mythology.
Michael Myers has never been one to adhere to the laws of physics. He can seem to teleport from place to place and has an absurd amount of strength. This is true throughout Halloween 4, where he can go from the house to the school, to the undercarriage of a truck without anyone noticing. The great thing about the book is that we are able, through the magic of words, to spend time hanging out with Michael. We get to see him as he moves from place to place and sit in the dark with him as he waits in a closet. It’s no longer an improbable jump scare, like in the film, but rather an episode of Planet Earth where we watch a lion stalk its prey.
“They did not see him; he stood perfectly still, like the Caruther’s willow tree beside him. […] It was Halloween, and strange sights or absurdities were overlooked tonight.”
After Michael has made his way to Haddonfield and found a mask at The Discount Mart (Side Note: If you were a citizen of Haddonfield, wouldn’t you be a little upset that the local store is still selling the same mask that was worn to murder 16 kids only a decade ago? Seems a bit insensitive to me), he begins to follow Jaime and Rachel as they prepare for Halloween night. Where, in the films, we would focus exclusively on the girls, the book is able to stand alongside Myers as he watches along with us:
He was watching. He was watching those children, watching as they strode from house to house with their plastic bags or paper-bags or plastic jack-o-lanterns. He saw how protecting their guardians were; their mothers and fathers, friends or relatives making sure they got their kids back from each stop, keeping them all out of trouble.
They did not see him; he stood perfectly still, like the Caruther’s willow tree beside him. If anyone did see him, they must have paid no attention to him. It was Halloween, and strange sights or absurdities were overlooked tonight. Besides, how absurd can a simple man in a mask standing beside a tree be? But standing in the shadows as he was, one terrible aspect was certain: he could see them better than they could see him.
Instead of a figure manifesting out of nowhere to force you to jump, we know get to watch Michael go through his process. Later in the same passage, he goes to the Caruther’s (it’s spelled this way in the book. Don’t @ me) window and watches Rachel put away the dishes after dinner. He sees the parents as they get ready for their Halloween party. As the girls exchange some conversation with the couple, we realize that he is no longer watching. Jaime, followed by the family dog, Sunday, goes upstairs to change into her clown costume, but something is wrong:
Within her bedroom, down the hall past the master bedroom, Sunday moved cautiously toward the shadows past the open window. Suddenly he sensed something, and he backed up towards the open door. There was something there. A presence. A low growl swelled within his throat.
Something was in Jamie’s room.
Michael, when you are given the benefit of hundreds of pages worth of descriptions and exposition, becomes less like a goofy slasher and more like a predatory ghost. He is able to move from room to room in these homes, watching and waiting for his moment to strike. Unlike in the films, where you are held hostage by the camera’s point of view, the book allows the tension to build as you know exactly where he is hiding. The other characters behave just as they do in the movie, but you know that Michael is watching. You sit in your chair and can almost hear his raspy breathing as you flip the pages.
“[…] a tension-filled nightmare that has to be on your to-be-read list.”
Never is this more apparent than in the scenes held within Meeker’s home. Michael has hitched a ride over from the back seat of the cruiser (I know… I know… pretty dumb) and snuck into the house before it was closed off by its occupants. As we watch the film, we know that Michael is there, but we don’t know where. Here’s a small portion of that scene from the book:
Logan turned again and moved down the long side hallway of the first floor. As he went, he passed a partially opened doorway, and if he had glanced within, even momentarily, he would have seen the blacked view of the figure standing motionless in the darkness, waiting in the shadows.
Just like before, we know where Michael is. We are the only ones who know where he is, and we are forced to watch as the characters walk past his hiding spot, unaware of the doom awaiting them just feet away. Reading this book reminds me of the bomb-delivery scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Sabotage. We see the bomb (Michael) and we follow him as it is delivered to its destination (the delivery boy). We know the time of detonation (1:45/Halloween night) and we are held down in our seats by the suspense of watching it all unfold. This transition from surprise to suspense takes an already scary story and turns it into a tension-filled nightmare that has to be on your to-be-read list.
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