Horror Book Review: Halloween by Curtis Richards

This is not an easy book to find.

Based on John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s original script for Halloween (which is a fancy of saying that it features scenes that were either not shot or left on the cutting room floor), Curtis Richards’s novelization of Halloween was published in 1979 and it went out of print in the 80s.  It’s subsequently become popular with both horror fans and paperback collectors.  On Amazon, you can order it used for $123.

Of course, if you’re lucky like me, your cousin might have a copy and he might be willing to loan it to you for the weekend.  Boom!

The novelization of Halloween tells the same basic story as the film, just with a few important differences.  For instance, the novelization doesn’t open in Haddonfield, Illinois.  Instead, it opens in Northern Ireland, at the “dawn of the Celtic race.”  It tells about how a disfigured young man named Enda went mad and killed the king’s daughter on the eve of Samhain.  Enda’s murderous spirit was cursed to wander the Earth.

Jump forward several centuries and we’re in Haddonfield!  However, instead of opening with Michael murdering his sister, the novel spends a bit of time telling us about Michael’s family.  Much like Rob Zombie’s version of the story, the novelization of Halloween spends almost as much time detailing Michael’s background as it does “the night he came home.”  His grandmother fears that little Michael Myers might be dangerous.  Michael says that he hears voices, telling him to hurt people.  Could that be the voice of Edna?   It’s also revealed that Michael’s grandfather was a murderer who also heard voices, suggesting that the entire family is cursed.

Along with more information about Michael’s background, we find out more about Michael’s time at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium.  We learn more about Dr. Loomis, as well.  We discover that Loomis is married and that his son thinks that Loomis is kind of lame.  (Reportedly, during filming, Donald Pleasence specifically objected to a scene that would have established Loomis as a family man because he felt that Michael should be Loomis’s sole obsession.)  Michael, who actually does a talk a bit in the early part of the book, comes to control his wing of the sanitarium, largely because everyone is scared to death of him.  The book does a good job of showing how Loomis came to be convinced that not only was there no way to get through to Michael but that he was also pure evil.  Basically, if you’re a Sam Loomis fan, this is the book to read.

Once Michael escapes, the film pretty much settles into the story that we all know from the original film.  Laurie Strode and her friends are stalked by Michael on Halloween night while Loomis desperately searches for him.  The book does a good job of getting into Laurie’s mind while she’s being pursued by Michael.  If you’ve ever wondered why Laurie kept doing illogical things while being pursued by Michael, this book makes clear that she was in a state of shock.  Trust me — if you were being chased by Michael, you’d probably be so scared that you would make a lot of the same mistakes.  I know I would.

The Halloween novelization is surprisingly well-written.  Curtis Richards does a good job of bringing the characters to life, beyond just transcribing their dialogue.  He gets into the heads of Michael, Loomis, and Laurie and forces us to see the story through their eyes.  That said, the most interesting thing about the book is the chance to see what Carpenter’s original vision of the film would have looked like.   Whereas the finished film is a masterpiece of editing that keeps the focus almost entirely on Laurie being stalked, the book is just as concerned with what makes Michael tick.

It’s interesting to contrast why both the film and the book work.  The film works because Michael is largely motiveless.  He’s a force of malevolence and you can understand why Carpenter cut the scenes that went into Michael’s time at Smith’s Grove.  Those scenes aren’t necessary because all of that information is supplied to as visually and, by cutting the store down to only its absolute essentials, the film duplicated Michael’s relentless pace.  In the book, of course, you don’t have the benefit of Carpenter’s visuals.  The book would be pretty boring if it was just Michael showing up and killing people.  Instead, the book works because Richards takes the time to get into the heads of his characters and make them more than just killer and victim.  What wouldn’t have worked for the film works wonderfully for the book.  And vice versa.

Anyway, this novelization of Halloween is not easy to find but if you’re a horror fan, it’s worth the effort.

2 responses to “Horror Book Review: Halloween by Curtis Richards

  1. Pingback: Lisa’s Week In Review: 9/28/20 — 10/4/20 | Through the Shattered Lens

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Night of the Living Dead by John A. Russo | Through the Shattered Lens

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