In just under three weeks, David Gordon Green’s Halloween has exhilarated audiences to the tune of over $200 million in box office receipts, a milestone for this franchise and the slasher film subgenre. But even people happy with the film still find hang-ups to criticize, from Dr. Sartain’s motivations, to The Shape’s ambivalence in harming an infant in the home of a Haddonfield resident he bashed to death with a hammer, to Allyson’s jerk boyfriend Cameron (but he’s Lonnie Elam’s kid, of course he’s a jerk) getting away scot-free.
To those conflicted Halloween fans, I have one recommendation to make: read the novelization.
Written by Bram Stoker Award winner John Passarella, co-author of Wither, author of Wither’s Rain, Wither’s Legacy, Kindred Spirit, Shimmer, and a chain of Supernatural, Grimm, Buffy and Angel media tie-ins, the Halloween novelization is a satisfying companion piece to David Gordon Green’s feature.
I can already hear the rebuttals: But Mike, I shouldn’t have to read a book to get answers to questions or fix problems I have with a movie. No, you’re right, you shouldn’t have to. And you don’t have to. But it does help. Something I love about a movie novelization is its function to expand and enrich the narrative of a film. A movie is always subject to its post-production phase. Scenes are either dropped or reshot for a variety of reasons, be it time constraints, pacing problems… any number of issues. A novelization, however, is based on the screenplay (a particular draft or a number of drafts) and isn’t subject to any of those issues. Yes, an author has the freedom to embellish and expound upon characters, but you’ll also find scenes in there that were taken out of the finished film. We may not know what belonged to the screenwriters or what was simply an author’s take on the material unless the subsequent Blu-ray release contains deleted scenes; that being said, a novelization still gives us a broader take on the material and (possibly) the original intent of the filmmaker.
Take The Shape’s reluctance to harm that baby. While some saw this as a parallel to Michael ignoring the infants in the Haddonfield Memorial Clinic newborn ward in Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II (1981) or young Michael sparing his little sister Boo in Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007), or proof the Shape does in fact have a conscience, others were confused. (And to those people who were confused, or surprised, he didn’t kill the baby, my only response is… Really?). David Gordon Green has gone on record that the infant was a late edition to the movie; the actor who was hired to play the husband of The Shape’s victim never came to set when those scenes were being shot, and Green was forced to improvise. While the finished film never gives us much information as to Michael’s current mental state or how random his behavior is, the book suggests quite a bit.
In the novelization’s opening pages, Dr. Sartain explains to true crime podcasters Aaron Joseph-Korey and Dana Haines that he disagreed with Dr Loomis’ description of Michael as pure evil. “Pure evil is not a diagnosis,” he tells them. Aaron asks Sartain if there’s any similarity between the homicidal maniac that made headlines in 1978 and the amenable patient of this institution. Sartain calls Michael “an aging, evolving animal, as we all are. And although we have worked very closely, these halls display the limitation of my analysis.” Under his care, Smith’s Grove has implemented a holistic form of therapy for Michael, and in that time, Sartain concludes that Michael’s tendency towards violence has been irrevocably erased. “We left two kitty cats in his cell overnight and they were retrieved virtually unharmed,” he says. Sartain may be convinced, but his research lacks one vital element, and it may lead him to facilitate Michael’s escape so he might study him in the wild. Michael’s decision to leave two kittens alone illustrates the randomness of his actions during his house to house murder spree later. Whether this is writer John Passarella’s addition or excised material from David Gordon Green’s first assembly, it does manage to expand on Michael’s psychology.
Scenes deleted from the theatrical cut of the film that were merely teased in marketing materials also appear in the book. One such scene has Aaron putting on Michael’s mask and scaring Dana in the shower, in a blatant parody of Hitchcock’s Psycho. (Now, if the lead up to the shower scene is done in the style of the opening of John Carpenter’s Halloween, with a POV through the mask’s eyeholes, it would also make it an homage of the opening of Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse. Dammit, I wanna see those deleted scenes!) Aaron tells her: “When I wear this, there is a certain tendency or inclination that the legacy of the mask seems to inspire.” Sartain, later donning the mask — in the scene that has left just about everyone who has seen the film conflicted — would be a fitting callback to this, and would’ve made a lot more sense, if only this deleted moment had remained in the film.
Which leads us to Cameron Elam, Allyson’s disloyal boyfriend. In the film, Allyson catches Cameron fraternizing with another girl at the Exquisite Corpse Halloween high school dance. Cameron, drunk and irate, argues with Allyson, and dumps Allyson’s cell phone in a bowl of nacho cheese when he doesn’t get his way. Allyson storms off, and this is the last we see of Cameron. In the book, things play out a little differently.
In the book, Cameron chases after Allyson, still trying to make amends with her and failing miserably. By this point, the police have arrived and the dance is being cancelled and evacuated with confirmation Michael Myers is on the loose again in Haddonfield. When an officer finds Cameron and Allyson under the bleachers in the midst of their argument and this cop interrupts the lovers’ spat to usher them off school grounds, Cameron isn’t having it. Cameron and the cop scuffle, and Cameron gets arrested. That explains why Cameron never gets his moral comeuppance from The Shape: he was sleeping off his drunk in the county jail. But something tells me it’s just as well. If David Gordon Green comes back to direct the inevitable sequel, I’m fairly certain we’ll see Cameron again and he’ll get what’s coming to him. I’d expect it to be pretty brutal too, since it’s been prolonged. In the slasher film law of averages, survivors of one entry aren’t always so lucky in the next. The audience wants Cameron dead, and by God he better get it in the sequel, or heads will roll.
David Gordon Green’s Halloween is a story about the effects of PTSD on three generations of women, and their strength and ultimate perseverance against The Shape who has haunted their family, figuratively and literally, over a forty year span. The novelization allows this story to breathe. It offers so much more added depth, so much more background (on Laurie Strode, especially; it even drives home the point of that final shot in a very succinct, poignant way), it’d be a shame to spoil all of it. Just pick up a copy and enjoy.
The Shape is waiting.