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based on the screenplay by John Carpenter and Debra Hill

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Corgi, London, 1980
(price: 85p; 168 pages)

dedication: For Ronnie - Trick or Treat

copy currently available on eBay

The blurb on the back:

Tricked by his cunning...
Treated to his savagery...
Annie, Linda and Laurie... fresh, pretty, ready to be taken... stalked by a sadistic power who has returned to claim new victims, on this... the most frightening night of the year.

opening lines:

The horror started on the eve of Samhain, in a foggy vale in northern Ireland, at the dawn of the Celtic race. And once started, it trod the earth forevermore, wreaking its savagery suddenly, swiftly, and with incredible ferocity.

boyOkay, the film of Halloween needs no introduction from the likes of me. You'll all know it as one of the masterpieces of horror cinema and surely the best psycho movie ever made.

The question is: can the book hope to live up to the terrifying suspense conjured up on screen by John Carpenter? And the answer, unsurprisingly, is: no.

What is surprising, however, is how good the book is. I don't know whether it's taken from an early shooting script, or whether Curtis Richards was just given carte blanche to do what the hell he liked with the story, but there are substantial chunks that bear no relation to the released film at all, and they make this one of the most interesting of all novelizations.

The first departure is the Prologue, which - as the opening sentences quoted above demonstrate - take us a long, long way from the American suburbs. Starting with the premise that Halloween is yet another festival stolen from Pagans by Christianity, Richards suggests that the borrowing came at a price. Because lurking deep within the festivities is the demon of mass-murder. It may lie dormant for a generation or two, but it will always find some way out eventually, possessing a seemingly normal person and exploding in mindless mayhem and violence. There's also a suggestion that it might be hereditary, and that Michael Myers' grandfather was similarly afflicted.

All of which is good stuff. Even better are the pages devoted to Myers in the psychiatric institution before his escape. Although the youngest inmate in the youth wing, he soon has everyone else - patients and staff alike - in a state of absolute fear and proceeds to run the place to his own advantage. It's a brilliant concept and one that should have been developed somewhere. Ideally, one of the unnecessary sequels could have been replaced with a prequel to deal with this period of Myers' life.

When we move on to the events depicted in the film itself, we're on less satisfactory ground. It soon becomes a routine stalk-and-slash story, and really takes us no further. Never mind that, though: the joy of this novel is the additional material. If you like the mythology of modern horror, you'll love it.


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