Halloween Ends–Novel adaptation wraps up Laurie Strode’s 40-year journey

Review by C.J. Bunce

Director David Gordon Green’s 2018 movie Halloween was great fun (reviewed here), a welcome callback to the low-budget filmmaking style of the 1970s, a sequel/reboot of the original horror film that set off a new era of scream queens and slasher horror.  Halloween Kills (reviewed here) was at least as good as the first act, taking a turn to revisit the nature of nostalgia that had audiences clamoring for shows like Stranger Things and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, all while forging a superb tribute to the characters created by John Carpenter and Debra Hill.  Surprising audiences once again, for Halloween Ends Green tapped a new writer, Paul Brad Logan, who delivered an unexpected mix of storytelling influences–a truly unique slasher entry that led to something horror audiences have been looking forward to since a Captain Kirk mask first launched a horror icon 45 years ago: The End.  Unlike the past three novelizations from this “final” trilogy, the film’s screenwriter was tapped to write The Official Movie Novelization: Halloween Ends

The challenge of this novelization is that it’s the screenwriter expanding the story into something different.  His story, in both the movie and the book, added a main character audiences had never seen before, Corey Cunningham, whose actions inadvertently result in the death of a kid he’s babysitting.  To illustrate that character’s motives, Logan makes Corey’s overbearing mother a bigger character.  It’s that same kind of character we met in Stephen King’s Carrie and in the Star Wars series Andor.  It’s not an interesting character type for either an action movie or a horror movie–it makes you go “ugh, that trope again.”

It also has the same problem that Halloween Kills had but was able to overcome–splicing in new characters that hadn’t been introduced on the screen in one of the prior installments but really should have been there all along.  Both the script for the second film and Tim Waggoner’s novelization (reviewed here) did a better job of folding these kinds of characters into the ongoing narrative.  Here, the ex-con helping Michael in the underground, needing to be helped yet again by this young punk discarded by society, is just too much of a bizarre stretch to set up Michael for that late-breaking wrap-up.  The problem is bigger than Halloween–the final Star Wars movie trilogy had the same problem because it didn’t have one creative story manager across all three acts, just as happened here.  If you’re going to carve up your writing, you need to at least follow one comprehensive outline.  Each story for Halloween (2018), Halloween Kills, and Halloween Ends plays like they were obviously from three different creators with different views of who Laurie Strode, her family, and Michael Myers are.

What Logan got right in the movie, and translates to his book adaptation, is the personal story of Laurie Strode getting fleshed out a bit as her life maneuvers toward a–well-deserved and earned–idyllic future with Frank Hawkins… that unthinkably doesn’t get to happen.  It’s in her extensive notes written in a book of her own that we find some deeper insight into her character than seen in previous movies and stories.  Strode lives, but it would be more satisfying for the readers and viewers if she conquered Michael Myers, too, by simply moving on.

The problem of many genre stories in the 2020s is that jarring tangent that some writing teachers somewhere must be teaching aspiring screenwriters.  But heed this advice:  If you’re writing an episode of The Mandalorian, the central character needs to be The Mandalorian.  If you’re writing an episode of Andor, the central character needs to be Cassian Andor.  If you’re writing an installment for the Halloween franchise, Michael Myers needs to be more than a tangent character.  And that’s the problem, and six months after we’ve had time to soak up the idea of a Halloween finale, the fact that Myers got stuck underground until the end of the finale was quite the misfire.

Along with Myers, Laurie Strode and her granddaughter Allyson were set up by the first two stories to require some heroic moments of this third act–where they get at last to determine their own future steps.  Instead they are manipulated at every turn.  They never get to drive their own stories.  So the franchise has an opportunity to carve these two women into something writer-director David Gordon Green put in place in the 2018 film’s first act, something that way back in 1978 Jamie Lee Curtis began to create for her heroine, which over time added her to that genre pantheon with Linda Hamilton and Sigourney Weaver’s blockbuster heroines.  Curtis just doesn’t get the polished finish and send-off both she and her character deserve.

For fans of movie tie-ins, Halloween Ends is that unique opportunity to see a screenwriter expand his own story where the movie strictures initially limited his tale in about a dozen amplified areas.  Not surprisingly, the story is a solid adaptation of the underlying film.  For anyone who likes to soak up a tie-in in one sitting, Paul Brad Logan’s Halloween Ends is well-written and a quick read.  Find it now in paperback here at Amazon.

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