Week 4: “The Importance of Horror Novelizations”
“I love horror novelizations!” – There I said it. This is probably not something you would expect from a die-hard horror fan like me since novelizations of films are the bastard child of the publishing world. If you don’t know what these are or are confused by “films based on novels” here is my definition. A novelization of a film is a novel specifically produced from the screenplay or film that it is based on as a way to allow fans to enjoy films that they loved in an alternative way. They are produced as a tie-in to the film and a subsidiary way for studios to make more money and profit from a film. They are usually exactly like the film it is based on and usually written by hack writers just doing it for a paycheck. So why, do you ask, do I love them?
There are two really good reasons.
Reason number one is that novelizations can sometime be written by some amazing authors and be better than the film because of this. One of my favorite authors Alan Dean Foster is behind such iconic novelizations like Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, John Carpenter’s The Thing (not to be confused by the original novel “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell, Jr.), Dark Star, Alien Nation, Starman, The Last Starfighter, Terminator: Salvation and countless others. These are some amazing reads that add to the story and characters and give the reader an additional experience that just watching the film cannot. Keith R.A. DeCandido is another one of my favorites for his novelizations of Resident Evil and its sequels Apocalypse and Extinction all of which add more to the universe of the films and expands my enjoyment of the films themselves (he also wrote the novelizations for Darkness Falls, Serenity, and countless Star Trek novels). I’ve never cared for the film Resident Evil: Apocalypse but after reading the book I watched the film a second time and enjoyed it a little more. One of my more recent favorites has been The Woman by Lucky McKee and Jack Ketchum which is a sequel to one of Ketchum’s film Offspring that was produced simultaneously as a book and a film. Anyone who knows me knows that one of my favorite horror franchises is Child’s Play and Matthew J. Costello’s novelizations of Child’s Play 2 and 3 were among some of the first ones I ever read as a child (I still have them on my shelf to this day along with countless others). I love to immerse myself into the worlds of some of my favorite horror films and novelizations are a great way for me to do that.
The second reason why I love novelizations is because since they are usually based on the screenplay of a film rather than the actual film itself (since the novel is probably written simultaneous with production of the film) it is very common for a novelization to include stuff that was cut out of the film before it was released or contain major changes that can sometimes make the novel a whole different experience. This is exactly what happened with Foster’s Alien 3 novelization which differs significantly from the final film which had major changes done to it due to the director (a young) David Fincher and the studio not agreeing on the final edit of the film (FYI – the Dark Horse comic book adaptation of the film also differs from the final film as well). There are whole character arcs and changes in the Resident Evil novelizations.
More often than not, most novelizations are a plot point by plot point exact replica of the film and by inexperienced or incapable hands this can make for a tedious read (I know because I’m still trying to get through John Shirley’s novelization of Resident Evil: Retribution which is not written with the same style as DeCandido’s previous books). Sometimes they may even be unnecessary as just about every major studio film has a novelization whether we care to know it or not. Sometimes you’ll come across a great one while other times not so much.
I buy novelizations based on whether or not I enjoyed the film and wish to go back to that world in a different way. I never buy a novelization of a film I have yet to see because why bother to read a book based on a film I didn’t like. The exception is if I like the writer (i.e. my reading of DeCandido’s Resident Evil: Apocalypse) but this is rarely the case as I love Foster and there are a ton of novelizations of his I don’t ever plan on reading. I will say that as a horror fan, you should read horror just as much as you watch it whether it be novelizations or original novels. Horror can be enjoyed in so many different ways so don’t fail to overlook even one of them.