It’s now November but it’s never too late (or early) to talk about my favorite horror movie franchise of all time, Halloween. Back in 2019, I had the honor of interviewing John Passarella, the author who wrote the official movie novelization for Halloween (2018). And with Halloween Kills debuting earlier last month, I figure now would be a good time to examine the movie novelizations for both films, starting with the 2018 version.
Halloween 2018 was a landmark film for horror fans. Not only did it mark the return of the Boogeyman (and not that crap Rob Zombie version we saw in 2009’s Halloween II), but it also brought back Jamie Lee Curtis to the franchise, reprising her role as beloved final girl, Laurie Strode. I was so ready for this film. I even attended the 40th anniversary convention in October of 2018 in South Pasadena, where the original 1978 movie was filmed. I also hold extra special nostalgia because the movie was my second date with the woman I eventually married. And as it was the case 30 years ago in 1988 for Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers, the grand occasion called for a novelization. John Passarella was bestowed with the honor.
By the way, some of you may recall that I originally posted my interview with John Passarella at the end of my Halloween Books review. However, that article was so long that I’ve been meaning to break it up. Just like WrestleMania being split up over 2 nights. It also allows me to shamelessly segue into my Halloween Kills novelization review, but I digress. Let’s jump right into it. Enjoy the Q&A!
When were you first exposed to Halloween (1978), and what were your thoughts?
JP: I don’t recall the first time I watched it, but it wasn’t in the theater. My guess is that I first saw it at home, probably a video rental. My mother was a big fan of horror movies at the time, while I was more of a science fiction/fantasy fan. She always had horror movies on the TV while I spent most of my free time reading. When I first saw it, I thought it was stark and effective, with a understated supernatural quality to it, while other “slasher” movies that followed seemed more interested in violence/gore for its own sake. Even then it felt unique.
Top 5 favorite Halloween films?
JP: I am so bad at picking favorite things, let alone ranking them. The original stands alone at the top. I enjoyed H20 when it first came out. For the Halloween (2018) novelization, since I was pressed for time (less than 2 months to write it) and was told that the movie would ignore all the sequels, I didn’t take any time to re-watch any of those films. My wife watches the original movie every Halloween season, so I watched that again this year, but I definitely need to reacquaint myself with all the sequels.
How did you get involved in the process of penning Halloween? Did you have to make some sort of pitch or did Titan Books reach out to you?
JP: Titan Books approached me. Probably the best early email I’ve ever received! I had done several original Supernatural tie-in novels for them, plus an original Grimm novelization. And I had worked with several editors there. The editor for the Halloween novelization thought it would be a perfect fit for me.
How long did it take for you to write the book? When did you first start drafting it? How many copies have been sold as of November 2019?
JP: I’d have to check my first contact emails, but I think it was either late March or early April of 2018. After I agreed to write the novelization and the studio approved me, I had to wait for the script to get started. I think that came in the first week of April. The novel was due by the end of May, so it was a compressed time frame. I received access to the daily film photo archive after I had already started writing the first draft. I had to backtrack and rewrite some scenes after I saw the photos of those sets/scenes. They reshot the ending and added some other scenes, mostly flashbacks and some of those still didn’t make it into the final film, but I was fortunate in that I hadn’t gotten to the ending before it was changed. I only had to write the ending once. As far as sales, I have no idea how well it did overall. It has gone into a second edition. For these work-for-hire projects, writers don’t get royalties, so we don’t get royalty statements which would show sales to-date.
How did you feel watching the movie for the first time? Was it surreal to see your (novelization) words (more or less) being played out in front of your eyes in a capacity-filled theater?
JP: Surreal is a good word for it. I did not see the film until the premiere. At the time, I had three versions of the story bouncing around in my head. The script and revision, my novelization, and then what actually made it into the final film. There were things that were in the script, but didn’t make it into the film. Other things, mostly additional dialogue made it into the film, but wasn’t in the script at all. I made a point of including all the script dialogue, while adding a bunch of my own. Whole scenes were cut from the final film. Other scenes were really truncated. A few played out differently than they had in the script. They added a lot more humor via dialogue. And the editing of the movie had a thriller feel to it, rather than a horror/suspense film.
There were obviously some cuts made from the movie (script) as compared to your book. Was there any part or scene omitted from your writing where you wish made it on the big screen? For me, the book definitely made me care more about Dana and Aaron. They were fleshed out a lot more (naturally) in your book than they were in the film. Understandable, but unfortunate nevertheless.
JP: I think the filmmakers made a choice to make the film mostly Laurie’s story, so a lot of the character development and scenes involving other characters were trimmed. Reading the script, I had this idea that Allyson was the star, so to speak, and it would be a passing of the torch from Laurie to her granddaughter. But the film leans more on Laurie vs Michael, so a lot of Allyson stuff, early on and at/after the dance, got cut to keep a reasonable running time. And, yes, Dana and Aaron had more “screen” time on the page, more scenes, more character development. That’s one thing that helps give the novelization some life and purpose outside the film. Fans can delve a bit deeper into the story and the characters.
In the restroom scene, Dana reads a message scrawled on the side that recites Budd’s infamous “amazing grace come sit on my face” line from Halloween II (1981). Was that in the original movie script or did you add that in? I couldn’t help but smile when I read that, and was a little saddened realizing it didn’t show up in the movie.
JP: I can’t take credit for that line. It was in the final script.
It’s been a year since your novel came out. How do you feel about the book overall? Is there anything you wish you could have written differently?
JP: I don’t know if I would have written it differently if I had seen the movie (a rough cut maybe) before I finished, but maybe. What I enjoy the most in books is suspense, so I naturally tried to create as much suspense as possible. The original film relies heavily on suspense and I took that as my model (since I knew I wouldn’t see the finished movie until its release). A couple scenes (conversations) changed a good bit from script to screen and I would have liked the book version to be closer to the finished film versions but that was out of my control. I didn’t have time to stray too far from the script’s plot, to explore any side roads or backstory, so I may always wonder about that. And in a couple places, I probably described a set in too much detail. Usually the “sets” are only in my head. This was the first time I had actual photos to describe to the reader!
Have you been signed on to write the movie novelization for Halloween Kills and/or Halloween Ends?
JP: I’d certainly be interested in writing those novelizations, but I haven’t heard anything about them yet. The second film has finished filming but won’t be out for an entire year. The first film came out several months after filming wrapped and everything on the novelization side moved quickly so that it could come out the same time as the movie. Right now, we still have a long window, so I’m not surprised I haven’t heard anything yet. If Titan Books is planning a novelization for the second movie, I may not know until a few months into the new year.
What do you think it is about Halloween and Michael Myers that has endured with so many fans 40+ years later and counting?
JP: The primal nature of the fear that Michael Myers represents, an unstoppable, merciless, and unknowable evil, represented by the unchanging, unflinching mask. He seems to be so much more than what we see on the surface. Loomis decides after years of examining him that he is simply evil, possibly evil incarnate.
Advice for aspiring authors?
JP: Finish what you write. Once you finish, you have something you can use to get representation, to sell to a magazine or book publisher. And if it doesn’t sell or work for you, finish the next thing, and the next. I started writing at the age of 11, but didn’t publish my first novel until I was 37! I like to think it wouldn’t take so long if I started writing today. When I started, I relied on Writers Digest and Writer magazines, a dictionary and a set of encyclopedias (and my local library) for research, and a manual typewriter (I taught myself to type before they offered a course in school) with actual carbon copies as my only backups. These days, you have webzines, online writers groups, self-publishing tools, social media for marketing and networking, etc.
Have you, by chance, read any of the other Halloween movie novelizations by Dennis Etchison or Nicholas Grabowsky?
JP: No, though I’d like to hunt down a copy of the original movie novelization. It seems they are hard to come by these days.
What’s next for John Passarella?
JP: Thanks for your interest in my writing and the Halloween novelization. I’m working on a fourth novel in my Wendy Ward (Wither) series right now, but it’s not under contract, which means I don’t have deadline pressure pushing me to the finish line. I don’t suffer from writer’s block, per se, but procrastination is a real hurdle. I work much better and faster when there is a looming deadline!
Thanks again John for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk about all things Halloween! Click on the link there to buy the book on Amazon if you want. As of this writing, the paperback edition is currently 33% off and selling for $5.98.
Although it can be a bit wordy and long-winded at times, I think John Passarella did a very admirable job with this novelization. Characters are better fleshed out than how they were presented in the movie, such as the podcasters Dana and Aaron. You naturally get a little more background information here because a 371 page text can convey more details than what can be portrayed in a 100 minute horror movie. If you’re a big fan of the 2018 Halloween movie, and you’re looking to dig a little more in-depth, then I would definitely recommend this book. Next up, Halloween Kills by Tim Waggoner. Until next time, avoid dark corners and watch out for the Boogeyman…