The first Gremlins movie is fondly remembered as another inexplicable oddity of the '80s, like Max Headroom or Ronald Reagan. The film doesn't even attempt to explain where the Gremlins came from, but it's hinted that they're of magical origin: Gizmo is purchased at a store manned by an old man who conforms to every Chinese stereotype ever, and old Chinese men are always selling magical shit to white people in movies. Also, these things replicate when wet and turn into monsters if they feed after midnight, so there's that.
Anyway, like most hit movies, Gremlins spawned a boatload of crappy tie-in merchandise, like trading cards, dolls, a breakfast cereal ...
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... a rapper ...
... and, of course, a novelization by George Gipe. Except that, for some reason, Gipe sat down at his desk, looked at the screenplay titled Gremlins that he'd been hired to adapt into a book also called Gremlins, and immediately started writing about ... aliens. From the first chapter:
"Centuries ago on another planet, Mogturmen had set out to produce a creature that was adaptable to any climate or condition, one that could easily reproduce itself, was gentle and highly intelligent."
Don't worry, he doesn't try to fuck Billy's mom.
Turns out this Mogturmen guy is the inventor of the Gremlins and "genetic hero of three galaxies." Already this is starting to sound more like someone's terrible Doctor Who fan fiction than the movie we know and love. The first chapter explains that Mogturmen sent his genetically engineered creations to inhabited planets in a mission to spread peace, like Operation Iraqi Freedom. Unfortunately, the whole thing turned into one big clusterfuck, like Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Apparently, Mogturmen didn't administer that crucial test to see if his creations had the potential to easily spawn large murderous monsters before he started jettisoning them out into space.
The only built-in safety mechanism was a crippling addiction to Disney movies.
So what was Mogturmen's fate? At one point, the surprisingly articulate Gizmo recalls that his creator was punished by the other Mogturmens (Mogturmanses?) before suddenly changing the subject, as if remembering that there might be kids reading this shit. OK, there's no way that dude didn't get castrated. In fact, we can extrapolate from what we know that it must have been his attempt to build himself a new dong that eventually led to the events of Alien.
The rest of the book ditches the space opera crap, but the tone is ruined -- when you watch the movie for the first time, you have no idea what to expect next, since it starts off relatively normal and gets more ridiculous as it goes. If they start the story in space, though, then you're like, "Oh, so they turned into cocoons after eating that chicken. Whatever."
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Halloween is a 10-movie franchise based solely on how goddamn creepy Michael Myers was in that first 1978 film by John Carpenter. For the first time, here was a movie killer who didn't murder people because he wanted money or due to chronically untreated mommy issues, but simply because he was pure evil. He was the perfect boogeyman for the modern era.
So naturally, the novelization's author decided to go ahead and ruin all that.
The book went to press before they bumped up Myers' costume budget.
Let's say you bought this book under the naive impression that it follows the plot of the movie, so you open it expecting to find a description of a suburban house on Halloween night or something like that. Then you look at the first page, and it says:
"The horror started on the eve of Samhain, in a foggy vale in Northern Ireland at the dawn of the Celtic race."
Yes, the book starts thousands of years in the past with the story of a young Irish boy named Enda. Enda murders the king's daughter Deirdre, succumbing to a curse on the druid day of the dead, Samhain, which would eventually become All Hallow's Eve, which would eventually become Halloween. It's always a good sign when the slasher movie novelization you just bought begins with a history lesson.
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"Elm Street was named, in 1865, after then Mayor Jonathan James Elm, a descendant of the town's original settlers. During the Prohibition era, Elm Street served as a secret transportation route for alcohol between Al Capone's Chica-"
Flash forward to 1963 -- young Michael Myers' mom confesses to her mother that Michael's been hearing voices, having violent dreams, and wetting the bed.
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The next time you're watching one of these movies, please remember that mental image.
Young Michael complains of voices that "tell me to say I hate people," and it's heavily implied that he's actually possessed by the dead boy from the prologue. Turns out Enda's soul was cursed to relive the events of Samhain for all eternity, and now he's slowly taking over Michael's brain:
"It was the voice. The voice stirred up the hatred. It had done so in his dreams, and now it was doing so in real life. It had begun with the strange pictures in his head at night, pictures of people he had never seen -- oh, maybe in comic books or on television, but never in real life."
So basically, sweet innocent Michael Myers is just the victim of some ancient Celtic curse/demon thing. In fact, he's not even the first person in his family to suffer this fate, since it's mentioned that his great-grandfather went through similar problems. Had Michael's mom simply hired a good exorcist, the next nine movies could have been prevented (or the spirit would have moved to another member of the Myers clan, perhaps that famous cousin in Canada).
J.M. McNab writes and podcasts for Rewatchability.com.
Related Reading: You know that trippy light show at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey? It was totally explained in the novelization. Oh, and did you know Who Framed Roger Rabbit started with a book that featured the titular rabbit murdered via machine gun. All this should be proof that books aren't always better than movies. But if you need more evidence, click here.