"I've always known, he thought, in that isolated part of his mind that miraculously remained rational. I've felt it in the walls, in the vestibule, in the dismal and fetid basement passageways, since long before I was old enough to say my first prayer. I've felt it in the night, oh the sweating night, the long arm of it there, reaching out to me through the blood of my father and his father before him. The taint was there before my seed was formed. I've felt it always. It was there for all time, within me and without me, lying awake in the darkness, trying to speak its name. And now it is revealed, and the world will speak its name, my name, without mercy, over and over throughout the long night ahead.
And its name is evil.
And its name is wickedness.
And its name is damnation.
And its name is sin beyond redemption." *
THE NOVELIZATIONS OF JOHN CARPENTER
dennis etchison, 1980
Gather 'round, John Carpenter fans. Make a circle. Sadly, John Houseman is unavailable - but then we're not kids anymore, sitting close to the figurative campfire to hear a scary story. We're grown-ups now and, as we're adults, I feel like I can level with you. And that you can accept what I'm going to say with the wisdom and lucidity that comes with age.
The Fog is not one of Carpenter's best movies.
Let me immediately dampen the force of that astounding blow by clarifying that The Fog is not Carpenter's very worst movie, and that I happen to like Carpenter's very worst movie better than 95% of films made by other horror directors. I'm always up for watching The Fog. But Carpenter himself has admitted it's not one of his favorites. Even Jamie Lee Curtis, in an interview for the beautiful new Shout Factory blu-ray, confessed that she doesn't think it's a very good film (echoing the sentiments of her co-star/mother Janet Leigh, who backhanded the film years ago in an interview with Starlog.)
It's a case of several small elements stacking up against the movie. After bringing the horror film into the modern era with Halloween, The Fog is a traditional ghost story that trickles leisurely down a temperate stream rather than expertly risk the untamed rapids. So there are no experimental single-take POVs. The shots are well-composed but don't feel revolutionary. Juggling up to four sets of characters in different places for most of the running time proves too demanding for the screenplay's simple structure; Carpenter would avoid that kind of scheme in all subsequent movies.** The Fog lacks a Laurie Strode to serve as the heart of the picture: as cool an idea as it is to have Stevie Wayne overseeing the threat from her lighthouse, she's essentially relegated to the sidelines as other characters fight off the menace without a clear hero rising among the ranks.
The comparison may not seem fair, but Carpenter clearly modeled The Fog after Halloween. Practically every major player behind the scenes of the earlier film was brought back for its follow-up, with cast members Jamie Lee Curtis, Nancy Loomis and Charles Cyphers also transferring over. Again the focus is on minimalism, with a bunch of shadowy Michael Myerses representing the unkillable, indescipherable evil that terrorizes a small town; like Myers, we barely see the hook-wielding monsters hidden in the fog. But just as the film is sorely missing a Laurie, it could have used a Loomis to represent the fight against evil. As is, Dr. Loomis' functions are portioned out among Houseman's old man (exposition), Stevie (indication), Nick (confrontation) and Father Malone (ambiguity) with none of them coming off as exactly "heroic" in any way. And while the radio station is a good narrative tool to introduce the characters and connect the subplots once things get hairy, it doesn't really give you a feel of Antonio Bay the way preparations for Halloween night perfectly distinguishes the town of Haddonfield (at least they set it in California this time, so the license plates aren't distracting).
Which isn't to say there aren't things to love about The Fog. Though she may be lacking in the solid protagonist department, Adrienne Barbeau's Stevie Wayne is a cool character, her set-up as a dj in a lighthouse the script's best idea. It's neat that she has almost no direct interaction with any other characters, just her son, and if the other subplots were stronger Stevie could have been an iconic scream queen. Everything about the beginning of the film feels right, from the sound design (car alarms and appliances mysteriously going off, furniture moving by itself) to the gorgeous nighttime photography by Dean Cundey. You're about twenty minutes into the movie and are convinced your memory must be wrong - so far, this is as masterfully composed and atmospheric as any of Carpenter's best films!
Throughout its running time the film is even more expertly atmospheric than Halloween, and not just because its villian is literally an atmospheric phenomenon. Whether it's an eerily tranquil shot of the seemingly endless expanse of blue sea or special effects used to turn the green-tinted fog into a slinking, cognizant force that fills doorways and turns corners like a giant snake, the feeling of impending doom hangs over the entire movie. If nothing else, The Fog is Exhibit A in the argument for John Carpenter the (Great) Filmmaker making up for John Carpenter the (Lacking) Storytellin' Man. So going into the novelization, I was most curious how the book would fare without these incredible visuals, left only the deeply imperfect story of how a group of boring characters survive the onslaught of a crew of pissed-off ghosts. Would it be able to reproduce Carpenter's atmospheric touches that occasionally allow the viewer to overlook the flaws of the plot?
In my write-up of his version of Halloween III, I talked about how Dennis Etchison's first-rate title story from his excellent collection The Dark Country and that book's frequently-anthologized classic "The Late Shift" made him an ideal - if somewhat overqualified - candidate for Halloween sequel novelization duties. Some of the qualities of Etchison's work that I mentioned made him a good fit when it came to relating a story of druids conspiring mass murder on Halloween night don't necessarily apply to rendering in book form the tale of spectral lepers emerging from an encompassing fog for revenge 100 years later. For one thing, it's tricky to classify Etchison as a straight-up horror writer - he's often insisted against such a label. In the author's best work, he dredges up terror in the everyday. If his stories share a common theme, it's that people live their normal lives on a delicate tightrope, and if one thing falls out of place it means complete disorder. For his characters, it's so easy to become lost from the path for good, to wake up one morning and find themselves in an intangible conspiracy of the banal, of routine. Etchison's horror plays out at rest stops, gas stations, laundromats and dog parks, and even though there's no such thing as a standard Etchison hero, the one constant is that nobody is secure enough in their life to be prepared for when it comes falling out beneath them.
Even when there is a supernatural element in one of his stories, the everyday still creeps into it. In "We Have All Been Here Before," an honest-to-god psychic applies her gift to help police capture murderers, except she uses her uncanny talent to do the same thing as real cops: she doctors evidence, leads the investigation the way she wants it to go, ultimately framing the wrong man for personal reasons. If "The Late Shift," which appeared in Kirby McCauley's seminal 1980 anthology Dark Forces right after Stephen King's "The Mist" (where giant insects arrive with the title obstruction rather than vengeful ghosts),*** is his version of a zombie story, it's still more interested in the dehumanization in being a peon among the unglamorous circuit of overnight counter jockeys. One of his most memorable passages can be found in "It Only Comes Out at Night" when a bedraggled overnight driver looks at a line of cars belonging to fellow red-eyed travelers and they all look the same to him, as though the common practice of night driving itself were an insinuated ceremony that we've all been conditioned to accept. Who's responsible for this? Who's shaped all of our lives into brittle networks based on blind obedience? Is there even an answer?
Whereas ghosts and goblins aren't his forte, Etchison's love of weird conspiracies ties into The Fog's background of murder and robbery as tools to build the model town, unbeknownst to the modern day population. He dedicated Dark Country to Ray Bradbury and you can see the influence, especially the indefinite dread of stories from October Country like "The Next in Line" and "The Man Upstairs." Etchison's sense of the insidious intentions of faceless strangers surely comes from that collection's "The Crowd." Even more sinister than the secretive corporation behind "The Late Shift" are the implications that your own family might be against you ("Wet Season") or, even worse, that despite efforts to stand clear of the "crowd" you could very well be one of them ("The Dark Country"). Etchison's status as a lifelong Californian also doesn't hurt when it comes to depicting the very California town of Antonio Bay. In his introduction to Red Dreams, Karl Edward Wagner refers to Etchison as "a product of young California of the 1950s betrayed by the impersonal selfishness of the affluent California of today." Flip that and you've got the citizens of The Fog's coastal town, finding themselves punished for the greed of their ancestors.
Although several of Etchison's stories fall back on predictable, Twilight Zone-y twist endings or flirt with outright obliqueness, there's not one of them that isn't fully captivating. That might be something he has in common with Carpenter, a stylistic approach to material that may be generic or not fully-formed that consequently becomes the whole show. Which isn't to say "style over substance." Rather, style becomes the substance. Nothing that Carpenter films or what Etchison writes falters due to lack of ideas, or fails because it stands on its own without supporting the story. I think both artists are masters of aesthetic who formulate film language and prose in purely unique ways that make everything they apply their talents to interesting. Even novelizations. Even Memoirs of an Invisible Man. Whether or not their similiar strengths cancel each other out is a matter for the novelization of The Fog to determine...
Carpenter's movie instantly ties itself into horror literature, first with a quote from Edgar Allan Poe and then the first character we hear speak, a storyteller named Captain Machen. He's named after Arthur Machen, a writer admired by everyone from Lovecraft to Borges whose novella The Great God Pan was called "Maybe the best [horror story ever written] in the English language" by no less than Stephen King. Captain Machen's story of the souls lost aboard the Elizabeth Dane 100 years ago this very night states very firmly Carpenter's intention for The Fog to be a traditional horror tale, one not in keeping with the work of the new wave of horror writers Etchison was closely grouped with. Five years before the release of the movie, The Fog was the title of a best-selling book by James Herbert (no, not the unit production manager of Big Trouble in Little China) in which a toxic gas that emits from underground forms into a yellow cloud which enshrouds England, causing everybody to go insane. In one infamous scene, a group of boarding school boys string up their gym teacher and castrate him with a pair of garden shears - hardly the stuff of "traditional" horror fiction. As if to bend the story to a more modern narrative, Etchison revises Machen's story so that captain talks specifically about the fog, not about the shipwreck:
"'A monstrous fog that took away everything and gave back nought but dark, icy death. Do you know what it is like, children, to claw and choke for air, your lungs filling with blackness, your eyes open and staring into the face of unutterable evil?'"
It's interesting that the prologue is included in the novelization, as the scene itself was a reshoot resulting from an initial cut of the movie Carpenter had deemed too short. Etchison must have been brought in late into post-production, which is interesting because it would mean his book came from screening the film rather than reading an early draft of the script. Sure enough, here's Etchison (a former film student at UCLA who served as consultant/historian on King's book on the horror genre, Danse Macabre) talking about the novelization, from an interview with Michael McCarty in Horror Garage magazine:
"I worked very closely with Carpenter and company. They were in post-production of the film and were near where I lived. I arranged to go there to meet with them and view the reels of film that they were cutting – I saw a lot of material that wasn’t in the finished film. There is material in The Fog novelization that is shot but not in the final film, there are words which were on the final soundtrack that were indecipherable in the release prints. I worked with the sound man on the film, who played me back the words that were being spoken, separated from the other sound, so I could hear what was actually being said. I tried to duplicate the color scheme, the visual style, the camera movements, everything about The Fog, so the book would be a true reflection of Carpenter's style and attitude. I had the benefit of asking him questions of what he was getting at in a particular scene. In a sense, the book is a sort of an expansion of the film, rather than just a rip-off of it."
While it's disheartening to read Etchison dismiss novelizations as "rip-off"s, it's good to know he put an effort into making his adaptation as good as it could be. For the most part, the author succeeds in evoking Carpenter's techniques: the radio transitions work really well in the book, there's an undefined tension throughout and his description of an oversized aquarium at a local eatery is actually more interesting than anything we learn about the current town in the movie. The Fog book includes those neat little moments that either didn't make the final cut of the movie or are easy to miss: Etchison identifies the character played by Carpenter in the film (one of the director's few on-screen cameos where he's not playing a helicopter pilot) as Bennett Tramer. You know, like Ben Tramer, the boy Laurie has a crush on in Halloween who gets run down by an ambulance in the sequel? (Tramer is named after a real guy, a classmate of Carpenter's back at USC.) One of the kids sitting around the campfire is named Tracy Cronenberg, which is funny when you know that Etchison would later write the novelization of Videodrome. At one point, Stevie plays a number by the Coupe de Villes, Carpenter's real-life band with Nick Castle and Tommy Lee Wallace (apparently it's in the movie but I missed it). When Elizabeth sees Kathy Williams, Etchison has her wonder if she'll look like that in her old age, and reasons that Kathy must have been beautiful when she was younger: cute, since the in the movie characters are played by real life mother-daughter Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis.
The novelization's version of Elizabeth is testament to Etchison's effort to do more than merely "expand" the film and how he works at fixing some of its problems. While I appreciate that Curtis being given the chance to play a more confident and sexually assertive character than Laurie in Halloween, Elizabeth ends up getting dumped into the mix of The Fog's large cast. After a few promising scenes, a bloated corpse falls on top of Elizabeth and she's basically stuck cowering in Nick's arms for several scenes, ultimately being lost as a character. After the same moment in the book (which happens more naturally while she's searching the boat opening cabinets, not sitting around just coincidentally right in front of the body), Elizabeth makes a point of staying away from Nick, specifically not wanting to get involved with the town, planning on pushing on to Vancouver. She tries to deal with the situation by sketching, only to find it's not so easy - the canvas over the commemorative statue in the town square reminds her of the tarp over the dead body. Etchison elects to ditch the scene at the morgue where the corpse rises from the gurney only to collapse next to Elizabeth, once again causing her to bury her face in he-man Nick's shoulder. The writer clearly sees her as stronger than just a victim, more of the tough independent woman we're led to believe her to be based on her first scene.
Elizabeth and Nick learn each other's names straight off in the book, unlike in the movie where they have sex before introducing themselves. In fact, even though Etchison readers will know he's a pro at awkward post-coital conversations from his story "The Walking Man," the two don't even fuck. The scene that takes place in bed in the film plays out on the table at his house, where she's nursing a cut he got from the shattering of the truck's windshield; they kiss but it's interrupted by the knocking of a fog-ghost. This time, Elizabeth gets a bad feeling a begs Nick not to open the door even though he seems pretty sure who it is (one of the guys from the Sea Grass). So it's not just dumb luck, it's Elizabeth's smart, almost psychic, discretion that delays Nick long enough for the hook-wielding wethead to go about his way. Elizabeth, described as "19 going on 30" (a favorite description of Etchison - female characters in his stories are routinely referred to as "such-age going on such-age"), comes off much stronger in the book despite not jumping right into the sack with her roadside Romeo.
Etchison spends a lot of time with the new couple riding around in Nick's truck, because if there's one thing he likes writing about it's driving. The act of driving, such a necessary custom in California, even comes in the form of an additional moment for a minor character, when Dan drives to weather station. Etchison devotes two pages to a drunken Dan weathering a trecherous shortcut to get to work in time, detailing everything from the driver's brazeness at every sharp curve and the descending tailpipe of his truck. For fans of the writer, it immediately recalls the fatal head-to-head collision that opens "You Can Go Now," the bloody accident in "The Machine Demands a Sacrifice" - "They sped past accident after accident, metal and chrome and flesh spatter over and over again across lanes for miles, as if part of the same accident. And always the vans moving in from all directions, cutting across dividers, heading against the traffic, closing in." There's a great bit inside a car in "Daughter of the Golden West" after two characters see their dead friend's body in the morgue:
"They drove and did not stop even when they were back in Westside. Don took corner after corner, lacing the town in smaller and smaller squares until each knew in his own time that there was nowhere to go and nothing to be said. David was aware of the clicking of the turn indicator and the faint green flickering of the light behing the dashboard. Until he heard the hand brake grind up. The motor still running. Without a word he got out and into his own car and they drove off in different directions."
So needless to say, the scenes of The Fog where Nick is peeling away from the chasing mist and eluding dead sailors are riveting. Which isn't to imply that Nick isn't an interesting character outside of his trusty vehicle. Etchison gets inside his head quite a bit. The age difference between him and Elizabeth is more conspicuous - at one point, he even gets annoyed at her:
"Grow up, he thought wearily. There are a hell of a lot more strange things out there in this world than you know, things you haven't seen or dreamed of yet, some of them so terrifying, if you let them get to you that way, you'd never make it even partway through the fire on your own. You'd have to be strapped to somebody's big, strong back like a papoose the whole time in order to get anywhere at all that's worth getting to - like home through the Gulf Stream in hurricane season, or the rest of the way into your thirties, say. Well I'm not Daddy. I know that. I sure as hell didn't feel like Daddy when I saw you waiting back at the house an hour ago, and you must have known it. You certainly knew it last night. You weren't exactly passed out. So do us both a big favor. Don't go laying that kind of hysterical, helpless trip on me now, because I can hear it coming and I don't think I could take it."
He realizes soon after that she may be tougher than he gave her credit for, and that it's the stress of the situation getting to him. Even though Etchison's Elizabeth is more independent, Nick seems to harbor an inability to commit or to play mature grown-up to a younger person. It reminds me that Etchison wrote for another Tom Atkins character in Halloween III, a guy who was severely uncomfortable with his ability as a father to be there for his children. Nick steps up as more of a flawed, interesting main character in the book than the all-purpose hero who falls flat a little in the movie. He gets a stream-of-consciousness moment after his friend Al from the Sea Grass goes missing that is so damn Etchison I have to mention it:
"A man lives a decent life, he told himself, a man like Al Williams, say, and everybody likes him, everybody asks him for favors and hangs around. But something happens and nobody says word one. Which makes it the same as if he had never been there, at least in their minds. That's the part that tears it; it's as if he had never been there at all. Well that's not how it works, by God, and it never has been. That's what I say. You don't cut line and move on when your friend is on the other end. Not where I come from."
Nick is in philosophical opposition to the exact kind of thing Etchison characters find themselves falling into: getting lost in the progression of daily life. In the movie, the heroes find out the fog is coming via radar; in the book, it's their refusal to allow the cogs to keep turning and crush them in their gears. As explored in "The Late Shift," Etchison knows how easy it is for people to fade away into the system, disappear into the fog. The film seems to want its characters to suffer for failing to own up to mistakes of the past (a'la 80's slasher franchises Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street), but although the present-day people of Antonio Bay are celebrating their scheming ancestors, they really had no way of knowing what went down 100 years ago. Etchison makes their struggles more relevant: a single mother trying to maintain an unsuccessful radio station, a hitchhiker forced to become involved in something she's not connected to in any way, a priest with serious self-worth issues. The novelization goes beyond the film's kind of lazy stereotyping of Father Malone as a pathetic drunk priest - Etchison's Malone flat-out hates himself, spits at his own ragged image in the mirror, even before he discovers the conspiracy carried out by his grandfather.****
Etchison makes a wise narrative decision to move the journal to the end of the book. It's a good call, because besides the crytpic ghost story from the beginning (which, again, alludes to the fog but not to the Elizabeth Dane sinking due to a phony beacon) we're left with no real idea who these slimy fog-dwellers are and what they're after. We get the same clues as the film: the driftwood with "Dane" written on it, the piece of driftwood that says "6 Must Die", the statue of the ship which (as far as I can tell) is never prominently displayed in the movie.*** ** But the name Blake doesn't even come up until page 152, thirty pages before the end of the book. Etchison not only eliminates a dull exposition scene where a character literally sits down and reads from a book, he makes the ghosts more enigmatic and the idea of the fog more uncanny.
Unfortunately, he's still left with the unenviable task of cleaning up some of the screenplay's clunky mythology, although he does his best to make it a little more accessible. The story paints itself in a corner with the "6 Must Die" rule, one that can be subconsiously accepted as referring to the six original conspirators who sunk the Elizabeth Dane, but intellectually falls apart. Since they slay the first three men they come upon and subsequently threaten whoever has the misfortunate to venture into the mist, the foggies seem indiscriminate in their killing spree. To that end, the movie seems to be setting up a massacre when Mrs. Williams refuses to send everybody at the town celebration home for the night: the fog's on its way! There's a huge crowd of people, families, lined up for the slaughterhouse! The viewer expects all hell will break loose when the fog reaches the gathering, Blake and his boys attacking the entire town with rusty hooks. But that weirdly doesn't happen in the movie, and it doesn't in the book, even though the ceremony is honoring the very men who conspired to murder Blake and his crew (Williams is so much like the arrogant public figures of Jaws and Piranha it's surprising she doesn't get killed, especially considering that in the movie she's made aware of the conspiracy and still goes forward with the presentation).
Etchison explains this by revealing the names of the conspirators: "Baxter, Wallace, Williams, O'Bannon, Kobritz and Malone." In other words, the grandparents of the six people who die in the movie: the crew of the Sea Grass, the weatherman, the babysitter and the priest. This clears up some problems while presenting more. On the one hand, it's good to have that cleared up since the "6 will die" quota in the film does seem random, and the fact that half of them get killed before the fog even hits the shore makes about an hour of the film feel weirdly anti-climatic. It now makes sense why a ghost knocks on Nick's door but leaves before killing anyone. And in a town full of people oblivious to the evil fog, it's strange that the handful of folks taking measures to avoid it would still manage to get overwhelmed in a single location.
But settling on the six victims we see die being the direct descendents of the conspirators also comes with its problems. For one thing, it's quite a coincidence that three of them - the small crew of the Sea Grass - just happen to be the only three people on the exact same boat out at sea at that particular time. Were Blake & co. waiting to unleash the fog until that specific circumstance presented itself? What a bunch of lazy goddamn ghosts. Also, how'd they know? If they were only after poor Mrs. Kobritz the babysitter (who has an accent in the movie - really, she's at least third generation Californian and she has an accent?), why did the ghosts try to kill Andy in his bedroom? Why did they attack Nick and Elizabeth in the truck after they've rescued him? The answer, clearly, is "suspense" with the unspoken implication that the ghoulies will kill at random, the audience/reader is just not shown those random murders. Just the six that are important. Uh-huh.
I wonder if Father Malone feels stupid for giving up the golden cross when they were going to kill him anyway: one assumes, once the six targets were dead, they'd go on their way with or without the stolen loot? (Also I guess the co-conspirators didn't ultimately use the gold to build the town? So the whole town-built-on-lies-and-murder angle kind of becomes irrelevant, huh?) If he'd been willing to really go off-book and write some new scenes, Etchison could have gotten around this narrative barrier. For instance: have two of the Sea Grass be descendents, but not the young guy. It would explain why Blake's soggy crew left one body on board the Sea Grass while spiriting away the other two: they only take the bodies of the direct descendents, and leave collateral damage behind. Thinking about this makes obvious another reason Etchison cut the "corpse rising from the gurney" scene in the morgue: there's already enough problems with the mythology to add this element of why a victim would return as a corpse. Are these things actually vampires, or zombies? Cut it out, Carpenter!
Weirdly, the only thing missing from the book is one of the movie's more effective scenes: Stevie running from the foggies to the top of the lighthouse. Etchison leaves Stevie barring the door, having only heard the ghosts ascending the stairs, cuts to the finale in the church, and meets up with Stevie only after the town is in the clear. Maybe he wasn't happy with how Stevie's climax transitioned into the assault on the church. It isn't clear, but it leaves Stevie with even less to do than in the movie (it's also possible, because this scene was also a reshoot, that it was one of the few parts of the film Etchison didn't get to see). The author makes up for it by filling in Stevie's background, in a nice scene where she wakes up, groggily thinks she's still lying next to her deceased husband (Marty). I always thought of Stevie as divorced or a single mom but whatever - it makes her seem like a survivor. While the story of her move from Chicago to the shores of Antonio Bay is referenced via shot of newspaper articles in the movie, it's enlightening to know more about her trials and tribulations. One of the best parts of the book is Stevie wondering about what Dan the weatherman must have looked like after he's killed since she never actually met him, another nice touch that plays into the larger Etchison concern over people being lost on the path forever.
As Stevie's character gets filled out, so does her son Andy. Etchison opens on Andy, venturing out at night to hear ghost stories, scared in the dark alone, turning on mom's radio station to make him brave. He gets an additional scene where he finds starfish nailed to his house below his mother's bedroom, "crucified" apparently by the ghosts (later Stevie has vague memory of pounding on the sides of the house). Following this creepy discovery, Andy is also given a dream sequence (much as Etchison added to Halloween III) where he finds a shipwreck full of gold coins and sinks under to the bottom of the ocean after filling his pockets with them, a Davy Jones skeleton emerging from the hull demanding the booty back. Etchison adds some nice touches: Andy declines to watch the new police dog TV show "Narky," eats Count Chocula*** *** "more for appearances than out of real hunger" and reads Harlan Ellison (Stevie misremembers the title of the book as 'I Have No Voice and I Must Sing').
For all this rich character development, the most disappointing thing about the book is their ridiculous behavior in the epilogue. Stevie follows up her "Watch the fog!" warning with a breezy sign-off and an old Glenn Miller number, even though she has no idea how many people have been killed or whether her son is still alive. Elizabeth indicates that she'd like to settle down in Antonio Bay - why not, killer ghosts coming out the fog, sounds like a nice place to live! Nick is already writing the whole experience off as a "bad dream." It has all the markings of a rush-to-finish, perhaps out of frustration on Etchison's part on not being able to tie up all the loose ends of ghosts' agenda. Still, he must have been proud of his work: The Fog was the only one of four movie novelizations that Etchison chose to have published under his real name. His bio in the back of the book promises a new novel, The Shudder, later that year; sadly, it was never published (Etchison had disagreements with the editor).
One last thing: Etchison mentions that a character named "Romero" was supposed to come in to work at the weather station, but Dan O'Bannon did instead. Weird, right? 'Cause O'Bannon directed Return of the Living Dead...
~ NOVEMBER 9, 2015 ~
For more on Etchison, check out this great piece by Will Errickson on his blog Too Much Horror Fiction.
* Damn - wouldn't Etchison have done a bang-up job writing the novelization of Prince of Darkness?
** You could argue that Prince of Darkness attempts the same juggling act, and pulls it off much better, but despite its large cast and no clear main character the whole story takes place in and around the same building. The next time Carpenter tried covering several characters in a small town was Village of the Damned, which is also not one of his best movies.
*** A 1984 radio version of "The Mist" was based on Etchison's unproduced screenplay adaptation.
**** Kind of weird how three generations of the family are all priests, right? I mean I guess they each followed their father into the position of town clergyman, but that's not the kind of thing I'd usually expect to happen. Neither Malone or his father had any interest in a different vocation? Or a priesthood in some other town? I don't know, maybe it's not that big a deal...just seems weird to me for some rason.
*** ** Possibly because Carpenter wanted to avoid this question: Um, what are they telling people about the Elizabeth Dane exactly? That by sinking it somehow helped form the settlement, but not because the founders stole the crew's gold? Are they just saying it's in memory of the poor souls who died on the Dane, when the founders were so looking forward to them joining the colony? Why would they even want it to be commemorated? Theories welcome.
*** *** I always wondered what the kid meant when he asks his mom if he can have a "stomach pounder and Coke" in the movie. Always assumed it was a greasy sandwich or something at a local dive - Etchison has Stevie think that the kid's mind always ends up back at the "Golden Arches," so I guess it's just slang for a Quarter Pounder?