Film novelizations are a bizarre beast. Book-to-movie adaptations make a lot of sense–moving from the page to the screen, adding a visual element, expanding the audience to include casual moviegoers–but the reverse is conceptually questionable at best. How many people watched the Matthew Broderick Godzilla movie and thought, Hey, I wish I could read 100 pages of inner monologue about how Godzilla makes Ferris Buller feel?
While we will never fully understand them, we can at least find enjoyment in some of the most baffling creations film (and video game!) novelizations have given us.
Gremlins by George Gipe: Gremlins in Space
Everyone loves Gremlins. Gizmo, Joe Danto, Phoebe Cates, Corey Feldman before he was an asshole, fathers dying on Christmas morning–it’s got all the best elements of the ’80s thrown into a blender (also, Billy’s mom stuffs a Gremlin in a blender). So what could the novelization add to that package?
Well, it starts by deciding that the Mogwai/Gremlins are space aliens.
“The galactic powers ordered the Mogwai sent to every inhabitable planet in the universe, their purpose being to inspire alien beings with their peaceful spirit and intelligence and to instruct them in the ways of living without violence and possible extinction.”
And as space aliens, the little creatures speak to each other in their own language. The author helpfully translates. Please picture this dialogue emerging from Gizmo’s animatronic mouth in place of his typical singsong gurgles.
“I want to kill you,” [Stripe] said coldly, “But I can’t. Something is holding me back.”
“It’s the one responsible emotion Mogturmen was able to keep in us,” Gizmo explained. “We’re incapable of killing each other.”
Classic Mogturmen. The novel continues to expand on Gremlins mythology with such sought-after additions as the inner narration of Billy’s dog and the unmentioned-in-the-film fate of Corey Feldman’s character (spoilers: he ran away from town because there were fucking Gremlins).
This book is completely batshit all the way through, and has gained a bit of a reputation as such. You can find a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the banality at Gremlins: The Novel: The Review. Unfortunately, the Gremlins 2 novelization is much more straightforward and less worth looking into (unless that sexy Gremlin still turns you on).
Final Destination Series: There Are More of These than Movies
The Final Destination series is stupid, formulaic horror fun. Premonitions keep saving teenagers from terrible accidents, causing death to hunt them down one by one with more creative accidents. Hollywood managed to stretch this simple premise into five films, but there are ten Final Destination novels–and only three of them are straight movie adaptations.
Disasters covered by the films include a plane crash, an interstate pile-up, a roller coaster disaster, a racetrack fuck-up, and a bridge collapse. Let’s see what the books covered.
When the nightclub that she’s just been performing in collapses, Jess Golden is more than a little freaked out–she’d seen the whole thing happen in a vision only moments before.
Okay, other than the impossible name of Jess Golden, that seems to fit. What’s next?
Looks Can Kill:
When an upcoming starlet is horribly disfigured trying to save her friends, she is given an unexpected second chance. All she has to do is help death do away with her friends.
That’s drifting from the premise a bit.
After an investigative journalist narrowly chats death in a terrorist attack she sees a great angle for a story by telling the survivors’ tales in her magazine. When the survivors start turning up dead though she begins to suspect foul play and finds herself dragged into a world of spiritualism and conspiracies that ultimately leads back to Victorian England and Jack the Ripper.
What is happening!?
Special mention goes out to Dead Man’s Hand, which is set in Las Vegas and sticks pretty close to the Final Destination formula…except for the part where it kills two of its characters by infecting them with HIV after they are sprayed by the blood of their suddenly-bisected friend. Perhaps we’ll get a reverse-adaptation of this book into Final Destination 6: AIDS, I Guess.
Camp Crystal Lake Series by Eric Morse: Jason Voorhees for Middle Schoolers
Hey, if Robocop could have a Saturday morning cartoon series, we all should’ve expected this. The Camp Crystal Lake series of young adult novels by Eric Morse began in 1994, containing four books: Mother’s Day, Jason’s Curse, The Carnival, and Road Trip. Yes, Jason Goes to the Carnival is a published novel. Actually, none of these books feature Jason. Instead, his mask floats around and possesses random people, inspiring them to murder (in a PG-13 fashion) sexy partying teens (that’s not a joke–the mask’s influence really instills in their souls a hatred for sex, drugs, and fun).
The real surprise here is how much care and effort was put into the series. These books contain an overarching continuity, with completely original protagonists recurring throughout.
And then, in the most insane moment of all, Eric Morse–real name William Pattison–went on to write a fifth book in the series almost a decade later. Released for free online, The Mask of Jason Voorhees not only concludes the overarching mask story, but serves as a crossover with Friday the 13th: The Series. The book is available as a PDF here, and contains a forward detailing the author’s experience going from Jason superfan to author for the series, and his original plans for the books prior to editor cuts. Any fan of the franchise should check this out, as it’s sort of heartbreaking to see such a passionate project so overlooked.
Good Burger 2 Go by Steve Holland: Wait, Really?
Now this is an anomaly. A spin-off book series is one thing, but Good Burger 2 Go is a direct, novel-only sequel to the Kenan Thompson/Kel Mitchell masterpiece. This is a book about Good Burger, so very little information seems to exist on it (though Kel Mitchell himself appears to be a fan–he’s name-dropped it during at least one appearance touring college campuses and screening the film, which is what he does these days).
The story is credited to Dan Schneider, who is basically the Lorne Michaels of Nickelodeon–he’s been involved in their shows for well over a decade, including All That, Kenan & Kel, and The Amanda Show, plus modern fare like iCarly and Victorious. He also wrote the script for Good Burger. It can only be assumed that Good Burger 2 Go–in which our fast-food-worker heroes Dexter (Kenan) and Ed (Kel) travel across the world to return a customer’s change–was meant to be a full theatrical sequel, but ended up as a book sitting abandoned at Scholastic Book Fairs around the country.
Those who have invested two dollars and purchased this literary gem from Amazon seem to agree that it’s surprisingly clever for a Good Burger book, but then again, anything would be.
Gex by Michael Teitelbaum: Gex
This novelization starring the hip, green master of disguise–video-game hero GEX–is sure to appeal to the millions of children playing Nintendo and Playstation video games.
This novel exists. It was written by Michael Teitelbaum. Whether or not that is the author’s real name is unclear, but a person or thing calling itself Michael Teitelbaum has been writing books about Disney Princesses, Ninja Turtles, and Tonka Trucks for years. It was published in 2000. It is about Gex.
The early 2000s produced few things as instantly-dated as the Gex franchise, but for a hot moment, the youth of this country was captivated by a smart-aleck gecko who spoke only in sexual puns, pop culture references, and Austin Powers impressions. And someone wrote a book about him. That book was published. That book exists.
The Gex novelization (which adapts Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko, because obviously you were wondering) is available for $3.99 shipped from Amazon, where it is affectionately referred to as GEX NOVELIZATION. There is absolutely no reason why you should not own the Gex novelization. The book weighs 8 ounces and measures 7.6 x 5.2 x 0.3 inches. You should purchase Gex. We should all purchase Gex. You love Gex.
At least we can all know that after Gex, there can’t possibly be a property less in need of a novelization.
Jonathan Persinger is a fiction/pop culture writer from Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in Cracked, Avalon Literary Review (Summer 2014), Quail Bell Magazine, and more. He runs Blog with a Dog, where he makes fun of TV shows aimed at children. He’s also the founding editor of Remarkable Doorways Online Literary Magazine, which is currently open for submissions.
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