First, a quick note: The Novelist is currently on sale for $4.49 on Steam right now as part of the Halloween Sale. So tell your friends, and be sure to check out all of the other cool games that are on sale right now.
But the real reason for this long-delayed post is to share some Novelist trivia to commemorate the Halloween season. Although The Novelist isn’t a horror game, it’s littered with references to horror movies. I’ve been a fan of horror movies since I was a kid, and Halloween is still one of my favorite movies ever. So when it came time to make up names for characters and places in the game, I decided to have a little fun and use people and locations from late 70s/early 80s slasher movies.
That’s not to say that every proper noun in the game is a horror reference; I also tipped my hat to various friends and family, but I removed those references from this write-up because, well, this post is about Halloween and horror movies, not my friends’ nicknames. Plus they were all thanked profusely in the credits.
Anyway, below is what I believe to be a comprehensive list of horror movie reference in The Novelist. There are some spoilers, of course, so proceed with caution. Enjoy!
The location of the Kaplans’ summer house is a double reference. 451 is a nod to the legacy of 0451 in immersive sims, and portions of the fantastic slow-burn horror movie The House of the Devil were filmed in Torrington, CT.
Alice, a character in Dan’s novel, is named after the star of the original Friday the 13th, which isn’t a great movie but does hold the distinction of truly kicking off the early-80s slasher craze. Ki-ki-ki-ki … ma-ma-ma-ma- …
Linda’s best friend Barb is a reference to the character of the same name in the should-be-better-known Canadian slasher flick Black Christmas, which predated Halloween by a good four years and has some truly unsettling elements, including an ending that will stay with you.
Ben and Laurie
Ben and Laurie are a couple mentioned in Claire Bradford’s diary. In Halloween, the main character Laurie Strode has a crush on a boy named Ben Tramer … who dies a fiery death in Halloween 2 (violent content warning).
The small-town portions of Friday the 13th were filmed in Blairstown, NJ, and Blair is also one of the best characters in the sci-fi horror classic The Thing. The university that offers Dan a job in The Road Ahead is located in Blairstown.
The bookstore where Dan’s agent wants him to do a reading from his new book is named after Sheriff Leigh Brackett from Halloween.
Camp Emerald Lake
I would call this a thinly veiled reference to Camp Crystal Lake from Friday the 13th, except all I did was swap out “Crystal” with another type of gem. What is that called? A completely unveiled reference? Anyway, this is the camp that Tommy has a chance to go to in The Inheritance. If he does get to go to camp, let’s hope he stays out of canoes (scary/violent content warning).
I once wrote a book for National Novel Writing Month. It had a lot of horror elements, one of which was the quality of the writing. Claire was one of the two main characters, and I always liked that name.
Dr. Samuel Donaldson
Dr. Samuel Loomis from Halloween is one of the all-time great horror characters. The name of Tommy’s doctor in The Novelist is a combination of Loomis’s name and the name of the actor who played him, the inimitable Donald Pleasence. Not “Pleasance,” by the way, as it was spelled in the credits of Halloween H20: 20 Years Later … which was doubly bad because the movie was dedicated to his memory.
This is the name of one of the streets in the town near the Kaplans’ summer home, and Laurie Strode’s house in Halloween was located on the real life Fairview Ave in South Pasadena, CA. Yes, southern California in spring doubled as central Illinois in fall for the shooting of Halloween. You’d never guess, if it wasn’t for the green trees in full bloom and the palm trees in the background of some of the shots.
In Halloween, Michael Myers escaped from the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium and drove to Haddonfield to stalk Laurie Strode and her friends.
Smith’s Grove + Haddon Field = Dan’s publisher.
Sydney Bluffs, OR
This is who the Kaplans rented the house from, as conveyed in the first letter in the game, and it’s packed with references. Peter was the main character’s boyfriend in Black Christmas, and Lt. Fuller (played by genre legend John Saxon) was the police officer investigating the strange occurrences at the house. Peter + Lt. Fuller = Pete Fuller.
In the little-known but quite good — by slasher standards, anyway — movie My Bloody Valentine, the Hanniger family is quite prominent in the town of Valentine Bluffs and owns the mine that’s central to the movie’s plot. The movie was filmed in Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia. Hence, Hanniger Rentals in Sydney
Mines + Valentine Bluffs.
Dan gets a job offer from Hardesty University, which is named after Sally and Franklin Hardesty in the absolutely classic film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (never let me catch you writing “Chainsaw” as one word in the title, even if the movie poster spells it that way; the official title uses “Chain Saw”.).
Harold Baxter is the man who investigates the house in the first set of diaries found in the nighttime chapters of The Novelist. He gets his name from Harold, a (poorly written, poorly acted) character who is dispatched early in the not-much-to-recommend-it-other-than-the-3D-gimmick sequel Friday the 13th Part 3D. Dick Baxter is a character who has a crush on Laurie Strode in the infinitely-better Halloween.
The character who writes the final historical diary entries in The Novelist was named after Janet Leigh’s character in The Fog, which is, as director John Carpenter put it, “a minor horror classic.” I can’t argue with that (I’m a huge early Carpenter fan), especially since Carpenter’s use of his friends’ names in his movies was an inspiration for my own friends being included in The Novelist.
And although this particular reference is to a female character, I used the K—- and J—- convention to deliberately obscure the genders of the writer and their deceased partner. So don’t read any clues into this choice; I just felt that Janet Leigh, the original scream queen, needed a nod.
Linda is named after Lynda in Halloween, but since “Lynda” is such a distinct spelling I went with the more common version to avoid making too obvious a reference. I think it was totally the right call.
Lonnie, from Tommy’s book Lonnie Learns Letters, was named after a kid in … you guessed it: Halloween. Lonnie bullied Tommy early in the movie (a theme found in The Novelist as well), but Dr. Loomis gave him his just desserts later that night.
Mears is Linda’s maiden name, and this is a reference to Ben Mears from Salem’s Lot (the book more than the movie, honestly).
This is another road in town, found in the very first letter of the game. In Halloween, the Myers house was located on Meridian Avenue in South Pasadena, CA.
In the first set of historical diaries in The Novelist, Harold Baxter comes to investigate the house on behalf of the bank he works for. He mentions owing a report to his boss, Mr. Lowery. Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) worked for — and stole a $40,000 house payment from — her boss in the all-time classic film Psycho. Her boss was named Mr. Lowery. I like to think that he’s the same man Harold Baxter put one over on.
In the very first prototype of The Novelist, before it was even called The Novelist or featured the Kaplan family, there were 6 couples in a mansion by the sea. Their names were:
Annie: One of Laurie’s friends in Halloween.
Bob: Lynda’s boyfriend in Halloween.
Lynda: See above.
Paul: See below.
Rebecca: One half of the tragic romance in System Shock 2.
Tommy: The other half of said romance (more references below).
Dan’s agent, Paul, is named after Annie’s boyfriend in Halloween. Paul is never seen on-screen, which is probably good for him considering what happened to Bob (violent content warning).
Professor Strode is on the staff at Hardesty, and he offers to help Dan get up to speed if Dan accepts the job in The Road Ahead. By this point you should know where any “Strode” reference comes from. If not, shame on you.
Sarah, another character in Dan’s novel, is named after a character in the better-than-it-had-any-right-to-be sequel Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (probably my favorite movie in the series). Sarah gets the distinction of delivering one of the truly groan-worthy lines in the Friday franchise. It kills me that I can’t find a video of this.
Yet another character in Dan’s book. Scott is named after a creepy dirtbag in Friday the 13th Part 2. My earliest memory of a horror movie was walking into a room when I was around 7 years old and seeing Scott’s death scene, which was somehow on normal TV, completely unedited. I was too awestruck to notice that Jason was holding the machete backward in the close-up (violent content warning).
This is the head of the lit department at Hardesty. His name is a combination of genre legend Tom Atkins and Nick Castle, who played The Shape in Halloween and later went on to direct kids movies. Well-rounded fella, that Nick Castle.
Linda’s old friend is named after TJ Hanniger, son of … Mr. Hanniger … from My Bloody Valentine. Not even his incredibly strong turtleneck could help him win back his former love Sarah, though.
Tommy was originally named after the character from System Shock 2 (see above), but once his character morphed into a young boy I decided that he would be named after Tommy Doyle (the kid from Halloween) and Tommy Jarvis (the kid from Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, played by the unforgettable Corey Feldman). Between Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover’s electric dance moves, The Final Chapter was a real launching point for legitimate Hollywood careers.
If you only click one link in this article, clink the Crispin Glover link above if you unwisely skimmed past it (incredible moment in American cinema warning).
Dan’s second book shares the same namesake as Ben (see above). It’s also an oblique reference to Stephen King. Dan’s first book is called Wind Song, which is a nod to Ben Mears’s book Air Dance from Salem’s Lot. And Tramer’s Way gets its title from Machine’s Way, an unfinished
Stephen King Richard Bachman novel that made its way into his book The Dark Half as a novel by its protagonist.
Phew, I think that’s all of them! There were really quite a few more than I realized at first.
If you’re interested in reading some really entertaining reviews of the classic horror franchises, I recommend checking out the Summer of Blood series over at Antagony and Ecstacy. I’ve found that the author, Tim Brayton, strikes just the right balance between acknowledging and rightly criticizing the poor quality of most old horror movies while maintaining the ability to enjoy them as guilty pleasures.
Anyway, thanks for reading. It was really fun going back through this list of references and sharing a little trivia, and I hope you enjoyed getting a peek behind the curtain. Or, perhaps, behind the mask.