Teddy – John Gault/Ian Stuart
Bantam – 1980
I’ve read lots of books that went on to become movies, but only a few books that were based on movies. I liked the novelisation of Halloween because it added a backstory to Michael Myers that is not in the film. If I’m going to spend 4-5 hours reading a story in book form, I want it to offer something the 2 hour film version doesn’t. The second Halloween novelisation is a more faithful adaptation, and I found it very boring. The only other novelisation I’ve read was Zoltan, Hounds of Dracula, and I only bothered with that one because I was researching its author. The book was so bad that I never bothered watching the film. I know some people collect them, but I really don’t have much interest in novelisations. Despite this, I read Teddy last week. This rare and creepy book is is a novelisation of a screenplay for the 1981 Canadian horror film, The Pit. It is not a novelisation of the film that was actually produced.
Jamie is a weird 12 year old kid who, when he’s not getting bullied, spends his time making pornographic photo-collages involving the local librarian and hanging out in the woods near a gigantic hole in the ground that nobody else knows about. Oh yeah, and this hole is full of weird, hairy dwarf creatures. His family are about to move house, and his parents need to leave town so they can sign the appropriate papers. They hire Sandy, a local college student, to babysit Jamie.
Jamie falls in love with Sandy, and when he realises that she doesn’t love him back, his teddy bear convinces him to go on a killing spree, luring his victims into the woods and then pushing them down the hole.
It’s a decent story, but the book and movie approach it differently. While the movie isn’t exactly comedy horror, it’s so ridiculous that if you’re not going to laugh at it, you’re going to find it extremely boring. There’s a scene where the kid pushes a mean old lady in a wheelchair into a giant hole in the ground. In truth, I lost interest about halfway through and started playing chess on my phone. When I looked up a while later, it had changed from a story about a creepy kid to a bunch of hairy goblins running around causing mischief. The movie tries to do too much, and this lessens the effectiveness of the actual creepy parts. The actor playing Jamie is quite good, but his performance is not enough to save this awful film.
The book is far, far better than the movie. Jamie’s parents come across as bigger jerks here, and we get to witness more of the bullying he experiences at school. Yes, he is a weirdo, but he never really had a chance. He also seems more pervy in the book. There’s parts in here that wouldn’t have been legal to film. Teddy, who is obviously just Jamie, has a far dirtier mouth in the book. Maybe it’s just me, but I felt that Jamie is easier to feel sorry for in the book.
The novel also gives more background on the creatures living in the hole. It turns out they are the descendants of the Whately family, a group of sinister weirdos who moved from somewhere in New England. Surely that is a reference to Lovecraft’s Whateleys? They are supposed to have moved to Wisconsin in 1870, and the events in The Dunwich Horror don’t occur until after this, but I think we can assume these hairy goblins must be cousins of Wilbur’s.
Ian Stuart, the guy who wrote the screenplay that both the book and movie were based on has claimed that the monsters living in the pit were supposed to be a figment of Jamie’s imagination in his screenplay, but they are real in both the movie and book. I don’t know if the screenplay is still is existence, but I’d be interested to read it. I gather it was more serious than its products.
If you’re interested in watching The Pit, you can watch it for youtube for free at the moment. I wouldn’t bother if I were you. (I have no patience for bad films anymore.) Teddy was far better than the film, and it’s a pretty good read in and of itself. Copies are shockingly rare, but there’s an ebook version kicking around the internet if you’re not extremely rich and patient.