Wednesday, September 7, 2011

From the Archives: Wes Craven's New Nightmare

[Continuing my excavation of old articles and reviews written in the days before email. I think I drove a horse and buggy when I wrote this!]

A Novel by David Bergantino
Tor, Pb, $4.99
ISBN 0-812-55166-4

(Originally published in The New Jersey Graveline, December 1994)

Okay, first things first. Run out and go buy yourself a copy of this novel. I'll wait.

All right, now that you've fought off the holiday shopping crowds and made it back alive, let me tell you why you just bought this book. David Bergantino's adaptation of the movie "Wes Craven's New Nightmare" is done the way novelizations should be done. In fact, it goes even further than that, and manages to become something unique.

By now you are probably aware of the plot of the "New Nightmare" movie -- while preparing to film a new "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie, the cast and crew are stalked by a suddenly very real Freddy Krueger, who is intent on keeping his story and his character alive -- but knowing that won't quite prepare you for this novel.

Bergantino does much more than just adapt the movie - he adds to it. Scattered throughout his novelization of Wes Craven's script are excerpts from Bergantino's own journal, written over the course of the two months in which he wrote the novel. These journal entries depict Bergantino himself dealing with troubling dreams that echo the situations in the script he is adapting. Also included with the journal entries are newspaper clippings detailing events the occurred in the previous year -- real events that found their way into Craven's script -- as well as letters from someone trying to contact Bergantino regarding his book, and a "matter of life and death."

These extras are what make the book worth reading. As Bergantino's journal depicts his growing paranoia, and as the newspaper clippings show us that the deaths of several characters in the script actually happened in real life, the book takes on an almost surreal quality. It becomes harder and harder to distinguish the reality from the fiction, and the book becomes scarier and scarier as it progresses, because the reader just doesn't know what to believe!

Based on Bergantino's journal entries, WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE is his first book, and I really feel it could be a career maker. As a novelization of a (relatively) hot movie, the book will undoubtedly sell better than most first horror novels, and that should show publishers that his later books might sell.

On the other hand, this could be the work of an established novelist, written under a pen name, as many novelizations are, but I'd rather assume that it isn't.

Take a long look at this novel. Not only is it very good, it just might give you an idea of how to write a novelization someday yourself. After you do that, start getting your name out there. Let editors know that you are available and that you are cheap and fast, and someday it could be you writing that novelization. And maybe that will lead to something else for you, too...

[Whatever happened to David Bergantino? He wrote a few YA horror novels after this, then disappeared. Or at least his byline did. A shame.]

Update 8/17/2013: I just got an email from David Bergantino, two years after I posted this old review and nearly 20 years after I first read his New Nightmare novel. He's not only a real person, he has written several other novels and worked on a long list of video games. How nice to have this "mystery" solved after all these years!

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