How to Survive Your Murder by Danielle Valentine
It's Halloween and no one is sharing Chloe’s vision. It's quite simple: her guests need to be scared shitless as they make their way through the corn maze by chainsaw wielding maniacs to the party with booze and music at its center, so if Mark could please turn on the chainsaw, everything would be perfect. Mark was chosen for his shoulders not his bright ideas, so thankfully threats to his reputation get him to agree just as the first guests arrive. Sadly Mark doesn’t turn the chainsaw on and instead turns the maze into a joke. This pisses Chloe off and she heads inside to berate Mark. It’s a lot darker inside the maze than Chloe remembers and unfortunately she doesn't find Mark but she does, however, find a maniac wielding a rusty old chainsaw. She screams, but it doesn’t matter.
Three hours earlier in Omaha East High School, Alice is talking about digging up graves with her friends Millie and Xavier. It’s nothing nefarious, it's just for the podcast they’ve been planning for the last year. It will be a mashup of true crime and horror movies but it’s proving harder than expected. Alice gets a text from her best friend Eli, “are y'all done with your creepy murder club yet??” He, Millie and Xavier are going to Chloe’s Texas Chainsaw-themed Halloween party and Alice, being antisocial, does not want to go. Halloween for her means horror movies and pumpkin spice ice cream, not parties. Alice is fighting a losing battle as her big sister Claire comes to collect her and tells Millie and Xavier that Alley Cat will meet them at the party at seven.
On the way to see their dad who is a coach in the college gym, Alice tries to talk Claire out of going to the party because she has nothing to wear. Claire, being a problem solver, hands Alice the cat ears she’s wearing. There, she’s an Alley Cat. In the gym they spot Wesley James Hanson the Third *swoon.* Though Wes has Heath Ledger good looks, he defies movie tropes and gender conventions, plus his scent could be turned into a candle. Alice heads into her dad’s motivational poster-covered office. She’s applying for a medical internship and has asked for his help with the application, however it’s very obvious who his favorite child is as he’s completely forgotten. Leaving frustrated, Alice walks straight into Wes and there is an instant sizzle between them. They’ve been having awkward flirty conversations about horror movies for some time and Wes asks her to watch one together that night. Oh my goodness, yes! Claire interrupts then and gives Wes Alice’s number for her as she’s a bit stunned. As the sisters head out, Claire accidentally misses the trash can when she throws her gum away. Owen, a college freshman who works at the gym as a janitor, stares after her with an odd expression before lifting his hand, holding his fingers like a gun and mouthing POW.
Alice and Claire have arrived at Chloe’s party and Alice is pleased to learn there is a way to skip the stupid corn maze. Alice lives her life according to horror movie rules and knows to avoid corn mazes, to not go into a basement or an attic, to drive past hitchhikers and to heed the warnings of toothless old men. Claire on the other hand doesn’t want to miss the fun and as she heads in she shouts back at Alice, “If you don't come with me, I might die." Those were the last words Claire ever said to Alice. Alice heads straight to the party where there is a load of people already, but fifteen minutes and three texts later, Claire still hasn’t come out of the maze, so Alice heads inside.
It’s really dark in the maze and if this were a slasher movie, the music would get all musicky now. In the distance, Alice can hear the chainsaw, snickering laughs and cornstalks rustling. Turning a corner, Alice runs into Chloe who is all done up in fake blood and exposed bones. Wait. On closer inspection, it’s not fake and Chloe suddenly screams. Alice runs and finds Claire on the ground crying. Standing over her is Owen from the gym with Claire’s pocket knife in his stomach. As Claire spots Alice, Alice trips over the chainsaw on the ground, and as she looks up, she sees Owen stabbing her sister in the chest.
A year has passed and it is Halloween again. Alice is heading into school listening to the podcast Millie and Xavier started without her. They’re introducing a new topic: the cornfield murders from the previous year. Alice thinks the podcast is a joke because they took her idea about applying horror movies to true crime without her. Despite the fact she’s barely talked to them in the last year, Alice is disgusted that they are going to be dissecting her sister's murder. It especially stings as today is the start of Owen’s trial, a trial which is based on her eye witness statement. Opening the door, Alice runs into someone dressed as Sidney Prescott from the Scream movies before seeing Eli at their lockers. He’s shocked that today of all days she’s in school. Unfortunately Ms. Perez is making her turn in her homework in person. Eli uses this as an opportunity to spill some tea… Sierra has a secret boyfriend, a college kid who got kicked out. Alice knows it must be Wes. The rumor mill about Wes is always running but after he got kicked out of school it went into overdrive. Alice hasn’t spoken to Wes since last Halloween, so she really has no claim on him. It still hurts though.
As Alice is coming out of Ms. Perez’s room she bumps into Sidney Prescott again. She notices Sidney’s T-shirt this time, emblazoned on it is FINAL GIRLS DO IT IN A CORNFIELD. Oh no, she’s an Owen truther, someone who doesn't think that Owen was responsible for the Halloween murder last year. Outside the courthouse there are more truthers but also a crowd of people calling for justice for Claire. Wes is there too, standing alone under a tree sipping from a flask. Alice heads over to him and asks why he was kicked out of school, but he doesn’t answer. Instead he asks why she came over to him since she never bothered to respond to any of his messages. As Alice takes a swig from his flask, filled with orange juice not booze, she spots Chloe standing next to two other girls. All three are wearing “victim” T-shirts. A few days after the murder, Owen’s badly written misogynistic manifesto was found on a public library computer and in it, he detailed his intended victims: Chloe, Erin and Sierra. Claire is being remembered as a hero for stopping him. Suddenly a journalist appears, so to help Alice get away, Wes punches the snarky reporter in the face.
Inside the courthouse, the swarm of journalists makes Alice’s head spin but then she spots Owen and feels sick so she heads to the bathroom. Sidney Prescott follows Alice in and asks if she is okay sending an innocent man to jail. Alice knows better than to engage, but does so anyway and Sidney argues her point. Alice tells her she would do anything to have Claire back and as she opens the door to leave, Sidney tells her to remember you asked for this and the bathroom door smashes into her head.
Alice can hear someone calling her, Alley Cat. When she opens her eyes, Alice sees Claire. Alive! In a fun twist, Alice isn’t on the bathroom floor of the courthouse either. She's outside, it’s dark, the ground is sticky and she’s surrounded by corn stalks. Alice realizes she’s gone back to last Halloween as she hears a blood curdling scream. Oh my goodness, this means she can stop Owen from killing Claire… but this also means there is a murderer in the corn maze. The sound of a chainsaw can be heard in the maze so Alice grabs Claire and makes a run for the party they can also hear. Once again Alice catches her ankle, however this time Claire is with her and stops her from falling. As they run they can smell blood and rot and find Chloe dead and cut up. Being able to smell Chloe makes Alice truly realize this isn’t a dream so she pulls out her phone, calls 9-1-1 before continuing out to the party to find Eli, wearing a Christmas sweater unironically, Millie and Xavier.
No one believes the blood is real and Chloe is actually dead. It also takes twenty minutes for the police to arrive led by Officer Howard, or Howie, and since he’s the dorky big brother of one of their classmates everyone assumes he is in on the act. Howie asks to speak to Alice and she tries to tell Howie that it was Owen who killed Chloe but she didn’t see him do it. She has little moral qualms about lying and says that he has other victims, Erin and Sierra, though she can’t really explain how she knows this. As Alice is talking to Howie, Wes texts to check they are still on for their date. It hurts when she has to reply that she can’t make it anymore. Howie is obviously super-suspicious of Alice so he asks her to come to the station for further questions. That’s not good, but luckily Claire saves the day by letting out a scream queen cry which distracts Howie long enough for Alice to make a run for it to Claire’s car.
A few moments later Claire slides into the driver's seat pretty smug about her acting. She saw Alice tug her ear, giving her The Signal that she was stuck in a creepy guy conversation so she gave her little sister the distraction she needed to escape. Alice had forgotten about their signal from years ago, her ear tugging developed over the last year as a nervous tic after the murder. As they leave the corn field, Alice wants to talk about the dead body they found and Claire wants to know why Alice has gone all fugitive. Alice tells Claire she knows who killed Chloe and who the next victims are. Since Howie didn’t believe her, they decide they need to warn Erin first. Claire is very accepting of her sister’s knowledge and doesn’t question the gaping holes in her story. Alice is convinced Erin will be at home, but Claire isn’t so sure and says that Erin seems to hang at the gym a lot, so she suggests they split up. As they argue over doing the worst thing possible in a horror movie and wait for Eli to text back with Erin’s address, their dad calls. Claire has left her cell at the gym again so he says he will take it home for her. Blasting Taylor Swift to boost morale, Claire drives toward Erin’s house which is inside a gated community.
When Alice gets out of the car to look around, Claire scrambles over the console and locks the door. She’s going to the gym to warn Erin and she says she’ll try extra hard not to get killed and promises to be back in twenty minutes. This sucks. The only way inside the neighborhood is over the fence and Alice is no athlete, that’s Claire. Standing looking at the obstacle, Alice hears a shuffle from behind. Something catches her eye, but there is nothing there. She needs to be smarter so she weaves her keys between her fingers as it definitely sounds like someone is behind her. She quickens her pace then starts to run, spying a car at the end of the block. It speeds off before she can get a closer look. As Alice is scanning for any sign of help, a hand drops on her shoulder.
It’s Sidney Prescott. Sidney asks Alice to step into her office which just so happens to be a creepy unmarked white van, not the office of a murderer at all. Inside, Sidney tells Alice to call her Final Girl and says that she is an angel who appeared to Alice as Sidney to make Alice feel comfortable and so she would be more accepting. So, this means everything is real? Alice struggles to believe that even though she’s been transported back a year in time, but decides there is definitely something ‘other’ about Final Girl. Final Girl tells Alice she has been flashed sideways to the night her sister was killed so she can see what really happened. There are Cinderella rules and she needs to figure out the truth while she’s here otherwise everything will go back to how it was. Oh, and she can die in this reality, that’s super important. Alice must be the final girl and change history.
As Final Girl has been talking, she’s been driving to Erin’s and drops Alice off outside a massive house. There are no lights on and the house seems still, and no one answers the door. Alice gets Eli to message Erin to come open the door and while she waits, Wes messages. He has heard about the cornfield incident and wants to make sure she’s okay. Alice looks around the property for any sign of Erin or an entrance and sees movement upstairs. It looks like Erin is taking a shower. This is exactly when the killer would attack. Alice finds an open sliding door at the back of the house, however there is 2x4 wedging the door closed. Meanwhile, Erin has finished her shower and turned the music up loud, creating the perfect murder conditions. When Erin comes downstairs to the kitchen, Alice can’t get her attention from the sliding door. Erin can’t see or hear Alice, or the killer as they rear up behind Erin in a werewolf mask, the same one Xavier was wearing at the party. She sure does feel the golf club hit the back of her skull.
After the killer has felled Erin, they look up and see Alice. Alice turns and runs, catching her ankle and falling in her haste. The 2x4 wedge has delayed the killer so Alice has a head start running into the woods and eventually reaches the road. As Alice tries to scale the fence, someone grabs her ankle and pulls her down. She only has time to think, this is how I die.
It’s Wes, not a masked killer. Wes explains he lives a few houses away as they head to his jeep. On the way, Alice calls 9-1-1 and anonymously reports Erin’s murder. Inside the jeep, Alice texts Claire to see where she is and in the meantime Eli has messaged saying he couldn’t get in touch with Erin. Thinking Claire must still be at the gym, she asks Wes to take her there. As they drive he suggests using the Find My Phone app to locate Claire. Thankfully Alice knows her sister's logins and sees that Claire’s phone is on its way to Erin’s, so they need to head back.
On the way back to Erin’s, Alice keeps trying to call Claire, but the signal is terrible. Suddenly her phone lights up with an unknown number. Claire had to borrow a phone to call her. Alice tells her to head home and she’ll meet her there. Wes turns around again and takes Alice home. Wes waits in the car as Alice sneaks into her house. She can hear glass shattering and her parents fighting and it sounds like her dad is cheating on her mom. Claire isn’t home and Alice doesn’t want to deal with her parents so she leaves.
Deciding a well lit public space would be great, Wes takes Alice to O-Town Dough. While Wes is getting coffee and doughnuts, Claire texts that she’s made it home, so Alice tells her to come to the doughnut shop. When Wes returns to their table he explains that his parents are rich, entitled and neglectful and he moved in with his grandpa, the only adult who seems to care about him, but who now has Alzheimer’s so Wes wants to take care of him. Alice confesses that she heard her parents fighting and that her dad is cheating. Wes’s dad cheated too when he was little, but his parents stayed together. They are sitting in companionable silence when Wes seems to lean forward as if to kiss Alice, but he’s actually plucking a doughnut sprinkle off her cheek. Classy. Instead, Alice grabs him and presses her lips to his.
In a huge momentum shift, Wes asks about Erin and Alice tells him she’s dead. Meanwhile Claire arrives and is acting odd about Wes being there. While he steps out for a cigarette (don’t smoke people, it’s not cool) Claire tells her that Wes is Owen’s best friend. Oh snap. That means Wes knows Chloe and Erin too. Claire tells Alice to get her stuff because they need to leave. Alice spots Final Girl at the counter and heads over to her. Final Girl points out that Alice wanted her sister back, but did it not occur to her that others would die if that happened? Final Girl can’t just give Alice all the answers, but she can give her a clue and indicates the empty street outside. No Wes, and no jeep.
As Alice is looking outside, a police cruiser pulls up with Owen sitting in the backseat looking like a scared kid not a killer. Owen couldn’t have killed Erin, he was in police custody, which Final Girl confirms. Wes could have though, he was there. Howie steps out of the police cruiser and heads inside, so Alice grabs Claire and they dart into the storage room. Alice tells Claire they need to find Sierra and not be taken in for questioning, so once again Alice texts Eli for an address.
As they regroup in the storage room they realize Wes could have come back in through the back exit. Panic sets in, they need to get out. Eli sends a reply and tells Alice she's missing all the fun and that the party has regrouped to Millie’s house so she needs to get her butt over there and says Sierra is there too. As Wes steps out from the dark, the voice of officer Howie comes through the storage room saying he knows Alice is back there. Claire grabs Alice and drags her outside to her car and Wes runs after them. Wes dives into the back of Claire’s car, Claire runs to the driver’s seat and Alice follows Wes into the back. Claire peels out and they drive in silence, but the car is filled with nervous energy.
Claire heads toward Millie’s house but takes the route Alice hates, the one lined with cornstalks. In the rearview mirror Claire keeps giving Alice meaningful looks, and it seems to take ages for Alice to understand she needs to put on her seatbelt. Claire then yanks her car off road and into the cornfield. The rough ground bumps Wes around, he hits his head and is knocked out. The car comes to a standstill and Claire drags a dazed Alice out of the car, they need to run.
Alice is sure Wes is following them, that he’s playing with them. This is what it feels like to be hunted. Eventually they stumble out of the cornfield to the road and see headlights approaching. It’s Howie in his cop car with lights flashing and siren whooping as he’s looking through the cornfield. Millie’s house is only a mile away, they can walk. While Alice is convinced Wes will jump out at them, Claire doesn’t think he’s going to be getting up any time soon.
As they head to Millie’s, Claire correctly guesses that Alice heard their parents arguing and that’s why she changed their meeting spot to the doughnut shop. Claire’s known about their dad’s cheating for a while, she found his burner phone last year and figured it out. She threw it away and their dad never mentioned losing it. Claire never told their mom, she hoped their dad would change his ways. Obviously he didn’t. A car comes along, not Howie this time but Xavier in his werewolf mask, so the sisters climb inside just as Wes comes crashing out of the cornfield. Alice locks the doors and Claire tells Xavier to drive. On the way to Millie’s they fill Xavier in on the actual murders. Xavier shouts at Alice for how dumb it is running from the police and putting her friends in danger.
It seems like everyone is at Millie’s house, and it’s difficult to find Sierra since everyone is wearing masks. There are a few people wearing the same werewolf mask as the killer too. Alice and Claire grab a mask each and head into the party. Eli comes up to Alice and she tries to tell him about the murderers but for some reason he still believes it’s all a well executed drama and not actual murder. Insisting she find Sierra, Eli tells her she’s on the deck with a boy who isn’t her secret boyfriend who is apparently an older married man. Alice’s phone beeps, it’s Wes, and he’s outside and wants to talk. Claire appears and informs Alice that Howie has just turned up, so she’s going to distract him with her feminine wiles though the party is disbanding since the cops have arrived and there are underaged shenanigans going on. Suddenly Alice realizes that her dad had Claire’s phone, it was him she saw on Find My Phone in Erin’s neighborhood. Seeing Final Girl, Alice asks if her dad is sleeping with Sierra, but Final Girl can’t tell her that and only reminds her that she has a lesson to learn and that she should answer that text. The text is Wes saying “please,” so Alice replies that she’ll meet him out back.
Wes confronts Alice about leaving him in the cornfield. Is she scared of him? (Yes, there is a masked murder on the loose!) Alice asks if he knows Sierra, he struggles to remember her they’ve never really talked, but she can tell by his expression he knows something and he implies that the prettier high schoolers hang around the coaches. Alice gives him three names: Chloe, Erin and Sierra. Wes confirms those are the prettier high schoolers. Alice heads back inside to find the last of her dad’s girlfriends before she is murdered.
In the laundry room, Alice notices something sticky on the floor. Looking around, she decides something feels off about the room and realizes the light bulb is moving. Using her phone light, she sees a dark liquid on the floor and moving the light up, illuminates Millie’s dead body. Alice makes her way through the house that feels super creepy now that it’s empty except for the discards from the party and the dead body in the laundry room. In the kitchen, Alice notices the knife block is empty. In the den Eli’s dead body is posed in a chair, a butcher knife in his chest. Alice stumbles outside where there are people milling about.
Xavier finds Alice and tells her he can’t find Millie. Alice doesn't tell him she’s actually murdered in the laundry room because she needs to find Claire. Xavier saw her go into Millie’s brother’s room with Howie. Alice tells him to leave, but he refuses and offers to stay in his car with the engine running and wait for her. Going back inside, Alice grabs a knife from the kitchen before heading upstairs. Inside Millie’s little brother’s room, Alice stumbles again, this time twisting her ankle (because of course she does). The room looks empty but she hears a noise from the closet and inside she finds Sierra hiding. Alice puts her knife on the floor and tries to calm Sierra down when they hear footsteps in the hall. It’s him…
Sierra pulls Alice into the closet and closes the door. Alice unfortunately has left her knife on the floor and the killer will definitely see it. The killer comes in and they slowly start checking the room, lifting a shoe or a toy pretending to check for their intended victim underneath. They are playing with them, taunting them. Suddenly the killer stands and walks out of the bedroom, seeming to respond to a sound Alice and Sierra can’t hear. Sierra pulls out her cellphone and starts to dial 9-1-1 but a call comes through and Alice’s dad’s number flashes on the screen. Any doubt or guilt for thinking her father is the murderer is gone.
Rapid footsteps come through the room and the closet door is yanked open. The killer pauses and Alice uses the opportunity to lunge and keep going down the stairs and Sierra follows. Unfortunately there is no escape though the front door, the killer has effectively corralled them into the basement. Alice is able to lock the basement door, but the lock won’t hold. As they use their cellphone lights to look around, they spot a door on the other side of the basement that can’t be pulled closed but it does lead outside. Behind them the basement door crashes open and footsteps can be heard coming down the stairs. Alice and Sierra manage to get outside into the backyard. They need to get to Xavier in his lovely working car and call the police, but that means scaling the fence. In the dark Alice bumps into Wes.
Wes admits he went home after they talked but decided he couldn’t leave Alice so came back. As Wes is making this confession, Sierra’s eyes go wide as the killer is standing behind Wes who has started groping his stomach before crashing to the ground, the werewolf masked killer standing behind him. With a raspy voice that doesn't sound like her dad, they say “It’s more fun if you’re running.” Alice and Sierra run toward the fence and start climbing. Once over, they see Wes’s jeep and dash toward it locking the doors once inside. It’s 11:56, nearly midnight, and Alice needs to figure out what is going on.
The killer isn’t Owen, Wes or her dad. Alice whispers that she’s learned her lesson, that no one’s life is worth all this death, and Final Girl pops up from the backseat. Sierra is rightly confused. Final Girl tells Alice she has a quota to fill and that this isn’t a fairytale, and if she checks under her seat she'll find a fun little twist. Alice finds something white sticking out, Owen’s library card with his username and password noted on the back. The locks of the car pop open and the killer lunges in and pulls Sierra out, slashing her throat. Alice pulls the werewolf mask from their face and Claire looks back.
Alice asks Claire why and Claire wonders how she can ask that. She explains that she has always cleaned up their dad’s messes, so, like always, she needs to take care of the girlfriend problem, too. Claire then says they are going to be real life final girls and tells Alice what their cover story is. Something occurs to Alice when she sees the knife on the ground. Maybe Final Girl lied about more than one thing so she plunges the knife into her chest. Everything goes dark.
Alice wakes up on Halloween in the courtroom bathroom with Xavier’s voice buzzing in her earphones. He’s talking to someone that isn’t Millie and signs off, telling his listeners to stay out of the cornfield. Alice checks for a wound or scar where the knife went in, but there’s nothing. Looking around, she realizes where and when she is and sees no sign of Final Girl. Getting up and heading inside the courtroom, Alice notices that her mom is wearing lipstick and her hair has had a blowout - she wasn't this put together this morning. As the jury files in, Alice spots Sidney Prescott in the front row. The judge asks how Owen pleads against the first-degree murders of Millie Kido, Sierra Clayton, Erin Cleary, Chloe Bree and Eli Cummings just as Claire slides into the bench next to her and says, “Sorry I’m late, Alley Cat. Did I miss anything good?”