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Recap #71: Nightmare Hall #2: The Roommate by Diane Hoh/Nola Thacker

cover of The Roommate, with a girl standing in front of a window staring in horror at something offscreenTitle: Nightmare Hall #2: The Roommate

Summary: Four roommates share a suite in the Quad. Danni is beautiful and perfect, from her long blonde hair to her expensive clothes. Margot is mysterious – brutally honest or slyly secretive, depending on her mood. Lacey is a wild woman, who loves to party, party, party. And Maureen is quiet and painfully shy. But the girls are not all what they seem. And soon one of them may be…dead.

Tagline: None

Notes: I will now refer to the bad guy as “Muffin Man” because of The Mall.

Initial Thoughts

The first thing you have to be aware of is that this was NOT written by Diane Hoh. It is extremely obvious it’s a different writer. This was written by Nola Thacker. Nola Thacker also used the pseudonym D.E. Athkins in the Point Horror line. She delivered a total stinker (The Ripper aka The Cemetery), a pile of crap (Secret Santa), and a couple of okay ones (Sister Dearest, Mirror Mirror and The Bride).

[Wing: I thought I hated her work, but then I checked The Bride recap, and no, I actually loved the ending and enjoyed a lot of the ridiculousness. Actually, her short story “Blood Kiss” in 13 Tales of Horror was similar, not bad, but ridiculous.]

Recap

Nightmare Hall was characterised by its killer POV opening prologues. Here, we have someone packing for college, and they reference the most important thing of all: the knife. If this person is flying, I’m not sure how that’s getting past customs, even back in 1993. But anyway. [Wing: Oh, it totally would have back then. USA had very little security. Pretty sure I accidentally flew with a knife in the 1990s at one point.]

We are introduced to three girl students staying in a student housing accommodation building known as The Quad. It would appear that students stay in suites – two rooms connected by a bathroom, although they’re still required to go down the hallway for a shower. The rundown is:

Lacey Sakurada – “Lacey – as in underwear,” as she puts it. Smooth skin with a faintly golden glow, shockingly short hair, brown eyes turned up at the corners.

Is this a way to say she’s Asian? Racial diversity in a Point Horror? That’s good, but why be so obscure about it? Plus, Lacey describes her features while looking into a mirror, which I’ve found out is a Writing 101 no-no. [Wing: It does sound like she’s supposed to be a character of color, though why not just come out and say it Hoh Athkins, and give us a specific race while you’re at it.]

Danni Spelling – tall and dramatic-looking, mane of honey-coloured hair, unusual gray-blue eyes. [Wing: This is the 90s…Tori Spelling knockoff?]

Maureen Ross – even taller than Danni, long crop of straight, dark hair. Pale skin, green eyes. Wears glasses. She is described as uttering agitated squeaks.

Lacey makes a big deal about how wild, noisy and messy she is and can’t believe Maureen is her roommate. Danni’s roommate hasn’t arrived yet. Lacey takes off to meet a hot boy. Danni offers to help Maureen with her stuff, since Maureen told her parents to leave. Danni empathises, revealing she caught a cab alone from the airport. Maureen seems overly protective about her possessions and Danni wonders what she could be hiding.

Red Herrings: Here we go! +1

Maureen worries about where to put stuff, and which side of the room to take, and Danni is exhausted trying to reassure her, thinking she sounds like one of those mental health nurses.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: +1, but trust me, it gets a lot worse!

[Wing:…GREAT.]

We meet Kendra Sydney, the RA (resident advisor). She is tall and dark-skinned. More racial diversity! She advises (haha) that there’s a house meeting in the Dungeon that night, which is actually the basement, which runs under the entire building. The Quad is four connected dorms with a courtyard in the centre. Sounds pretty nifty, actually. The meeting is in the lounge next to the laundry room. Maureen is shocked by the name, and Danni jokes it’s for the really crazy students.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 2 points (+1)

[Wing: Fuck that noise. Also, a basement being called the Dungeon sounds way more kinky than anything else.]

Danni goes to her dorm, and hears Maureen seemingly talking to herself, in a way that sounds demented.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 3 points (+1)

Danni wonders where her own roommate is, and laments she’ll probably wind up with the pyscho roommate from hell.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 4 points (+1)

[Wing: I WANT TO SET THIS BOOK ON FIRE.]

On to a filler chapter. We meet Jordan, potential love interest. Not tall, but has a hot “bod”. They go to the cafeteria and meet Jordan’s roommate Travis. They live in Kennelham Hall, nicknamed The Kennels. [Wing: I hope you all realise how hard I am struggling to not make a letting the dogs out joke right now.] She agrees to go to a party there on the weekend. Other buildings referenced are Griswold Hall (science lab), Briggs Dormitory and Colette House (for French majors, where only French can be spoken). Is that a thing?!? [Wing: I’ve seen language dorms before, but they usually allow at least some English.] Danni, Lacey and Maureen go to the meeting in the Dungeon. They are impressed by how big it is. I, however, am bored. Danni gets a sense of claustrophobia by how closed in it all seems.

Two days later, there’s still no sign of Danni’s roommate. The phone, inconveniently hanging  on the bathroom wall, between the two rooms, [Wing: A phone. In the bathroom. The only phone. This is terrible.] rings constantly. It’s usually for Lacey, but Maureen has received a couple of calls from her parents. Lacey notes that Danni has used the phone, and Danni wonders if she’s spying on her. Danni admits to herself she likes her roommates.

Danni gets a call from Jordan, reminding her about the party. She tells Lacey and Maureen. Lacey is excited. Maureen says she can’t go. During the ensuing discussion, Lacey tells her to stop being a mouse. Maureen reveals that’s her nickname, and she would actually prefer it if they called her that. Danni reveals that she got her roommate’s name off Kendra – it’s Margot. They wonder why she’s arriving so late, with Lacey joking the looney bin won’t let her out until the last minute.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 5 points (+1)

Then we meet Jodie Johnson, who is dark-skinned. More diversity! She invites them to partake in the care package her roommate Caren Sanchez has just received. And that surname suggests even more racial diversity. WHAT SORT OF POINT HORROR UNIVERSITY IS THIS?!? [Wing: I am both desperate to see books about them and terrified of seeing how horribly it will be handled.]

Essentially, they’re only minor characters, because this is all just more filler. Nightmare Hall and Giselle’s suicide is referenced, but these girls are much more asshole-y about it. That night, Danni goes to sleep and has a dream. She’s stuck in the dark, or something, groping around. Snore.

Now, I hate dreams in books. Unless your book is actually about dreams impacting on real life, for example, like Nightmare On Elm Street, I find them largely pointless. I should make clear this is a personal preference, but 90% of the time, it’s usually just a way to pad out the word count or deliver a false cliffhanger chapter ending. [Wing: You make a great point, actually. The majority of the time, dreams in fiction are pointless and not nearly as interesting and/or funny as the creator thinks.] Which we kind of get here, as Danni wakes up to find someone in the room with her.

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 1 point

It’s just her new roommate, Margot Hanes, arriving in the middle of the night! Of course. She has soft medium brown hair almost as long as Danni’s. Margot takes off to have a shower, and Danni considers looking through her stuff, but is quickly mortified by the thought. Danni goes back to sleep.

Margot returns from her shower, and stands over Danni’s bed, watching her sleep. There’s some blah about how Margot had to use a lot of cunning and beat the odds to get where she is now and how she wanted the perfect roommate. It’s basically all set-up for more fun tiresome red herrings.

Red Herrings: 2 points (+1)

Danni wakes up the next morning and sees that Margot is gone. She notices Margot doesn’t have much stuff…and starts going through her things. [Wing: This is no less shitty than it was the night before, DANNI.] On top of the chest of drawers, she sees a knife.

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 2 points (+1)

Margot returns and catches Danni snooping and loses her shit. Margot picks up the knife and warns Danni not to touch any of her stuff unless she asks. If I were Danni, I’d be reporting Margot to the RA. Why on earth is she carrying what is essentially a weapon around? Lacey arrives at that point, and it’s revealed the knife is actually a letter opener.

How do you make a mistake like that? Unless it’s an entirely fucking giant letter opener, it seems unlikely.

Continuity? Fuck that shit: 1 point

Margot says the letter opener is a family heirloom. The dialogue that follows actually borders on clever. Lacey mentions the party that night. Margot says a lot of her stuff hasn’t arrived yet. Danni says she can borrow her stuff, since that’s what roommates are for.

The girls go to the party at The Kennels. Blah, blah, blah. Lacey is acting drunk and obnoxious. Blah, blah, blah. She seems to have hooked up with a guy called Pete, from New York. The party appears over, with no sign of Mouse or Margot. Lacey wants to go into town and get food, but Danni thinks it is too late. [Wing: DANNI. Have you never partied before? There is always somewhere to get drunk food in a college town.] Lacey and Pete head out the back of the house. Danni and Jordan kiss, but are interrupted by loud screams.

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 3 points (+1)

Danni bursts out the back, but it’s just Lacey pulling a joke. Huh? Really? Screaming “No, no! Help me!” for shits and giggles? Oh my God.

Cheer on the killer: 1000 points (+1000). Someone kill Lacey now.

Pete thinks it’s funny and calls Lacey crazy. Lacey’s not crazy, she’s just an insensitive bitch.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 15 points (+10)

Danni is furious, and rightly so. Lacey insists it was just a joke and mentions she doesn’t like it when people don’t do what she wants.

Cheer on the killer: 2000 points (+1000). If I didn’t know any better, Lacey is a sociopath.

Jordan asks: “Is she always this wild and crazy?”

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 25 points (+10). Oh boy, this book is really racking up the counters!

The next day, Lacey has a terrible hangover. Mouse is sympathetic. Margot is not. She mentions knowing people like Lacey who can’t control themselves, and doesn’t like them. It’s hard for me to know what to include and exclude in this recap, because essentially, nothing is happening! Talk about plotless.

Danni and Margot go to breakfast. They talk about enjoying being on their own and where they’re from. Margot is from Nebraska. Danni says her parents travelled a lot, but she was born in California. She mentions how she has kind of fallen in with Jordan, but still not sure about him. Margot says she’s still checking out the menu, but mentions she would definitely order Cary Grant if he was available. Chalk one up for Margot! Good taste, there. But Danni doesn’t seem to know who he is. Margot later laments mentioning this old pop culture references, and thinks she needs to be more careful. [Wing: … exactly how old are you, Margot?]

Then we have some nonsense with Lacey, about her good self and bad self and how she’d like to have a bit of fun with Mouse. No, nothing queer, I don’t think. Unfortunately. [Wing: Woe. WOE.]

We’re told that Danni and Margot are getting closer thanks to Margot borrowing a lot of Danni’s stuff. But then Danni comes back to the dorm and finds Margot sleeping in her bed, which she finds weird. Margot claims she fell asleep there while reading Danni’s science book. Meanwhile, Lacey drags Mouse off for a makeover at the hairdresser. As far as I can tell, we’re not actually told what Mouse’s hair is changed to. The girls all go shopping for clothes to complete Mouse’s makeover. They all buy stuff, except Margot. Lacey notes Danni only pays with cash, not credit.

Second week of classes, Danni can’t find her gold sweater. When she and Lacey get back from classes, they find Margot wearing it. Danni asks why she didn’t ask permission first before wearing it, especially since she got angry when Danni touched her letter opener without asking. Margot loses her shit again, claiming Danni told her she could have the sweater. She attacks her with the letter opener again, and Lacey defuses the situation. The word “crazy” is tossed around a couple of times, before the chapter finishes with: “She’s crazy, Lacey,” whispered Danni. “My roommate is crazy.”

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 45 points (+20)

Lacey matchmakes Pete with Mouse, and Pete takes Mouse to The Chronicle, the school newspaper, so she can sign up. Along the way, he remarks that she and Lacey must be good roommates, but that he has the roommate from hell. He says his roommate is Jordan, and Mouse is concerned because she knows Danni is dating a guy called Jordan. But didn’t Jordan tell Danni, during their first meeting, that Travis was his roommate?

Continuity? Fuck that shit: 2 points (+1)

Peter makes to say something ominous about Jordan, but won’t continue when Mouse presses him.

Red Herrings: 3 points (+1)

There’s more blah conversation to demonstrate the girls don’t know much about each other. The rest of Margot’s stuff still hasn’t arrived. Danni’s stuff is all new. Mouse is the only first-year student doing advanced psych, which she has to explain when Lacey sees a paper saying “sexual expression” on her desk while looking for a pencil. Lacey continues being an obnoxious twat. That night, Danni is woken by the phone ringing. Margot still isn’t home. When she answers, it’s an anonymous person, telling her she’s been a bad friend and she needs to be punished. She screams, and hands grab her.

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 4 points (+1)

It’s Margot, who has just returned home. Kendra arrives, wanting to know what is going on. Danni repeats her story. Both Mouse and Lacey say they never heard the phone ring. Danni doesn’t want to report the call. Lacey thinks it’s like something straight out of Fatal Attraction, which is just stupid. Has Nola Thacker even seen that movie?

Next chapter, Danni is suffering headaches. She gets another phone call while alone in the suite. The others get home, and Danni tells them about the call, but thinks the others don’t believe her. Danni still won’t report it, because she doesn’t want people hearing about it, talking about her and thinking she’s weird. Anyway, it’s Friday night and Danni shakes off her nerves to go out on a movie night with Jordan to see Psycho. As you do. After the movie, Jordan says he likes the scary movies where a crazy person pretends to be normal. Danni thinks about how her caller is definitely crazy.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 100 points (+55)

While walking home, they come to a topiary garden (bushes that look like animals). Jordan suddenly disappears. Someone starts whispering Danni’s name. Then she sees one of the bush animals move.

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 10,004 points (+10,000). Because, in the entire history of Point Horror, that may be one of the stupidest cliffhanger chapter endings I’ve ever witnessed, and considering what Stine has come up with in 100 plus books, that’s really saying something.

[Wing:…oh god, a new bar has been set for cliffhangers, and Stine did not set it. I don’t even know what to do.]

Of course, no animal actually moved, and it’s never suggested again otherwise, so why was it even put in there? Good grief. Of course, the whispering was just Jordan playing a practical joke. She accuses him of being the caller as well, but he insists he would never do that. Danni forgives him.

He’s the killer! He’s the killer! He’s … my LOVAH!: 1 point

Danni returns to her room. It is dark. She stumbles and falls. When she turns on the light, she sees the lamp on the floor. Her gold sweater is on the bed, slashed to shreds, splashed with red (read: nail polish). YOU MUST DIE is written on her mirror in blood-red writing (read: lipstick). Lacey and Mouse arrive to witness the carnage. They reach the conclusion that Margot is the culprit, because the sweater was hers now. Danni says that’s really, really crazy.

Well, that escalated quickly: 1 point

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 200 points (+100)

Also Red Herrings: 30 points (+27)

Lacey insists it get reported, but Danni refuses. I think, by now, it’s blindingly obvious that Danni is behind all the stuff happening to her. Later that night, Margot returns and the girls make passive aggressive remarks to Margot that she’s the one who destroyed the sweater, but Margot is just as shocked as they are. Some unspecified time later (and I’m beginning not to care), Danni gets her mail. She’s approached by Jordan, but skips out on a date, despite saying she accepts his apology. She goes back to her dorm and decides to get some snack food and explore the Dungeon. This all exists solely so she can wind up seemingly alone in the Dungeon, and have a figure leap out at her.

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 20,000 points (+9,996). Another lazy, stupid and gratuitous trick in a lazy, stupid and gratuitous book.

It’s just another student. Danni can tell from her face that there is no monster or crazy person behind her.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 20,000 points (+19,800). Might as well have it catch up with the other counter, since it’s used so frequently and indiscriminately, then yet again within the same paragraph.

Ugh. Is this thing over yet? We switch to Lacey and Mouse, another unspecified time later. Mouse directs Lacey’s attention to the bathroom, where the message YOU’LL BE PUNISHED has been scrawled on the mirror in lipstick. They race to the adjoining dorm, where they find Danni lying facedown on the bed.

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 30,000 points (+10,000).

He’s dead! He’s dead! HE’S FUCKING DEAD! … oh wait, he survived: 1 point

These counters are taking up almost as much space as the recap itself. Meanwhile, I have no idea how much time has lapsed between Danni in the Dungeon, and Danni back in her dorm. She says she’s been asleep for an hour. But I’m not going to bother with the maths, because this pile of dung isn’t worth the brain pain. As you can probably guess, Danni continues to insist it not be reported, despite Lacey and Mouse saying it could be meant for anybody. But Danni is certain it’s meant for her.

How about a new trope of ME! It’s all about ME!!! (Something my partner and I like to joke about whenever we watch The Vampire Diaries and Elena insists yet again that the horror they’re all going through is all because of her.) [Wing: YES. I love it.]

Danni goes through her thoughts as to why it could be Margot, Mouse or Lacey terrorising her. It all basically amounts, for each of her suspects, to: “It doesn’t have to make sense if they’re crazy.”

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: Yeah, we’ve hit infinity here, and there’s still 30 pages to go.

[Wing: Can’t hear you, too busy setting things on fire.]

Next chapter is almost entirely filler. Lacey meets up with Jordan, saying they have to discuss Danni. Mouse has something important to tell Pete, because she’s been living a lie. Margot’s just…there. Danni returns to the Quad, goes to take a shower, and the lights go out.

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 30,010 points (+10). Creepy, yes, but considering the cheapjack book it’s hidden within, it’s getting a counter.

Anyway, it’s just a power outage, of course. Danni returns to her room. Margot arrives, and asks Danni to join her in the Dungeon for some studying, and they can binge on some junk food. Margot says they can study in the lounge, and leaves a note for Lacey and Mouse to let them know where they are. Danni isn’t sure, but Margot says she’s free to join her whenever, and takes off.

Danni heads down a bit later. She steps into the lounge, where the TV is on, but nobody is there. The lights go out, and instead of screaming, she remains quiet. “As quiet as Margot” says the book, because the next portion of text NEVER identifies whose point of view we’re seeing things through. So I’m going to assume that it’s Margot.

On top of not identifying which character we’re reading about, the climax is choppy and vague. Assuming it’s Margot we’re with, she turns on her flashlight. Where did she get that? When she left the dorm, she grabbed notebooks and change. No mention of a fucking flashlight.

Continuity? Fuck that shit: 3 points (+1)

I don’t know if I have the energy to recount the minutiae of this pathetic, lousy climax. It would help if I knew what was going on. Anyway, the flashlight glints off metal (a knife, I’m guessing), and it’s knocked out of her hands. She scrambles to get it again, and uses the wall to feel her way along in the darkness. She touches something soft and living and gasps “Lacey,” before the knife flashes down again. Margot (again, this is an assumption, because we still haven’t been told who the fuck we’re following around in the darkness) drops the flashlight once more, and the light goes out.

She runs blindly through the dark Dungeon, she hears an alarm go off and sees light coming from the emergency exit door, and heads towards it. Out steps Danni with the knife, and Margot (yes, she’s finally been identified by name) ducks, swerves and crashes to avoid the knife that Danni is swinging down at her again.

Yep, Danni was behind it all. She thinks they’re all against her. She’s special. She escaped the special wing she was kept in by killing her charge, and decided to enroll in college, having learnt all about it. That’s why all her clothes were new. (Which I might have neglected to mention within the recap, because I simply didn’t care.) She thought nobody knew about her past, but started to unravel when she thought Margot was making fun of her and copying her. She thinks they all want to send her back.

Cops and security guards arrive, along with Mouse and Lacey. Danni is carted away. Margot and Danni’s eyes meet, and Margot sees the Danni she once knew. [Wing: Wait, the Danni she once knew when? I’m so confused by this damn climax.] Then her eyes go wild and crazy again. I don’t need the mental health counter, because it’s already hit infinity and it’s only going to get worse from here. Margot notices that Lacey’s palm is cut. I’m assuming the injury was sustained somewhere in that shit climax, when Margot briefly saw Lacey in the beam of the flashlight. Whatever.

The three girls analyse what has happened to them. Basically, Danni did it all because she was crazy. She wanted to lead a normal life, but trying to be normal was just too much for her, so she cracked it. She knew she wasn’t pulling it off, so she created all that drama, because her poor widdle warped mind couldn’t process the proper way in which to protect herself. Yes, really.

We learn some so-what further information about our main characters. Lacey is a straight-A student, but hates labels, so pretends to be a dumb party animal. Mouse reveals that she told the truth to Pete. That her nickname is Mouse. Whoa, Mouse, don’t go all out at once! Margot’s parents were dead, and she was a scholarship student. The reason the rest of her stuff didn’t come was because she was poor. She wanted a roommate like Danni so that she could learn how to act normal. Amongst all of this conversation, the word “crazy” is bandied about indiscriminately a couple of times each paragraph.

Margot heads off for a shower, and there’s a final attempt at a scare when she thinks someone is about to attack her. But it’s just Lacey, of course. Snore.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Nola Thacker’s name contains the word “hack” within it. What a pile of shit.

Final Thoughts

Pure trash. Absolute drivel. Downright offensive in it’s inanity and pointlessness. When Nola Thacker was given the title of “The Roommate” to work with, she could have done a fun riff on the obvious – Single White Female. Heck, even The Stepsister and The Best Friend from “Fear Street” mined this material to much better effect. Buried somewhere deep inside this plotless tosh is a story about how we all want to project an ideal version of ourselves onto the world and how that drive can mask sinister intentions or ulterior motives, but Thacker completely and utterly fudges it. She has some knack with dialogue, and that’s about it.

[Wing: … Damn it. Write that story, will you? Because your version sounds fab.]

The most offensive part of this plotless stinker is the revelation that Danni did it because she was crazy. That’s it. No motive. None at all. Even in other Point Horrors where the killer/bad guy is identified as “crazy”, there’s usually still a motive behind their actions, with the inference being they were “crazy” because of that personal trigger. It’s actually hard for me to think of a Point Horror where the “why” behind it all was just because “oh, they’re crazy.” The Roommate essentially epitomises the worst of everything Point Horror has to offer. No plot. Word count filler. Dreadful attempts at boo scares. Unresolved plot strands. I didn’t mind this as a youngster, but through the lense of 37 years of life experience and book reading, this is really bottom-of-the-barrel stuff.

[Wing: I am simultaneously filled with rage and boredom. It is a strange, strange feeling.]

Final Counts

Cheer on the killer: 2000 points

Continuity? Fuck that shit: 3 points

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 30,010 points

He’s dead! He’s dead! HE’S FUCKING DEAD! … oh wait, he survived: 1 point

He’s the killer! He’s the killer! He’s … my LOVAH!: 1 point

ME! It’s all about ME!!!: 1 point 

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: Infinity. Set fire to the world.

Red Herrings: 30 points

Well, that escalated quickly: 1 point

 

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2 Comments

  1. Jude Deluca
    Posted 7 August 2017 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Fake NH Summary #2

    2: ”The Roommate”- Polly’s freshman year in college is great, with the exception of her roommate Frieda.

    • Wing
      Posted 8 August 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      Eh, not as good as the one that has Jake the werewolf.

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