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Recap #113: Ghosts of Fear Street #15: Fright Christmas by Stephen Roos, A.K.A. “I Can’t Believe It’s Not A Christmas Carol!”

Title: Ghosts of Fear Street #15 – Fright Christmas

Author: Stephen Roos

Cover Artist: John Youssi

Tagline: This Christmas Carol Will Scare The Dickens Out Of You! [Wing: Oooh, I’ll have to flag this one for Dove, if it really has some Christmas Carol aspect to it. Also, that pun is terrible, and I love it.]

Summary: He’d Better Watch Out…

Santa is watching Kenny Frobisher this year. Watching him do rotten, nasty things. Kenny’s the biggest bully in Shadyside. And he’s out to ruin everyone’s holiday.

Until he gets himself trapped in a closet in Dalby’s Department Store on Christmas Eve.

When Kenny finally gets out, the store is locked. Deserted. And Kenny is alone. Until the three most frightening ghosts of Fear Street arrive – to wish Kenny a SCARY Christmas.

[Wing: Well this sounds delightful.]

Initial Thoughts

Why is it when it comes to horror and Christmas the default setting is to do a Christmas Carol knock-off? Granted the original’s incredibly versatile, but so many of the copies come across as simply fill in the numbers tales. That doesn’t necessarily mean ALL of them are bad, like the Bill Murray one, the Muppets one, the “Ms. Scrooge” flick with Cicely Tyson, and even the Flintstones version is kind of ingenious.

This one, however, the only thing it really has going for it are the ghosts and their designs. I’ll give Roos credit he put some effort into making them stand out. Kenny is an incredibly obnoxious character and doesn’t have the tragic backstory Ebeneezer Scrooge does, and the conflict focuses more on him trying to avoid the ghosts. I decided to recap this one along with Graveyard School’s “The Fright Before Christmas” because they’re both versions of “A Christmas Carol,” but I think the latter is much better.

[Wing: Dove loves Christmas Carol derivative works. I’m not as big a fan, but I am excited about this.]

Recap

Kenny Frobisher’s mom is making him stand in line with his little sister Kristi so she can see Santa Claus at Dalby’s Department Store (owned by the dad of “Silent Night 1-3″‘s Reva Dalby). [Wing: Continuity across subseries?! I’m amazed. This is awesome.] Since the line is in the toy department, Kristi spots a beautiful ballerina doll she’d like for Christmas. Kenny mentions Kristi’s been obsessed with ballerinas since their mom took her to see “Sleeping Beauty” on stage. [Wing: Understandable! That’s a beautiful ballet.] Kenny takes the doll and shows Kristi she really is a ballerina by making her twirl on her head, ruining the doll’s hair and jamming the eyes shut. He then tosses the doll on a shelf Kristi can’t reach. Kristi cries she needs to show the doll to Santa so he knows what to get her for Christmas.

Kenny wants you to know he doesn’t hate Christmas, just all that “Peace on Earth” crap. He hates that he’s stuck shopping on Christmas Eve when it’s his favorite night of year. The night he sneaks into his neighbors yards and unscrews all their Christmas lights. [Wing: On the one hand, asshole kid. On the other hand, they’ve left their Christmas celebration, including pictures with Santa, a little fucking late, haven’t they? (People do that. Ostrich prefers to shop on Christmas Eve, which is why I do all our holiday shopping, and one year I worked for a pictures with Santa booth at a mall, and we were slammed Christmas Eve. I did not interact with the actual people; I was handling the numbers, nightly receipts, and order tracking.)]

Kenny tries to get out of the line by telling Kristi Santa left for the rest of the evening, when who should arrive but Timmy Smathers, the shortest, nerdiest kid in Kenny’s class. Timmy says hi, Kenny blinks and says he initially thought Timmy was one of Santa’s elves, wiping the smile off Timmy’s face. Kenny’s always doing shit like that knowing how self conscious Timmy is about his height. But then Timmy asks Kristi if she’s excited to see Santa, but Kristi looks like she’s about to cry as she explains Kenny told her Santa left for the North Pole. Timmy assures her Santa just went to use the bathroom and he’ll be back in a few minutes. Kristi immediately gets mad at Kenny for lying to her and threatens to tell their mom if he doesn’t bring her to Santa NOW.

The display for Santa is decorated with fake snow and plastic gingerbread houses, and elves walk around ringing bells, singing carols, and handing candy canes to the kids.

“How long until we get to the front, Kenny?” she asked between licks on her candy cane. “I can’t wait to see Santa.”

“How old are you now, Kristi?”

“I’m six, Kenny, and you know it!” she exclaimed.

“Well, by the time you get to sit on Santa’s lap, you’ll be about eight,” I told her.

Kenny then decides to tell Kristi a secret, that the guy in the Santa suit ISN’T Santa! Mrs. Frobisher shows up just as Kristi denounces Kenny, but lucky for him it’s now her turn to visit the man in the red suit.

Kristi’s blue eyes sparkled as bright as Christmas-tree lights. I never saw a little kid so happy.

This was going to be great.

Kenny waits until he knows his mom and sister can’t see him and heads to the far end of Santa’s sleigh. He crawls underneath until he’s right behind Santa and Kristi, so when Kristi is getting to the part about how she wants a ballerina doll, Kenny jumps up and rips off Santa’s beard! Kenny tells his sister Santa really IS a fake, but instead of bursting into tears that her illusion has been destroyed, Kristi yells at him for being mean and his mom is disgusted. Of course, the rest of the kids waiting to see Santa start crying asking where Santa went. The mall Santa tries to grab his beard back and falls over. It’s then Kenny realizes this Santa is Joe, the custodian from school. Joe isn’t surprised Kenny would do something so mean and says he’ll always be a rotten kid. Kenny laughs saying it was only a joke. Joe points out nobody’s laughing but him.

“How could anyone do that to these little children?” a salesperson grumbled.

“He should be ashamed of himself,” another man agreed.

“He’s a dreadful boy,” a tall woman muttered as she glared at me. “No – not a boy. A monster.”

[Wing: Goddamn, Kenny. I didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas, so always knew that Santa wasn’t real (and, in fact, as an adult, I actively dislike how parents lie to their kids about such things), but I would never spoil that secret for anyone, even as big an asshole as I am.]

One of the elves quickly gets on crowd control by assuring the kids Santa’s beard is magic, and can take it off whenever he likes when he wants to go incognito. The kids all calm down, and Kenny gets the fuck out of there before his mom can get her hands on him. Kenny hides in back room meant for personnel only, and discovers wall to wall panels of computers, buttons, switches, and blinking lights. Thinking this must be some kind of control room, Kenny realizes he’ll be able to incite some chaos on a MUCH grander scale. But the button he presses doesn’t seem to do anything… besides locking him in!

Kenny bangs on the door and cries as loudly as he can, but no one seems to hear him. He looks at his watch and sees it’s 8:15, and remembers Dalby’s closes at 8. Did everyone leave? What about his mom and sister? He briefly muses they know he’s in here, but are trying to teach him a lesson for the stunt he pulled. However, Kenny begins to hear a strange humming sound. The room seems to start vibrating and Kenny loses his balance, almost hitting the control panel when the door finally opens. Kenny asks his rescuer what took them so long, but no one’s there. The entire store is empty, and the dull red glow of the Exit signs makes Santa’s Street look a lot like Fear Street (where Kenny lives).

[Wing: Still don’t understand why so many people choose to live on Fear Street when they don’t like the terrifying things that happen on it.]

Kenny thinks he really is all alone when he hears a sound like sleigh bells, and sees somebody sitting inside Santa’s sleigh. Kenny immediately assumes this is Joe still in costume. Kenny demands to know how Joe didn’t hear him calling for help. Joe answers “It’s a busy night for me.” Kenny’s not the mood and tells Joe he gets it, he’s still mad about the beard thing, but demands to be let out of the store. Joe asks if Kenny’s actually sorry for what he did, but Kenny isn’t worried if he messed with some little kids. Joe tells Kenny he’s been naughty all year, so Kenny has enough of the Santa act and tries to yank Joe’s beard off… and it won’t come, because he’s not talking to Joe.

The man in the red suit tells Kenny they need to have a talk, while Kenny refuses to believe this is who he thinks it is. The big guy lays it out that Kenny has got a LOT to answer for, before it’s too late. In the toy aisle, the red man picks up the ballerina doll Kenny messed with and fixes the eyes, but Kenny says it wasn’t a big deal. Dolls don’t have feelings.

“But little girls can,” he said, gently lifting the doll’s lids. “And so can classmates. And parents. And school custodians.”

Kenny tries to leave, but the big man grabs Kenny’s arm and promises he’ll be a different person come the morning. A kind, thoughtful person nowhere near as mean or cruel as he is now. Well, he’d better be. Kenny is told he’ll be meeting with some people, some friends of the red guy, one at nine, another at ten, and the last at midnight. Kenny breaks free and heads for the escalator to get to the exit, but all the exit signs point to nothing. Kenny can’t find the door because the door is gone. The man in the suit promises Kenny, as he lifts a big sack that looks like it’ll be burst, he won’t be alone for long. And his friends are just like him, because they like to play tricks on people too. Only difference is, his friends are ghosts. And like that, the man wishes Kenny a Merry Christmas and disappears.

Kenny tries not to be scared, convincing himself the stranger’s hiding somewhere in the store as he looks for another exit. But all the doors are missing as he makes his way through the aisles. Going down a row full of mannequins and dummies on display, Kenny thinks to himself he merely walked into one of them. The dummy didn’t just grab his leg. Kenny thinks he sees someone further down an aisle, but is enraged to learn it’s only a cardboard standee for famous TV chef Tex Tabasco [Wing: OMG THAT NAME.] and stomps the shit out of it. Sorry Tex. But hey! A sign in the bedding department pointing to a phone-oh wait that’s also nothing. Kenny starts screaming about how stupid this all is, when suddenly he’s hit by a wave of drowsiness. Kenny’s mind screams to stay awake as his body snuggles up in one of the fluffy quilts on a nice, soft bed. His eyes clo-BANG! What was that? Suddenly the whole floor’s shaking again, china falling off shelves, displays knocked over. There’s something in the store and it’s coming Kenny’s way. As he jumps out of the bed Kenny sees a light up ahead. A light getting closer, a light on… A MOTORCYCLE!

Kenny yells desperately at the driver to turn, and the cycle stops, the front wheel hanging in the air inches from Kenny’s face. The driver gets up.

The driver wore a big silver helmet, his eyes masked by a deep black visor. The rest of his face was covered by a bristly black beard,

His body was huge. He wore a black T-shirt and a black vest. But it was the chains that made me gasp – big, heavy chains draped over his shoulders, crossing his chest. And tied around his waist.

His muscular arms held the bike up – with the front wheel spinning. Spinning right next to my face.

I opened my mouth to speak, but no words came out.

The biker stared at me.

He gunned the thundering engine – and I leaped back. Then he lowered the back, slamming the front wheel on the floor.

I swallowed hard. I held my breath.

The motor’s roar died.

The biker’s lips slowly parted into a grin. A mouthful of metal teeth glistened in the darkness.

“Hi, Kenny!” he growled. “Ready to have some fun!”

Kenny asks how this guy knows his name, and as he leans forward Kenny can see the biker’s skin is covered in living tattoos. A hissing viridian snake with red eyes, a big black spider, a winking purple skull writhing and moving around on his body. [Wing: Even with that one tattoo, I love this guy already.] The biker introduces himself as the Night Watchman, only instead of watching the store, he’s been watching Kenny. The biker orders Kenny to get on the back of the bike, responding to Kenny’s weak protests by gunning the engine and making it clear he’s not asking. But as Kenny gets on the bike and the Watchman speeds off, Kenny’s arms pass through the driver and realizes he really IS a ghost. Kenny desperately tries to hold onto the bike as the Night Watchman blows through the store. He drives straight through a display of fine china, shattering everything. Kenny pleads and begs for him to slow down, but the Night Watchman simply asks what happened to Kenny’s sense of humor? The Watchman barrels up a down escalator to the the third floor and slows down in the TV department enough for Kenny to jump off, but he orders the boy to come back because it’s time for the show.

The Night Watchman tells Kenny he’s the ghost of Christmas past, of his past, and he’s very disappointed in him. Kenny is forced to watch a videotape (Because it was the 90s, you see!) which shows a previous Christmas at Shadyside Middle School. It’s last year’s Christmas show. Kenny remembers that day, thinking it was one of the best days of his life. On the big screen, Kenny watched as his drama teacher announced Timmy Smathers would then give the annual Christmas speech, Timmy being one of the nicest kids in school. However, Kenny had swiped the special stand for Timmy to use because he was so short, so when Timmy was ready to give his speech no one could see him behind the podium. Pretty soon the entire audience began chanting “TINY TIMMY!” while Timmy hid behind the podium and tried not to cry. The Night Watchman slammed his fist on the VCR’s stop button, but Kenny says it was just getting good. The Watchman grabs Kenny and flips up his visor, revealing glowing yellow eyes with no lids. The Night Watchman tries to make Kenny understand how much he hurt Timmy, but because Kenny’s got the empathy of a rotted log, the Watchman barks it’s time for him to pay for being such a nasty little shit.

Kenny flees and tries to hide in the furniture department, only for the Night Watchman to herd him towards the railing overlooking the power tool section. As the Watchman revs his engine, Kenny looks down and sees all the saws and power drills are pointed upward and spinning like crazy and hungry for blood.

The ghost flipped his black visor down. Tightened the straps on his helmet.

“Happy landings, Kenny,” he roared. His face broke out in a wide, evil smile.

Then he turned up the throttle on his bike – and headed straight for me.

I squeezed my eyes closed.

“Nooooo!” I shrieked as I leaped over the railing.

And plunged down.

Down.

Down to the razor-sharp blades below.

Of course when Kenny opens his eyes he discovers he’s really back in the bed from earlier. The Night Watchman’s gone, and Kenny’s watch indicates it’s now 10. All of a sudden it proceeds to get extremely cold, and a harsh arctic wind comes out of nowhere and starts tearing up the bedding department. The pillow on the bed gets ripped apart as it starts to snow inside the store. Kenny hollers for the Night Watchman, but he’s not coming back. That doesn’t mean Kenny is alone.

I spotted something coming toward me.

No – not something.

Someone.

In a long, swirling robe. White as snowflakes that whirled overhead.

Icicles hung from his face. Glistening icicles – dripping down from his white hair and stringy beard.

He glided slowly toward me through the swirling snow.

My pulse quickened.

As he came closer, I could make out his ghastly face. A face carved out of a rough chunk of ice – with cold blue eyes trapped inside its glassy walls.

And frosted, hollow cheeks.

And a long, jagged cut for a mouth.

“Ken-ny,” he wailed in a voice like the freezing, howling wind.

“Who… are… you?” I screamed. “What… are… you?”

He moved closer. An icy, clawed hand slipped out from the long sleeve of his robe. It glistened in the darkness.

I inched back on the bed. As far as I could.

The robed creature reached out – and clamped his frozen hand on my shoulder.

An icy blast shot through my veins.

“Kenny,” the creature groaned. “I am your Christmas present!”

…see, when I think of presents I go for used books or artwork. But ghosts representing our internalized apathy is a way to go too. [Wing: It’s just what I’ve always wanted for Christmas!]

This ghost names himself the Iceman.

Image result for iceman

No not that one. [Wing: Shame.]

“I’m f-freezing.” My teeth chattered. “Make it stop!”

A gruesome smile twisted the Iceman’s lips. “You get used to it,” he said, “after a while.”

“But you’re a ghost!” I exclaimed.

“You’ll get used to that too!” He rasped.

Kenny blinks, and suddenly the pair are outside in the sunlight. It’s daytime and Kenny’s back at his house! Kenny goes for the spare key his family keeps to lock the door when the Iceman makes him understand he can just pass through the door. Kenny’s terrified and exclaims he’s not a ghost. The Iceman clarifies he’s not a ghost YET. Inside the house, Kenny’s parents and Kristi are in the living room surrounded by presents, but they all look miserable. Kristi starts crying all she wants is for him to come home, and refuses to open her presents until he returns. Kenny’s feeling pretty good with himself thinking how much his family misses him, when who should show up but Timmy Smathers, with none other than… Rags, the Frobisher Family cocker spaniel! All right, now Christmas can really begin! After all, the family can’t have Christmas without Rags, could they? [Wing: I am dying.]

Kenny feels his heart get ripped out of his chest as he realizes his family was upset because their dog ran away. To add insult to injury, his parents invite Timmy to join them for Christmas dinner in Kenny’s place, AND let him have one of Kenny’s gifts! Mr. and Mrs. Frobisher say Kenny won’t mind, he’s always late for Christmas dinner and no matter what they get him for Christmas he always complains about the gifts anyway. Kenny’s all oh, shit, I do do that. Kenny is indignant, asking the Iceman how his family could do this to him. The Iceman makes Kenny realize the reason his family’s having such a good Christmas is because HE isn’t there to ruin everyone’s good time like he always does. The Iceman pulls Kenny away from his family, back to the screaming, freezing blizzard and disappears. Kenny fears he really will become a ghost just like the Iceman, losing all feeling in his body as he gets on his knees and tries to crawl through the snow…

Back to the department store.

Only this time, when Kenny falls back asleep in the bedding department, he’s awoken by a cacophony of brightly colored lights blaring and buzzing around him.

“Deck your graves with boughs of hemlock!” A high voice shrieked. “Fa-la-la-la-la!”

[Wing: YES HEMLOCK LOVE IT.]

At midnight, the third ghost should be on his way. Kenny tries to run and hide when someone tells him to stop being jerk and come over here. Huh? He’s back in the aisle with all the dummies, and this time THEY are out for his blood. Mannequins dressed in sports clothing, holding golf clubs and tennis rackets and baseball bats, start trying to beat Kenny’s head over, destroying more displays as they start marching towards him. They begin chanting “KENNY IS A DUMMY” and one unscrews its hand and throws it to the kid, asking if he… needs a hand. ( 😀 ) [Wing: NOPE.]

It gets worse in the toy department, when two giant wooden soldiers unsheathe their sabers and begin heading Kenny’s way. They promise Kenny they know how to deal with monsters. Kenny finds an elevator and gets inside just as the doors snap off a couple of mannequin limbs. Kenny presses the button to go down, and it does. But it just keeps going. And going. And going UNTIL IT

Ping!

Last floor everybody out!

Too bad for Kenny instead of the basement of Dalby’s, Kenny’s now inside… an open GRAAAAAAAAVE DUN DUN DUN DRAMATIC BEAVER

Kenny tries to keep his cool, figuring he’s in the Fear Street Cemetery which is only a few blocks from home. He tries to climb out of the grave when a fat, bloated worm crawls over his hand and he falls on his back. Only now Kenny is covered with worms. Congrat Kenny, you went from non worms to ALL THE WORMS! Kenny panics and tries to get the worms off him as the crawl on his face and in his hair. He grabs a tree root and hoists himself out, but after taking two steps he gets grabbed by a bony hand and pulled back into the grave. Kenny hangs on to the edge and begs for someone to help him, and he can just see someone coming towards the grave. Someone dressed in a-

Okay can we all just admit we know this is gonna be the Ghost of Christmas Future and it’s the version who looks like the Grim Reaper? Like how was this gonna go in any other direction.

The Ghost of Christmas Future beckons a glowing, skeletal hand and Kenny sees three kids at the edge of the cemetery. Kenny thinks these kids can help him. PSYCH! They’re really moaning, moldy, rotting ghouls, kids like him who failed to become better people. Kenny watches in disgust as their skin falls off and maggots bulge from their cheeks and their eyes and hair fall from their heads.

“Look, Kenny!” they shrieked in unison. “Look at us!”

“I – I can’t,” I stammered.

The monsters shrieked with laughter. The girl monster pushed her hideous face close to mine. “Aren’t I beautiful?” she grinned, revealing a row of black, rotted teeth.

“Answer her!” the blond-haired boy ordered.

“You’re – you’re the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen!” I choked out.

“You’ll change your mind soon,” the brown-haired monster hooted. “When you look just like us!”

His eyeballs rolled back in his bulging eye sockets and disappeared totally.

“Never!” I shrieked. “I’ll never look like you!”

“Live a monster. Die a monster. Live a monster. Die a monster,” the three hideous creatures began to chant.

The ghouls mimic Kenny’s pleas and laugh their undead asses though, not literally though, as surprising as that is. They explain they were just like Kenny, and the last horse finally reaches the center of the shrubbery maze as Kenny realizes just like that woman and the soldiers said, he really IS a monster. Now we get to the part where he starts begging for a second chance and promises to be good and the security guard tells him to cool his tits.

Huh?

Oh yeah he’s back in the control room at Dalby’s, it’s still Christmas Eve, and the store’s not closed yet. The guard says his mom and sister left thinking he already went home, but Kenny is simply overjoyed by how wonderful and beautiful everything looks for Christmas. Kenny starts jumping and cheering full of Christmas joy, much to the shock of the other buyers. Is that Kenny Frobisher? Nah, Kenny Frobisher likes to set squirrels on fire and dump in people’s mailboxes, he’s never had a nice thing to say to anyone! Sure looks like him though.

Kenny uses the time left before the store closes to buy the ballerina doll for his sister. At first he’s dismayed when he realizes he only has five bucks, but when he opens his hand it’s become a ten! Okay now this part was kind of sweet.

Kenny rushes home to the arms of his worried mom, and wishes her a Merry Christmas. He even sits down to listen to his dad read “A Christmas Carol” and says it’s he loves it. Mr. Frobisher laughs and wonders what’s come over his son. Christmas morning comes and Rags is missing. Kenny tries to make himself believe what happened with the ghosts really was a dream even though it changed him, when on schedule comes Timmy Smathers with Rags in his hands. Kenny apologizes to Timmy for his awful behavior, and asks for help to wrap the doll for Kristi. Timmy comments it sure does look like Kenny’s changed…

And then Kenny notices how bony Timmy’s hand looks.

In such a frighteningly familiar way.

And then Timmy’s eyes glow red.

Timmy grinned. He pulled up the big peaked hood of his black parka. In the shadow of his hood, his face looked ghastly pale. His cheeks turned to sunken purple hollows.

“Y-you!” I stammered. “You’re the third ghost! It wasn’t a dream! I – I don’t believe it!”

“Why not, Kenny?” he replied in a ghostly voice. “You live on Fear Street. What did you expect?” [Wing: THANK YOU.]

Timmy pulled open the kitchen door and strolled out.

He glanced over his shoulder and waved his bony hand.

“Merry Christmas to all,” he cried out with a deep, ghoulish laugh. “And to all a good fright!”

[Wing: NOPE. /dying]

Final Thoughts

I breezed through this recap in two days. The only reason I included this was because I don’t have as much time to focus on recapping, say, “The Best Friend” or “The Gift” for the Fear Street recaps this month.

This is definitely one of the weaker Christmas Carol bootlegs. There’s so little depth to Kenny, we don’t know why he acts so mean or what kind of reason there might be. He just is. That especially makes it hard to take him turning good seriously. And take into consideration he NEVER actually feels bad for the shit he’s done, unlike Ebeneezer Scrooge. His only desire to turn good is so he doesn’t end up like one of the monsters. At least Scrooge also felt guilty about Tiny Tim dying.

Of course I wish Timmy Smathers had remained a supporting character in the Ghost of Fear Street books knowing he’s a ghost.

I think Roos put all his creative effort into the first two ghosts, and it’s weird because he wrote the exceptionally well done “Who’s Been Sleeping In My Grave?,” the second book in the series.

[Wing: It was fun enough, but not very deep and not as funny as some of the other Ghosts of Fear Street books. Still, fitting for the season, especially with how much Dove loves the retellings.]

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