Recap #99: Fear Street: Halloween Party by R. L. Stine, A.K.A. “Niki Meyer Is Stunning And Brave” by Jude Deluca
Title: Fear Street – Halloween Party
Author: R.L. Stine
Cover Artist: Bill Schmidt
Tagline: There is going to be an uninvited guest at this Halloween party on Fear Street…
Summary: WELCOME TO FEAR STREET
Don’t listen to the stories they tell you about Fear Street. Wouldn’t you rather explore it yourself… and see if its dark terror and unexplained mysteries are true? You’re not afraid, are you?
Invitation To Terror
The invitation arrived in a black-boarded envelope. Inside, the card showed a coffin with the inscription “Reserved For You.” It was perfectly fiittng for an all-night Halloween party on Fear Street. But Terry and his girlfriend Niki wondered why they had been invited. They barely knew Justine Cameron, the mysterious transfer student who was throwing the party.
The party was well under way when the lights went out. That’s to be expected at a spooky Halloween party. But when the lights came back on, there was that boy on the floor with the knife in his back. Just a Halloween prank? Maybe. Maybe not.
For Terry and Niki the trick-or-treating has turned to terror. To their horror, they realize that someone at the costume party is dressed to kill!
[Wing: That is a very dramatic blurb.]
This is by far one of the best Fear Street books, if not THE best. The cover artwork alone is stunning (despite floating pumpkin skulls aren’t actually involved in the book itself), and even with my love of holiday-themed horror, I’ve read enough reviews to indicate this is an Ensemble Darkhorse in the original series. The atmosphere and locations are vivid, and its heroine, Niki, is genuinely one of the best main characters Stine’s created in a sea of unlikable whiny, shallow, self-centered, hypocritical assholes. And not just because she’s “Special.” I even got my copy, which thankfully had the original artwork and not the dull reprint version, autographed by R.L. Stine. Seriously, this book is so good I never want it adapted into a movie or TV episode because I don’t think any other format could do it appropriate justice.
[Wing: I’m thrilled for this recap. All the Halloween recaps this year. All of them. Such a great time.]
On Halloween Night, Niki Meyer and her boyfriend Terry Ryan are drudging their way through the Fear Street Cemetery to get to Justine Cameron’s [INSERT TITLE HERE]. Terry can hardly believe he’s spending Halloween in a graveyard with his girlfriend, trying to get to the old Cameron Mansion on the other side. Niki is slightly surprised to find a grave with a date of death reading October 31st, 1884, and wonders who some of the people buried in the old graveyard were. Terry is slightly spooked by the howling wind blowing through the graveyard trees, but Niki is unaffected because of her deafness. Niki’s hearing abilities were greatly impaired, but her uncanny lipreading implied otherwise, and she’s never been one who wanted to be treated differently because of her disability. This is one of the reasons why Terry loves her so. Niki accidentally drops her mask and stops to search for it when Terry hears a bloodcurdling scream. It didn’t come from Niki, however, and another scream is followed by the arrival of a rotting zombie! Oh but wait, it’s just Murphy Carter, who’d also been invited to Justine’s soiree, in a zombie costume. Boy, it sure seems like tonight’s gonna be a hoot and a holler! [Wing: I love Niki already.]
We then cut back to two weeks previous when Terry first received his invitation to Justine’s party. [Wing: Of course we do. I don’t normally like this sort of setup, and I don’t think it works here, either. Not enough actual action or danger in the setup before the flashback to make this work.] His friend, chubby and perky Trisha McCormick, mentions she also received an invitation to the party, but muses the rest of the school probably got invites as well. Justine only recently transferred to Shadyside High and quickly made a splash because of how tall, dark, and beautiful she was, dressed like a model with her golden hair and jade eyes. But so far no one could really say anything about Justine, who was striking, but kept to herself. Trisha comments how weird it is that the party is being held in the old Cameron Mansion, and on Fear Street! But Terry doesn’t believe the ghost stories about monsters, murders, and disappearances which haunt Fear Street, so as far as he’s concerned Cameron Mansion’s simply an old house. [Wing: Terry. Terry. How can you have lived in Shadyside for more than 30 seconds and not believe at least some of the weird things happening.]
Terry meets Niki at lunch, addressing her by his pet name for her, “Funny Face,” and already he feels his day’s gotten better because Niki has that affect on people. She just glows. She’s not the smartest girl, or the most beautiful, but she has a way of making people feel happy by being around them. Niki reveals her invitation, reporting no one else she knows has received one, not even her friends Jade and Deena (from “The Wrong Number”). [Wing: Continuity in characters! And so much for the idea that everyone in school got an invitation.] Terry’s not sure he wants to go, but Niki is excited because she loves costume parties and she’d like to get to know Justine better. All Niki can report from the gym classes they’ve shared is Justine’s in great shape.
“She’s the best athlete in the class,” said Niki. “She’s in really great shape. I asked her about it once, and she told me she lifts weights.”
Terry let out a low whistle. “Whoa!” he said. “No wonder she’s so…” He let the thought trail off.
“She’s so what?” asked Niki. She had a dangerous look in her eyes.
“So-you know,” he said, stifling a grin. He looked closely at Niki to see if she was really upset or just teasing him.
“So-stacked?” Niki suggested.
“Well, yeah,” said Terry.
Niki burst out laughing. “You boys are all alike!”
And here I’m wondering if Niki’s bisexual. [Wing: The only possible way I could love her more.]
School reporter and gossip monger Lisa Blume (from “The New Girl”) interviews Terry about his invitation. [Wing: … this is a weird thing to interview someone about, Lisa. Even in a small school.] Lisa postulates Justine might be having this party to socialize with some people, which isn’t easy because of the horrible stories about the former owners of the Cameron Mansion. Rumor has it the last owners died in some accident decades ago, and their ghosts haunt the house. Justine and her uncle are supposedly distant relatives of the couple who originally owned the house. Justine, it seems, lives with her uncle because her parents may be dead, and the two have lived all over the country and even in parts of Europe.
Terry finds out during science class that school dweeb and practical joker Ricky Schorr (from “The Overnight”) somehow got invited too. While discussing Ricky’s science project involving frogs and (unfortunately dead) tadpoles, Ricky reports quarterback and all around party guy Murphy Carter was also invited. At the end of the day, Terry and Niki both feel like celebrities because of Justine’s invites. Niki notices Lisa officially recapping the entire list, lip reading that Justine’s invited only nine people.
That last name doesn’t thrill Terry, because Alex is not only Terry’s former best friend, he’s Niki’s ex. While Niki and Alex remained friends after the break-up, things turned sour between Terry and Alex, and now the two are incapable of not getting on each other’s nerves. And Terry is secretly worried Niki might go back to Alex. [Wing: Terry, don’t make this weird.]
Niki doesn’t understand the list because most of the people on it have nothing in common. Alex, David and Murphy are jocks, Angela’s fast and easy (so, you know, the school slut, or at least when Suki Thomas isn’t around), and Les is a reserved science whiz. Who should arrive but none other than Justine herself, who missed most of the day for a doctor’s appointment. [Wing: Convenient.] Justine is glib about the party invites, saying the nine people are ones she wants to get better acquainted with. Unfortunately, Murphy assumes the list is one half jock (David, Murphy, Alex, and by default Angela), and one half “wimp” (Terry, Ricky, Les, and Trisha). Murphy and David ask if the wimps are brave enough to make it through the entire night at Justine’s party. Justine turns on the charm and sweetly asks if she can count on David and Murphy to attend the party, boasting about her “rad” sound system and “excellent” CDs. At that point, school tough guys Marty Danforth and Bobby McCorey strut up and ask what happened to their invites. Justine dryly informs them no, she didn’t forget to invite them, the party’s a private affair. The two meatheads make some vague threats about Justine’s diss and lumber away on their motorcycles to plan retaliation. Once the air clears, Justine also points out the invitees aren’t allowed to bring dates or significant others (which doesn’t apply to Terry and Niki since they were both invited). Justine stresses she wants this to be an intimate affair, and she’s sure Murphy’s girlfriend can survive one single night without him, right Murphy? *winks* [Wing: Yeah, okay, this should be a warning sign.]
Alex arrives and confirms Justine can definitely count on him to make it to the party, much to Terry’s disgust as Alex attempts to play the charmer. As Terry and Niki begin to depart, Murphy repeats his question if Terry’s not too much of a wimp to make it through the all night party. Alex confirms he’s on the Jock Side while Ricky sides with Terry, although Ricky says he’s not a wimp. That one statement gets more laughs than any of Ricky’s jokes ever did. Niki tries to play peace maker before the party gets ruined two weeks ahead of time, but Murphy is dead set on beating the Wimps. As is Alex, whose bluster Terry believes to be another attempt at winning Niki back and beating Terry. As Terry and Alex get wrapped up in their machismo and discuss who could better protect Niki, Niki gets outraged at the guys patronizing her and calls out this “Jocks Vs Wimps” nonsense for the bullshit it is, abstaining from any team. [Wing: I love you so much, Niki. So. Damn. Much.] Unfortunately, Alex’s pride gets hurt and he declares the “contest” is now so much more than that. After Alex leaves, Ricky gets confirmation from Terry, a.k.a. Captain Wimp, that the Jocks don’t stand a chance. Niki, on the other hand, is worried by how seriously Alex is taking this and fears what his behavior will bring.
The next few days at Shadyside High is Prank Week between the Jocks and Wimps, Niki not included. [Wing: I’m struggling to buy that prank week would kick off over a fucking party. Surely there was a better way to set this up, Stine.] Ricky gets a phony snake in his locker, Les fills Alex and Murphy’s basketball shoes with shaving cream, Trisha gets prank called. Like all prank wars, they immediately turn nasty when Terry finds a severed chicken head on top his tennis racket inside his locket. [Wing: THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY.] The head comes with a note warning him to chicken out of the party while he still can. Terry remembers the fun he used to have with Alex back when they were friends, but despite how dumb the situation is, he still wants to win. When Terry sees Niki talking with Alex and some of the other Jocks he immediately gets jealous, even when Niki becomes visible annoyed at one of Alex’s comments. Niki is further displeased when Terry tries to grill her for information and explains to him, despite how everyone’s behaving, this isn’t an actual war and even if she’s dating Terry she’ll speak to whomever she pleases. [Wing: Because Niki is the best. We should all strive to be more like her.]
Moving past that, Niki expresses her worries about the party, commenting Justine’s really getting into the whole JvW affair. Niki warns Terry she heard from Angela the Jocks are planning a few things for the party, and she was talking to Alex out of fear for what he’s potentially going to do. [Wing: Yes, why not, ruin someone else’s party. Good times.]
“What did he say?”
“He wouldn’t tell me. He just said I should join his team,” Niki replied, even more upset now. “He said it might not be safe for me to go with the wimps!”
Terry took a deep breath and held it. “What did you tell him?” he asked for a moment. He hated himself for asking, but he had to know.
“Oh, I said he was right and I’d decided to go with the jocks – what do you think?”
The sarcasm n her voice was as heavy as cement, and Terry felt terrible. “Niki, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean-”
“What good does it do to be sorry?” she said. “I can’t believe the way you and Alex are acting. You’re both taking this whole thing so seriously! Why can’t you lighten up and just see it as a party?”
“Hey, it’s not me who’s taking it too seriously,” Terry said. “Alex is the one who’s playing tricks. He’s the one who’s threatening you, trying to cause trouble between us-”
“Will you listen to yourself?” said Niki, her dark eyes suddenly flashing in anger. “Why don’t you just admit that you’re as jealous of Alex as he is of you! That’s what’s really behind this stupid competition!”
BURN. [Wing: Unresolved sexual tension, y/y?]
Terry decides not to argue with Niki and figures it’s best to give her room to blow off some steam; of course, she’s completely right. Later on, Terry overhears Bobby and Marty threatening Justine to let them come to her party. Bobby grabs Justine’s wrist and Terry tells them to back off. The two promise to settle this later and leave. Justine intimately thanks Terry for his timely arrival, and says she’d like to someday show how much she REALLY appreciates it. Justine also apologizes for the JvW situation, mentioning she only wanted to bring a few special people together for an evening of fun. Terry gets flustered as Justine touches his arm, and hastily recalls Niki, his GIRLFRIEND, also thinks the JvW thing is silly and isn’t involved. Justine applauds Niki and expresses her admiration for how little Niki’s handicap has affected her. She says she’d really like to be girlfriends with Niki. [Wing: The admiration thing is weird, but I’d ship it otherwise.]
At the end of the day Terry and Niki meet up and apologize for the fight earlier, but their apology is soured when Niki finds a note in one of her textbooks.
YOU’LL WISH YOU WERE BLIND TOO
[Wing: Well goddamn.] Terry and Niki are, understandably, enraged and shocked speechless respectively. Terry immediately assumes Alex is the one who left the note, which shakes Niki out of her shock and claims it couldn’t be him. Niki reasons that for as much as Alex and Terry don’t get along, he’s never done anything to try and actively hurt her, so it’s not likely it was him. Niki begs Terry not to confront Alex about the note and asks him to keep it a secret, figuring it was just a poor attempt at a joke. Terry eventually concedes to respect Niki’s wishes, and the two leave the school for Pete’s Pizza. Who should they find but none other than Justine using one of the phone booths inside the restaurant (Because it was the 90s you see!). Niki is about to invite Justine to join her and Terry when Niki stops and sits back down. Terry notices Justine’s having a pretty heated conversation with whoever’s on the phone, and Niki reports she accidentally read Justine’s lips. Justine said “They’re all pay.”
We now cut back to the present as the kids convene on the Cameron Mansion for the party. It turns out Niki is, so far, the only person who actually put EFFORT into her costume, as she designed a red dress with a black cape like a carnival reveler from Venice, while Terry just slicked his hair back and went as some 50s greaser. [Wing: TERRY. A 50s greaser costume needs more than just that.]
(Art by Billy Tucci)
Just before they enter the house Murphy throws out another prank by scaring Niki and Terry with a fake spider. Once inside, however, it turns out Justine’s home is a Halloween paradise.
Justine’s living room was an eerie wonder, the ultimate fantasy of the ultimate Halloween dream – or nightmare. Artificial cobwebs hung in every corner, and cutouts of skeletons, witches, and bats dipped and swooped from the ceiling.
Along a narrow balcony above one side of the room were colored spotlights that seemed to sweep the room in time to the music, their flickering lights causing everything to move eerily. The only other light came from the huge open fireplace, where a big black kettle was boiling, sending greenish fumes bubbling up.
All the furniture was from another century, but the music booming from hidden speakers was now. The whole effect was like the world’s most modern haunted castle.
Holy shit I’m not a party person but I would’ve loved to be there. [Wing: I love how Stine creates these houses that are perfect for Halloween parties.]
Justine the hostess makes her grand appearance, dressed like a sexy blonde version of Elvira, dripping with evil allure. Niki and Justine compliment each other’s costumes, Justine recalling similar looking gowns the year she attended the Venice Carnivale. Justine explains she once lived in Venice with her uncle, Phillip. Uncle Phillip appears near the fireplace, dressed in a blue satin clown costume with a dramatic look of sadness made up on his face. Niki and the other two compliment Justine and Phillip on how amazing the party looks so far, and Phillip explains they want this to be a party no one will forget.
Niki’s weird feeling returns as she discusses with Terry why, exactly, Justine and her uncle went through so much trouble for such a small group. The decorations, the music, the gorgeous spread of food. Terry tells Niki to lighten up as they check out the eatables, while Niki expresses a desire to learn more about Justine.
[Wing: “It’s just / a little crush.”]
The refreshment table is a black coffin loaded with international delicacies, while a shelf above it has your typical party snacks of pizza and chips. Angela appears, dressed as a biker chick, and mentions Justine said she learned to make one of the dishes while living in the Greek islands. Terry spies Trisha and David. It seems David didn’t even bother to wear a costume and just put on his basketball uniform but with a skull instead of a ball, [Wing: That is still more effort than Terry put in!] while Trisha’s dressed as a retro style cheerleader in a pink uniform. Which makes me think of Trisha Cappelletti from “The Most Popular Girls in School.”
Ricky appears, dressed as a frog in a costume of dyed green full body underwear, swim fins, and a half mask. While Angela and Ricky exchange barbs/flirtations, Terry rejoins Niki who is marveling at the variety of the food and wondering how Justine could’ve possibly lived in so many different places despite being a high school senior. [Wing: Vampire.] Alex then shows up, dressed in a… silver bodysuit and mask, declaring he’s “The Silver Prince.” Everyone else, including the actual book, thinks he looks great, while I’m like, uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh… [Wing: Oh come on, Alex. At least go with the Silver Surfer.]
Terry thinks Alex is a show off, and I’m actually on his side for this part of their feud because Alex honestly thinks he looks better than Terry. At least Terry doesn’t like he’s trying to sell aluminum foil, Alex!
Terry and Niki start to slow dance when the kids hear a large explosion in the living room. As the room fills with smoke, Justine reveals it was a flashpot her uncle set up, one of many surprises she claims to have planned for the evening. She whips everyone up in a dancing frenzy by talking about how some people in the Middle Ages believed you were possessed by evil spirits if you dance. Justine puts on some really fast dance music and asks who can last the longest. [Wing: This has a very Red Shoes vibe. Note: I mean the fairy tale, not the Red Shoe Diaries (1992), which is a very different NSFW story, but also has an incredibly hot Billy Wirth, so.] The kids dance for what seems like forever when the lights suddenly go out. Justine insists this isn’t one of her plans for the party, and when the lights come back on there’s a body in front of the fireplace with a knife in its back. The body is dressed in a skeleton costume, and everyone freaks because they’re not sure if it’s a joke or not. Terry gets closer to inspect the wound, when the skeleton jumps up and reveals himself as Les. That’s a point for the wimp team, it seems. Les explains he didn’t mention it to the rest of his side because he only just planned it with Justine that morning. [Wing: Wait, so now Justine is in on this?] The jocks insist they’ve also got some great pranks planned, but the wimps aren’t too worried.
Alex goes over to Terry and Niki and compliments Niki on her dress, reminiscing on one she made for a dance during their freshman year. But, of course, Alex ruins the conversation and asks if Niki’s decided to join the jock team, and Niki storms off. Alex jokes that if Terry is supposed to be such a good debater why he couldn’t convince Niki to join the wimp team, and Terry responds “Niki makes her own choices.” The conversation gets heavier as Terry remembers he used to be friends with Alex, but Terry is unable to shake off his bad feelings about Alex who departs, disappointed. Terry watches as Alex dances with Niki, and knows better than to intercede because it would piss Niki off. But when Terry finally decides to intercede, Justine cuddles up next to him and Terry is overwhelmed by her… animal magnetism. [Wing: #needsmorewerewolves] Terry and Justine dance, and Justine says she and her uncle spent a LOT of time making sure this night was absolutely perfect for everyone, but right now she only wants to enjoy the dance… and Terry. They continue dancing and Justine only leaves to change the tape on the stereo. Free from Justine’s warmth, Terry notices Niki and is unable to read the expression on her face, not angry, but not exactly happy. But he IS able to tell she’s surprised, as is everyone else, when they can feel and hear a loud rumbling sound coming from the front door, which turns out to be coming from two motorcycles that burst into the living room! [Wing: Eddie, is that you?]
Everyone is shocked, but then they think this is one of Justine’s surprises. Unfortunately, it turns out to be Bobby and Marty, who’ve apparently been drinking and are dressed for dangah. Meanwhile, Trisha is all like
Oh wait wrong Trisha sorry.
Justine doesn’t bother to mince words and tells the two idiots to get the fuck out of her house. Bobby and Marty don’t give a shit, and start shoving Justine’s uncle and some of the guys around before they wreck some decorations and trash the buffet looking for more booze. They even ask Phillip where he keeps the wine coolers. Such heavy drinkers, my word. Justine tries to defuse the situation by saying she’ll invite them to a special party just for them, but they just want an excuse to wreck shit. Well Bobby and Marty stuff their faces, Terry and David inch towards their motorcycles, but the meathead brigade are quick and a fight breaks out. Bobby and Marty are swinging chains and throwing punches, but David demolishes Bobby’s face. He then gets a chance to hop on Marty’s bike and guns it out the front door before hoping off. Everyone hears the bike crash outside the house. Their manhood emasculated, Bobby and Marty get on Bobby’s bike [Wing: …] and promise this isn’t the end of their little party before driving off into the night to do some more dumbass shit like snorting crack off a gravestone.
As everyone calms down, and David begins to wipe Bobby’s blood off his face, Terry insists they call the police. Justine tries to veto that right away, declaring she doesn’t want the party to be ruined. As Justine puts it, Bobby and Marty only ruined some decorations, and no one was really hurt so why stop the party over that? And of course, as Murphy points out, the Jocks Vs Wimps battle hasn’t been settled. Everyone immediately forgets about the two intruders and get swept up in JVW Fever. After more food is brought in, the party continues and Justine puts on some 1950s music. While dancing, Angela accidentally activates a panel in the fireplace revealing an entire human skeleton. Justine mentions they’ve found one of several trapdoors in the mansion, another part of her surprises. [Wing: Justine, I kind of love you right now. You’re creepy. I like it.] Terry and Niki check in with each other, Ricky tries to prank the jocks, and then Justine announces it’s now time for the treasure hunt. Justine’s able to goad Murphy and some of the jocks by promising things could get… dangerous.
The Rules: There are items on the lists hidden all over the house, from the attic to the basement. Whichever team, the jocks or wimps, finds the most before midnight, gets a special prize.
Trisha manages to find the first item, hand bones from a mummy, hidden near the buffet. Justine claims she and her uncle picked them up from Egypt, apparently another stop on the grand tour that’s been her life. [Wing: … I don’t love you any longer, Justine. That sounds like grave robbing.] The kids manage to find more stuff in the next few minutes, including a bottle of blood and a tarantula preserved in a glass paperweight. [Wing: NOPE.]
Niki, however, isn’t interested in the treasure hunt, and is using her time to do some more investigating into Justine. Remembering the weird phone conversation and how determined Justine was to keep the party going, Niki begins to search Justine’s bedroom reasoning Justine never said any part of the house was off limits. Immediately Niki thinks the room seems odd for a high school student. Justine doesn’t have any posters on her walls, nothing to give any inkling of what she’s interested in or if she has any favorite movies or music. All her school books are piled on a radiator and she has no desk or any indicator that she does her homework. Inside Justine’s closet are the clothes she’s worn to school, but there aren’t any jeans, sweaters, sweatshirts, sweatpants, sneakers, stuff a teenager, even a high class teenager like Justine, would wear. Intrigued by the lack of clothing, Niki does some inspecting and finds a knob that opens a closet INSIDE the closet. This one is full of designer clothes but for someone much older, things like cocktail dresses and suits, gowns and furs, as well as high heels and designer shoes from famous, international brand names. Are these Justine’s? Or do they belong to Mrs. Cameron, or some other woman who lives with Justine? Niki finds silk underwear and negligees in a bureau in the hidden closet, [Wing: At which point she has to take a little break because she’s picturing Justine in them.] along with a framed photo of Justine with someone who looks old enough to be her father! *Gasp* Does Justine have a sugar daddy? Niki’s about to leave when she decides to check out Justine’s bathroom, and finds prescription bottles made out to someone named Enid Cameron. [Wing: Have we gone Sweet Valley? ENID.] Niki tries to figure out who Enid can be, but only comes to the conclusion Justine is leading some double life and goes to find Terry to confer with her findings.
Terry, on the other hand, has some findings of his own because while he was searching the attic for more treasure, he finds Alex, bloody and strung up in a closet. David appears and sees Alex’s body, so he and Terry search for the others. Uncle Phillip wants to call the police but once more Justine cries against calling the cops and asks to make absolutely Alex is dead. The group returns to the attic and, surprise, Alex’s body as well as the bloodstains on the floor, are gone. The Wimps think Terry was pranking his own side, but Terry and David insist Alex was dead. Niki decides they have to find Alex because he has to be somewhere in the house. They start searching the second floor and, of course, Alex is alive and well and hiding in Justine’s room. Turns out he set up this prank with David to give the Jocks a chance to complete the treasure hunt. Niki is incredibly hurt and angry that Alex would pull such a nasty trick, but Alex retorts she had plenty of chances to join the winning team.
Back in the living room, Niki discusses with Terry all the things she found in Justine’s bedroom, as well as what she didn’t find. Terry thinks she wouldn’t have much stuff in her room since she’s only been in Shadyside a few months and has lived all over the world, but Niki cuts that reasoning off saying her room doesn’t even have mementos or any proof of the places she claims she’s lived in, no pictures or posters or knickknacks, stuff like that. Terry only jokes that Justine is some CIA agent and Enid Cameron’s her alias. Niki does believe Justine’s got some double life when Justine appears at the balcony above the living room to announce the Jocks officially won the treasure hunt. Justine reveals the prize is some fancy French chocolates, but as she prepares to give the box to Alex Justine loses her balance and falls through the balcony railing!
Justine lands on her side on the couch below the balcony. As the kids check to see if Justine’s okay, Uncle Phillip demands to know which of them did this. Holding up the loose piece of the railing, Phillip reports the reason the balcony railing gave way was because someone sawed through it. Looking at the cut marks, the kids point out none of them would’ve had time to do that beforehand and without anyone else noticing. Unfortunately, it turns into another round of the Blame Game as the Jocks and Wimps accuse each other of the sabotage until finally it becomes another round of Alex and Terry arguing. Niki, naturally, becomes the adult in the room and tells them they’re so concerned with measuring their dicks they forget that Justine is injured. Justine turns her charm back on and tells her uncle she wants the party to keep going, but feels bad that stuff keeps interrupting the festivities when all she wanted was for everyone to have fun. Angela and the others chime in they ARE having fun and thank her for a memorable party so far. That perks Justine up, who decides to go upstairs to freshen up, before whispering something playful in Alex’s ear.
Niki feels nothing good will come from Alex and Justine, but while Terry thinks Alex is bad news, Niki is worried about Justine. Terry finally admits he thinks Niki’s jealous of Justine and the attention Alex is giving her. Niki is quietly hurt that Terry assumes so little of her feelings, and admits she does still care about Alex as a friend, but she doesn’t trust Justine because she’s obviously playing some kind of game with everyone and has got Terry, Alex, and the others under her thumb. Terry thinks this is all about Alex, but Niki responds she only wants to find out what Justine’s up to before someone else gets hurt. Niki leaves Terry’s side, and Terry decides to let her blow off some steam. He briefly watches “The Bride of Frankenstein” on the big screen TV in the room when suddenly the lights go out. Justine reveals this wasn’t in the schedule, but the blackout and lightning storm outside makes the setting perfect for her next game, “Truth.”
The Rules: It’s like Truth or Dare, only people have to reveal the worst thing they’ve ever done, and if the group doesn’t think you’re being truthful, you have to perform a penalty.
Ricky is asked to go first, but despite his partying mood he immediately becomes uncomfortable as he starts to recall events from “The Overnight” (when the Outdoors Club went on an unofficial overnight on Fear Island and helped Della O’Connor cover up how she killed a guy in self defense) but can’t fully reveal what happened since no one else from that incident is present. The group isn’t pleased and Ricky has to stand on one leg when Angela goes next and reveals the worst thing she did was steal her sister’s boyfriend, which she regretted because he was a putz. Because, you know, she’s the slut character so of course that’s the worst thing she did. [Wing: Also she regrets it not because she was a shit to her sister but because the guy was crap.] Terry decides the game is stupid and cruel and tries to find Niki, but realizes she’s not in the living room. Terry goes to look for Niki as Murphy and Alex make cracks about him being unable to keep tabs on his girl. [Wing: GROSS.] Terry is worried, thinking Niki wouldn’t try to leave by herself in such bad weather and starts to search the house for her. In the attic, Terry decides to be thorough and checks out the same closet he found Alex’s “body” in. Well, Niki’s not in the attic closet, but Les is. And he’s dead. But DEAD dead. There’s a knife in his chest, the blood’s not fake, and he doesn’t have a pulse. Terry leaves the attic and finds David coming out of the bathroom. David at first thinks this is payback for earlier, but Terry drags him upstairs to show him Les’ body. As you’d expect, Les’ body is gone, but this time Terry finds proof to substantiate his claims when he realizes there’s a trail of blood leading to one of the attic windows. Outside, Terry and David find Les’ body had been dumped onto the second story roof.
David and Terry bring Les back inside the house and cover his body with a sheet. They immediately decide to call the police first, and look for Uncle Phillip to get him to make the call. Back in the living room the game of Truth is still going and now Alex is standing on his head as a penalty. [Wing: So basically this group believes in balancing games as punishment. Weak.] No one’s seen Phillip, Niki, or Les, and Terry internally panics fearing something’s happened to her as well. Terry and David use the phone in the kitchen but there’s no reception. Outside, they see the phone line’s been cut and halfheartedly believe Bobby and Marty cut it. The boys head back inside through the front door when they notice something near the wrecked motorcycle from earlier. Crumpled in the mud, they find the jacket from Phillip’s clown costume, only one sleeve is torn and coated in blood.
The rest of the party thinks this is a joke but Terry and David immediately convince them otherwise. Justine’s now scared for her uncle’s well being. Now everyone’s freaking about the murderer who could be outside or inside the house. Angela tries to run out of the house and ends up tripping on the makeshift ramp Bobby and Marty set up outside the front door. Her ankle sprained, Angela begs Murphy to bring her home, when Justine pleads with the group not to abandon her when her uncle could be dead. Realizing someone needs to get help even though Bobby and Marty are still out there, and that someone needs to find Niki and Phillip, David bravely (and stupidly) offers to leave and get help. Terry, meanwhile, swallows his pride long enough to accept Alex’s offer to look for Niki.
David makes his way through the cemetery woods but is unable to stop thinking about Les’ corpse. David finally arrives at the spot where everyone parked their cars, but his hope for getting to a house is dashed when he sees all the tires have been slashed. Bobby and Marty pop up and ask why David’s so eager to leave when the party’s just starting. David tries to evade them by hiding among the gravestones, but the rain’s made the ground muddy and while trying to dodge the two dunces, David slips and hits his head on a tombstone. Bobby and Marty panic that David might be dead, and he hears them discussing what to do with his body when things go black…
Terry and Alex are about to look for Niki when Justine offers to go in Alex’s place, reasoning she knows the house better than he does, and because he can protect the others better than she can. Justine suggests she looks upstairs while Terry searches the lower level. Splitting up, Terry searches the basement for the first time, and almost immediately finds Niki coming out of a daze. Spotting a huge purple bruise on her forehead, she has no clue how she got in the basement. She remembers leaving after “That silly argument” and went to look through Justine’s room for more info. In the closet she found a shoe box, which she thought was odd because all of shoes in the closet weren’t in boxes. Sure enough, the box was filled with photos and newspaper clippings. One in particular caught Niki’s attention and she put it in her dress pocket.
LOCAL COUPLE KILLED IN FIERY CRASH
Edmund D. Cameron, 26, and his wife, Cissy, 20, were killed late last night when their car was hit head-on by a car driven by James B. Whittle, 16.
The Camerons’ car, a late-model Ford, was headed south on Old Mill Road when it was hit by Whittle’s car, a Chevrolet station wagon. According to witnesses at the scene, Whittle had been drag racing with another car, a Corvette driven by John McCormick, age 16. The Cameron car spun out of control and into a ditch, where it burst into flames.
“I didn’t see anything ’til it was too late,” Whittle said. “They just showed up in the fog. I feel terrible about it.”
Whittle’s car sustained major damage, while the Corvette was untouched. Neither Whittle nor McCormick, nor any of their passengers, was seriously inured. Those riding with Whittle included Evelyne Sayles, 15, Joanna Trumble, 15, Arlene Coren, 16, and Robert Carter, 14. The passengers in the Corvette were Jim Ryan, 18, Nancy Arlen, 16, and Ed Martiner, 15, all of Shadyside.
The Cameron couple are survived by a daughter, Enid, age 1.
No charges were filed pending police investigation.
[Wing: I have my doubts an article would list all the underage names, even back then.]
Niki realizes this was Justine’s reason for getting everyone together, or rather, that it drove her crazy if I’m being honest. [Wing: Yes, yes, that is pure Stine.] Terry thinks Niki’s head injury is effecting her perception when she has to spell it out for him that Enid Cameron is the name she found on those prescriptions, which means Justine IS Enid, and Edmund and Cissy were her parents. As further proof, Niki pulls out a driver’s license she found with the name “Enid J. Cameron.” To drive the point home, Niki reminds Terry of the teens listed in the article. McCormick, Whittle, Martiner, Carter, RYAN. Niki says her mother’s maiden name is Coren, so that means everyone at the party is most likely the children of the teenagers responsible for that car crash. The worst part is when Niki makes Terry examine the article’s date, from 28 years ago, which means Justine is nearly 30 years old and has been pretending she’s a high school student. Which also means all her flirting is now even creepier and grosser than it was before. [Wing: Also kind of impressive that she’s passing as a high school student.] Justine said she spent a lot of time planning this party, years most likely, and now it’s clear she did so in order to kill everyone. Terry reveals she’s already started with Les, and now Phillip is missing and David’s been gone for too long. When Terry admits he’s still having trouble accepting this, Niki points out that’s been her plan the whole time, by staging accidents and manipulating the Jocks Vs Wimps thing to make herself look sweet and innocent.
The couple rush back upstairs to warn the kids, but the minute they rejoin the group Justine bursts into laughter and thanks them for helping with her “Prank”. Justine claims the whole thing involving Les and David was just one big prank, and snatches away the newspaper article and license from Niki before she can show it to everyone else. Justine plays off Terry and Niki’s accusations by telling them they can stop acting, and Les is in the dining room and he’s fine. When asked where her uncle is, Justine “reminds” everyone he went to get more soda. Everyone thinks this was another part of the Jocks Vs Wimps and the sides, except for Terry and Niki, argue over who won, when Justine herds them into the dining room for the last surprise of the party. Les is seated at the head of a long table, wearing sunglasses, and the Wimp team congratulates him on winning the game but asks why he didn’t let them in on it beforehand. Les just slumps forward, the glasses fall off and everyone realizes he deeeeeeeead.
Justine dashes from the room and locks the door behind her. The kids freak out realizing they’re trapped when Justine appears outside the window, patting herself on the back for such a great trick. She tells everyone to find their places at the table, because if they don’t, she’ll get a little angry, and nobody wants that do they? At their seats are wrapped boxes, each containing a photo of Justine’s parents. Justine begins to regale the kids with the Tale of Edmund and Cissy, a couple who had their whole lives ahead of them and a beautiful daughter they loved very much. And then their lives were cut short by some stupid teenagers who decided to spend Halloween drag racing, crashed into Edmund and Cissy’s car, and doomed the couple to a slow, agonizing, fiery death. Justine asks them to imagine that unspeakable torment, the searing heat melting their flesh and charring their bones to an unidentifiable mess. Miraculously, none of the teenagers were seriously hurt, nor were they ever punished.
Justine slowly lists the names of the teenagers responsible for the crash, and everyone in the room gasps after hearing the name of their mother or father. Justine says she killed Les first because his father drove the car that hit her parents, but everybody gets to die together the way their parents should’ve died all those years ago. Angela cries this isn’t fair to punish them for something their parents did, but Justine says her parents burning death wasn’t fair to them OR her so bitch to someone who cares. Niki says they have to keep Justine talking to hold off whatever she’s going to do. They try to play off Justine’s pride by asking how she did everything, including bringing Niki to the basement. Justine reveals she did that by using the dumbwaiter system the house is outfitted with. Justine finally tells everyone to shut up and check out the speakers built in the corners of the ceiling. Justine sweetly explains she wanted to reproduce the car wreck that killed her parents, but while she couldn’t arrange an actual car crash, she could simulate one. Justine switches on a tape, and suddenly the room is filled with the sounds of car crashes, of screeching metal and broken glass, of explosions and people screaming in grisly pain and agony. What’s worse is when Justine reveals there’s a pile of oily rags on one side of the other door, and she’s now going to light them on fire.
As smoke and heat begin to pour into the dining room, everyone in the room loses their shit. Well, everyone except Niki. While everyone else is screaming, crying, panicking, trying to claw their way out through the windows, Niki’s the only one not bothered by the car crash tape BECAUSE SHE CAN’T HEAR IT. Justine obviously must’ve figured even if the tape wouldn’t unhinge Niki like it did the others, the smoke would do her in, but Niki keeps her wits long enough to search through the smoke and find the dumbwaiter system feeds through the dining room. Niki snaps Terry out of his fear-induced stupor long enough to get him to help her operate the dumbwaiter so she can get into the basement. Niki and Terry are able to get Alex to stop pounding on the window bars to help pull the dumbwaiter chord to bring Niki downstairs. The chamber briefly gets stuck and Niki fears she’ll either suffocate from the smoke or be burned alive, but then the dumbwaiter drops several inches and she climbs into the basement.
Niki is briefly amazed Terry was able to find her so quickly amid all the clutter and garbage in the basement, and is briefly disheartened when she sees the only window to the outside is boarded up. But Niki doesn’t give up, and decides to start prying the boards out with her bare hands if she has to! Niki is able to get one board loose when someone grabs her ankle, and she fears Justine’s found and gonna kill her. Instead, the hand belongs to Phillip, tied up on the floor. Niki sets him loose and Phillip is able to use a crowbar to get the rest of the boards off. Once outside, Phillip pries off the grating outside the dining room window and they manage to free Terry and the rest of the kids. Racing to the front of the house, the kids and Phillip watch as the fire starts to claim the house. Terry starts instinctively kissing Niki and calls her “Funny Face” over and over again, glad she’s safe, when, conveniently, David appears from the woods. Bobby and Marty dumped him in a shed near the cemetery and when he woke up from his injury, made his way to a house and was able to call the cops. Phillip, meanwhile, begs the kids for forgiveness, saying he never planned for any of them to get hurt. Alex and the others turn on Phillip, demanding to know what he DID have planned, and Phillip reveals how this really started.
Phillip raised Justine after her parents died, but unfortunately, he was too consumed with the death of his dear older brother and his bitterness over Edmund and Cissy’s deaths rubbed off on Justine. Earlier this year, Phillip was diagnosed with a fatal illness, and he decided to spend his last few months in Edmund’s home, but said he was a distant cousin so he wouldn’t have to deal unwanted attention. Justine found out and dropped everything, her boyfriend, her career, and convinced Phillip he wouldn’t forgive himself if he died without avenging Edmund and Cissy’s deaths. So they started planning for the party, tracking down the children of the kids from the crash while Justine enrolled in the school and pretended to be a teenager to get close to them. Phillip says he only wanted to terrify the kids, not kill them. Niki, the only one showing any sympathy to Phillip, realizes Justine’s the one who took it too far. Phillip admits when he found Les’ body, he tried to hide it first and then confronted Justine that the party must stop, so she attacked him and stashed him in the basement. Alex is incredulous that Justine did this all by herself, but Phillip says she’s a lot stronger than anyone gives her credit for, and she’s probably spent years building her strength just for this purpose.
Justine shows up, outraged at her uncle’s betrayal, while Phillip gets on his knees and tries to beg Justine to forgive him for failing her as a guardian and parent. Justine exclaims she knew she couldn’t rely on him, she had to do everything by herself because she’s always been stronger than everyone. But, realizing her supposedly perfect plan has literally gone up in flames, Justine rushes towards the kids… then runs past them and into the threshold of the burning house. Alex and Terry scramble to stop Justine from killing herself, but as Terry grabs Justine she throws herself into the fire and takes Terry with her. Alex is able to pull both of them out of the house, and holds onto Justine so Terry can help him put out the flames on her dress. Alex lets go of Justine as she breaks down into heavy, pathetic sobbing realizing how completely she’s lost.
Terry and Alex have now completely lost their animosity, Alex regaining Terry’s trust from saving his life, while the police and ambulances FINALLY show up. The kids watch as Justine is strapped to a gurney, and Phillip says he’s going to make sure she gets the help he should’ve given her ages ago. In the sky, everyone can see a red sun rising behind the black smoke of the ruined mansion. Ricky declares they made it through the end of Halloween, but Niki sadly responds “It’s always Halloween on Fear Street.”
WOW. Okay, so, that was a trip, wasn’t it? We start out with a prank war and almost end with the villain committing suicide by immolation. [Wing: It truly was wild and wonderful.]
This is one of the books that became more twisted as I got older, because I began to realize the depth of Justine’s depravity since, you know, she’s an adult woman trying to manipulate and seduce teenage boys.
Again there are the problems with Stine’s take on mental illness, that Justine was “Driven mad” by her desire for revenge, but she certainly was crafty and sly.
I meant it when I said Niki is a great protagonist. I certainly like her better than Terry and she was right on about Justine’s true motives. They never brought up the note again, but my guess is Justine is the one who left it in an attempt to further, ahem, fuel the flames of the Jocks Vs Wimps War, so not mentioning it really was smart on Niki’s end because it would’ve made things easier for Justine to manipulate.
Still one of the best Fear Street books, even if it’s dated. Let’s face it, if they had cell phones the conflict would’ve ended much sooner. [Wing: Well, maybe not. Justine is smart enough she would have had one of those signal blocker things, which would have been awesome. Or she could have collected all their cell phones as a part of a party game.]