Where evil twins and friends come together to lovingly snark Point Horror and other teen genre fiction
 

Recap #105: Shivers #34: Weirdo Waldo’s Wax Museum, A.K.A. “Where’s Weirdo Waldo?”

Title: Shivers #34 – Weirdo Waldo’s Wax Museum

Author: M.D. Spenser

Cover Artist: ?????

Tagline: N/A

Summary: WAX NEVER FORGETS

And neither does Billy or his sister Crissy. Both of the kids will always remember that freaky family vacation. The one that almost scared them all to death. What should have been a terrific tour of Washington, D.C. turned into a terror-filled, run for your life race against wicked wax. All because Billy’s dad is, how do you say it – cheap! He never met a bargain he didn’t like until this one. Why go all the way to the capital, when you can save money and wander through a wacky world of wax. One low price gets the whole family in – only luck gets them out!!!

MY BRAIN IS MELTING!!!

Initial Thoughts

Shivers is another YA horror series I stumbled upon in my quest to complete my collection of Graveyard School, Goosebumps, and Fear Street books. I don’t remember how exactly I learned of it, most likely while I was perusing through a secondhand bookstore.

I only own a few copies of the series, most of them from the latter half. This one was a Christmas gift I received in 2008, and this book completely took me by surprise. It ventured into areas I would never expect a Goosebumps knock off to go into, but enough to qualify the Shivers series as a whole the right to exist as a “YA horror series” and not a “Goosebumps knock off.”

There’s a reason I wanted this post to go up on Veterans Day. I’d guess Memorial Day would’ve been more appropriate, but considering it’s been one year since that rapist homophobic piece of shit was put into power, coupled with the increase in the “Alt Right,” you’ll see why I wanted to recap this book.

You think this is a stereotypical “Wax museum full of dead people” story, like the myriad of “House of Wax” remakes and rip-offs and, it kind of is. But we don’t have scenes like Joan of Arc or one of Henry VIII’s wives getting executed. No, this book ventures into some very dark territory. I’m talking racism, sex jokes, a recreation of a fucking NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMP. They should make kids read this book in school.

The really strange thing though, is that the wax museum is NOT run by Weirdo Waldo, but instead is run by Mad Mac. Go fig.

[Wing: Well this is going to be an interesting ride. Also, that cover is creepy as shit.]

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Recap #104: Mermaid Saga Parts 5-6: Mermaid’s Forest by Rumiko Takahashi

Title: Mermaid Saga Chapter 5 & 6 – Mermaid’s Forest

Author/Artist: Rumiko Takahashi

Summary: N/A

Initial Thoughts: I decided to skip chapters 3 and 4 for now because that story isn’t really a horror tale, but more of an action/adventure one that takes place in Yuta’s past. I prefer the modern day stories because the past tales remind me too much of “Inuyasha” so they don’t really feel like “Mermaid Saga” to me.

I mentioned in the first post “Mermaid’s Forest” is one of the two most well known stories from the series. It was the first to receive an animated adaption as an OVA in the 1980s, and was later included in the anime series from the 2000s. In fact this story’s so well known Mermaid Saga is sometimes referred to as “Mermaid’s Forest.”

Image result for mermaid's forest ova

This takes place immediately after Yuta and Mana leave Cape Nosuri, and features the most visually striking character in the franchise, Towa Kannagi.

I’m gonna include scans and screencaps from the manga, the OVA, and the anime throughout this.

[Wing: I am in love with this story already, and looking forward to this recap.]

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Recap #95: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Title: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Tagline: If Nancy doesn’t wake up screaming, she won’t wake up at all.

Summary: Several people are hunted by a cruel serial killer who kills his victims in their dreams. While the survivors are trying to find the reason for being chosen, the murderer won’t lose any chance to kill them as soon as they fall asleep. (from imdb.com)

Grade: A+

Notes: Be warned: I love this movie. I have watched it so often I know it by heart, I own the novelisations, I bought the VHS tapes separately, then in a box set. Then I bought the DVD set of movies 1-4; then the 1-5 box set; then the 1-6 box set; I spent a fortune hunting down Wes Craven’s New Nightmare on DVD (pre-Amazon era). Then I repeated this ridiculous process on Blu-Ray. I own, and frequently re-watch, Never Sleep Again, but I can’t get through I Am Nancy, which seems to just be Heather Langenkamp wandering around talking to Freddy fans. I have retained a lot of trivia, fan theories, alternate timelines (from the books), and my recaps will be filled to the hilt with this nonsense.

The only place where I draw the line is reading the original stories based on Freddy (official book releases). I’ll take (and love) Seven Sweetest Dreams (a compilation of short stories), but the thick, heavy books lose me every time. They’re just far too away from cannon – much like the TV series, which I have watched once from beginning to end, and several episodes more than once, but do not love, and cannot remember much about.

I haven’t read much of the comics, partly because they’re so expensive (to me) for a media type that doesn’t hold my interest. Partly because they’re still quite hard to come by. And if I’m going to get into a bidding war on eBay over something from the 80s, it’s going to be Gen 1 My Little Ponies.

[Wing: Surprise! Dove has returned to help us celebrate this year’s Halloween Extravaganza, and she brings a horror movie, all her nerdy trivia, and a hell of a lot of fun. I hope you all are as excited as I am about having her back for a very special recap.]

(Jude: Ah, so you’re the infamous Dove I’ve heard so much about. Hi! I’m Jude. And you better fasten your seatbelt because this ain’t gonna be no cakewalk! Among the famed slasher movie franchises, the Elm Street one became my go-to favorite. I watched the first (and some of the fourth) when I was 9. After spending four years horrified beyond belief by these movies I fell in love with them, but I still can’t really look at any pictures of Freddy Krueger where he’s looking RIGHT at you. I actually HAVE read the comics, but if you were to ask, I by far prefer the ones published by Innovation. The Avatar Comics were awful, and so were the Wildstorm ones. I was especially disappointed by the Freddy Vs Jason Vs Ash comics, if only because of what they did to Alice Johnson and Maggie Burroughs. However, you CAN read the Marvel and Innovation comics on nightmareonelmstreetfilms.com. I look forward to ruining-I mean, enhancing your post with my comments. Yes, enhance. I covered that up pretty good. BTW, one of the first entries I worked on for “If It Were Stine” was this movie.)

[Wing: Is it this one?]

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Recap #91: Prom Date by Diane Hoh

Cover of Prom Date by Diane Hoh, white teen girl dancing with a white guy, back to the reader, entire cover done in reds and blacksTitle: Prom Date by Diane Hoh

Summary:  It’s the biggest event of the year at Toomey High-Prom Night. But Margaret and her friends wont be going. After all you need a date to go to a Prom…

All they can do is envy the lucky girls who will be there. Popular girls like Stephanie and Kiki always get dates…

Then Stephanie is found murdered. And Kiki has a nasty accident. Is someone trying to kill off the competition?

Margaret is determined to find out the truth-even if it kills her…

Tagline: She’d kill for a date

Initial Thoughts

Ah Prom Night, I remember absolutely LOVING this book as a child for so, so many reasons-first of all Prom. I never even had a school disco so the whole concept of Prom was just delightful to me. I did have a ‘Leavers Do’ at the end of 6th Form, we invited our parents and had a sit down meal before having a party then heading to the school’s members only pub (In my school once you got into 6th Form you automatically became a member to a private pub opposite the school which obviously led to so much underage drinking….my school was weird) But that was the only type of celebration we had except for birthday parties. Proms were a foreign concept to me but they sounded so glamourous, grown up and such a huge part of high school, like in a lot of American YA books I read and ‘teenage’ films I watched everything centred around Prom, popularity and, of course, electing Prom Queen and King. Plus ‘Carrie’, PLUS Crowns. I love crowns, I have quite a few, whenever I have a bad day I pop one on and have a cup of tea. I feel better in no time. Growing up in a city I think I romanticised ‘small town America’ thanks to Point Horror books so the fact that this book was, based on my memory, in a small seaside town was another positive. These days I can’t function if I’m not in a city. Also I remembered this book starting with an actual murder so the stakes felt a lot higher from the get go. When I read this book as a kid I loved Margaret, her mum, her friends and I adored Mitch the hot, popular yet sensitive jock (I was 11) So I wonder how it holds up all these years later? Tuesday Out!

[Wing: Welcome back, Tuesday! I loved your recap of Freeze Tag, and I am so excited about this one. I’ve never read the book before, but I did attend a prom or two in my day. (Or six. Three in high school, two during undergrad, and one during grad school.) Also, I grew up in small town America (though not a small seaside town — I wish!), so let’s see how this goes.]

Content: Non-explicit but unexpected (to me, at least) animal death.

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September Patreon Bonus Recap: Moonstruck by Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle

The Patreon Bonus Recap this month is Moonstruck issue 1 by Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle. Here’s the teaser, and you can read the rest if you become a Patron at the $5 tier or higher.

https://www.patreon.com/devilselbow

QUEER FAT WEREWOLF GIRLS. It’s like this was written for me.

Title: Moonstruck by Grace Ellis (writer) and Shae Beagle (artist)
Summary: A NEW ONGOING SERIES from Lumberjanes creator GRACE ELLIS and talented newcomer SHAE BEAGLE that tells a story of monsters, romance, and magical hijinks!

Fantasy creatures are living typical, unremarkable lives alongside humans, and barista Julie strives to be the most unremarkable of all. Normal job, normal almost-girlfriend, normal…werewolf transformations that happen when she gets upset? Yikes!

Tagline: N/A

Initial Thoughts

Jude bought me the first issue because he thought I would love this. Based on that blurb, he is correct! Queer fat werewolf protagonist? YES PLEASE.

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Recap #89: Mermaid Saga Parts 1-2: A Mermaid Never Smiles by Rumiko Takahashi

Title: Mermaid Saga Chapter 1 & 2 – A Mermaid Never Smiles

Author/Artist: Rumiko Takahashi

Summary: N/A

Initial Thoughts: Some of you might know who Rumiko Takahashi is, or if you don’t, you might at least know of her works. She’s a longtime mangaka and creator of “Inuyasha,” “Ranma 1/2,” and “Urusei Yatsura.” She’s been writing and illustrating comics since at least the 1970s, and she’s still going. Nearly every one of her series have gotten at least one animated adaption, and most of them run for DECADES.

But today I’m here to talk about one of her more obscure titles and possibly the one oddball in her resume of titles. “Mermaid Saga” is Takahashi’s only foray into a straightforward horror series, and is relatively light on humor and love triangles unlike her other books. Which is good because it means her male protagonist isn’t an insufferable lech or an idiot.

Rest assured, the mermaids here are NOT the kind of mermaids you’re familiar with. We’re not talking about Ariel, or Darryl Hannah in “Splash,” or even the Hans Christian Andersen Little Mermaid. Mermaids in this story are monsters. Sometimes they walk on two legs, sometimes they don’t. But they are not cute, and they’re not friendly. The only way you can kill them is by chopping off their head.

Legend says the mermaid’s flesh can grant a person immortality if eaten. And it can… if you’re lucky. Eating the mermaid’s flesh is like Russian roulette, and if you don’t get immortality, you’ll be lucky if it kills you. The majority of people who eat the flesh, well… it’s not pretty.

Mermaid Saga didn’t get an animated series straight away. There were two OVAs (Original Video Animation, the equivalent of direct to video movies), one in the 80s and the 90s, and then an animated series in the 2000s. The one animated adaption I’ve watched in its entirety was the “Mermaid’s Scar” OVA from the 1990s, which is my favorite by far due to the artwork and the beautiful music. By admittedly, the opening theme to the anime series, “Like An Angel,” is breathtaking.

It’s one of Takahashi’s shorter series, with all the chapters collected in 4 volumes. For the sake of these recaps I’m going by each separate arc, but will include the cover art of the Viz manga collections that included the arcs.

[Wing: Okay, this sounds amazing, and I’m so excited. #killermermaidsforever]

And I’m including an MP3 of the opening theme, “Like An Angel” by Chiaki Ishikawa.

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Recap #88: The Scarecrow by R. T. Cusick

cover of The Scarecrow by R T Cusick, has a scarecrown set against a cloudy full moonTitle: Scarecrow by R. T. Cusick

Summary: Beware the kindness of strangers

After crashing her car, Pamela Westbrook awakens to find that she has been rescued and cared for by the Whittakers, a family living on a remote farm in the Ozark hills. Still reeling from her accident and haunted by a tragic loss, Pamela takes comfort in the farm’s quaint setting and the family’s peaceful ways.

But soon, Pamela becomes wary of her surroundings. Micah, the strange, silent son, is treated cruelly and seems desperate to convey a message to Pamela. Girlie, the youngest child, possesses frightening, unnatural powers. When it’s time for the ritual burning of the scarecrows, Pamela comes face to face with a terrifying evil. She is ready to get away from the family’s dark rituals – but the Whittakers don’t want her to leave.

Tagline: N/A

Initial Thoughts

I’ve never read this one before, but after revisiting Silent Stalker for the recent podcast episode, I am not feeling very generous to Cusick or excited to read more of her writing. Which is a shame, because this, too, sounds like a fantastic setting with an interesting, creepy story. I love the Ozarks, I love kids with unnatural powers, and I love the idea of a ritual burning of the scarecrows.

Unfortunately, this is Cusick, so I am not holding my breath.

[Note from the future: I SHOULD HAVE BRACED MYSELF BETTER.]

Content Note: Rape discussion inside.

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Recap #82: Song of the Vampire by Carmen Adams

cover of Song of the Vampire by Carmen Adams, dramatic image of white dude vampire holding a fainting white woman

[Wing: OH NO THAT COVER. We’ve come a long way from the fun of The Band.]

The Author

I stand corrected with now knowing that Adams also wrote THE CLAW, a Point Horror addition that the lovely ladies at The Devil’s Elbow already recapped. I’d never heard of it, but should I stumble across it in my used bookstore wanderings I’ll have to grab it.

Remember how I said Adams wrote level-headed and realistic characters that weren’t caricatures of humans? Well, that’s still true, but where Adams’s development was a little better in THE BAND, in SONG OF THE VAMPIRE we got some major plot-serving going on served with a tall Dumbass Daiquiri, complete with a tiny umbrella. She got significantly better with descriptions in this book, throwing down on page two what Megan and Iris look like, however, she does bleed a little more into making Megan look a little more than average in this book.

I had a harder time separating my Lost Boys love from this book, and maybe it’s just me, but I ultimately felt her descriptions were a little lacking here. Where she really amped up the setting of Blue Mesa and ambiance as their own characters in THE BAND, here, while she didn’t short on description, it definitely didn’t feel as involved. There was a moment, and I’m pretty sure it was just the one, where her grasp of feeling and setting really came back to life. But I found myself really looking for that mood-setting tone that Adams has throughout the book and didn’t find it.

Still, she watched The Lost Boys and was like I WANT TO WRITE THAT. And she did. And despite the flaws I still love her for it.

Fair warning: this recap is going to be gif-heavy to supplement the heinous eye roll moments and to throw down the epic Lost Boys love that is this story.

[Wing: This is legitimately the most Lost Boys story I’ve ever read, and I own the damn movie novelisation. It is fucking amazing. And sometimes terrible, because COME THE FUCK ON, MEGAN, YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS.]

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Recap #77: The Reading Buddy by Bryce Gibson

cover of The Reading Buddy by Bryce Gibson, has a figure in a black coat with its hood up carrying an ax, with the title and author information printed over itTitle: The Reading Buddy by Bryce Gibson

Summary: A SET OF keys jangled in my hand. The keys were my lifeline. One of them would be what saved the day. I held onto them as tightly as I could.

I was being followed. The man running behind me was my stepdad, Morris Heyward. He was holding an axe.

AFTER THE DEATHS of his best friend and stepdad, seventeen-year-old Blake Thomas can’t escape the memories of that night…the screams…the blood…the axe.

Now, Blake suffers from social anxiety and making friends at his new home seems impossible. With his therapist’s suggestion, Blake joins a social media site called The Reading Buddy. It is supposed to be a way for him to slowly step back into social relationships, and it doesn’t take long for him to become online friends with someone known as Charley17.

Recovery seems to be within reach, but once the school year starts, three local teens quickly pull Blake into their own circle, and soon it appears that Charley17 doesn’t want to share his new friend with anybody else.

The Reading Buddy is a Southern-set throwback to the teen horror and thriller novels from the 1990s and will keep you guessing until the very end!

[Wing: Oh dear. We’re kicking this off with yet another summary that is not so much with the accuracy, and is trying too hard to be Point Horror-esque for a book that really isn’t.]

Tagline: None

Initial Thoughts

Disclosure: A copy of the book was provided by the author in exchange for an unbiased review. Or a lovingly snarky recap that may not be quite so loving, depending on how the story goes. Congratulations on book release day, Gibson!

This is the first time an author has reached out to us to have their book recapped, and I am both charmed and delighted by the opportunity and a little surprised. The author and publisher call it a book that will appeal to readers of retro teen horror from the 90s, which, you know, is pretty much our jam around here. I love a good southern horror, and I have high hopes for this one. I do worry that the marketing push to compare it to Point Horror and similar books is going to be a detriment; I’m going in with some solid expectations because I obviously know very well what teen horror and thrillers were like in the 90s. It’s kind of a specialty of mine. The summary and the marketing plan have driven home that this book will be that, and if it’s not, well … we’ll see.

Spoiler-Free Review

Because this is a new book, and you may want to read it without the spoilers of the recap, I’m going to start with a brief, spoiler-free review.

In short, I loved the first ¾ of the book, but found the ending badly paced, with whiplash characterisation. The book itself is very slowly paced, which is something I actually love, particularly in horror stories where the writing establishes the characters very well. That doesn’t not really happen here, but I still enjoyed the slow pace for a long time, until it finally because too slow, with too little happening. Spent a great deal of time adoring the main character and at least one of the side characters. Mostly handles mental health very well, until it veers sharply off track.

I think it’s a fun, entertaining read, but it makes a lot of style choices that I think you’ll either love or loathe, with very little in between. Like I said, it is slow, and at times almost seems to be leaning heavily into southern Gothic, but it never quite makes it. In the end, I think that’s my biggest problem with the book (except for the moment where Wing Goes Boom finally over mental illness); it starts to be a lot of things, and starts to have a lot of things, like strong characters and great relationships, but it never quite gets there. There’s a lot of build up for very little payoff (and I don’t mean in the plot, necessarily, but more in the writing style itself); it feels very surface level at times, when it was leading into a deep, profound setting and character-driven story.

I wanted more from it, and though I really did enjoy reading it, I’m also left unsatisfied and wanting more depth, more description, more characterization, more transitions — just more.

Per the marketing campaign from the publisher, it is being targeted to readers of retro teen horror — so, you know, us — and I can see why. It doesn’t quite feel the same as Point Horror or Fear Street or Nightmare Hall or Christopher Pike, etc. In some ways, it’s better. In some ways, though, it feels even more surface-level than they do. It certainly did invoke a ton of nostalgia in me, but not a lot related to the 80s and 90s teen horror. Mostly, small towns and high school football and marching band and werewolves. (You’ll see.)

I liked it. I’m glad I read it. I’ll reread it. But I am left not quite satisfied, and since the early part of the book was great enough it set my expectations high, that is even more frustrating than if it had been bad from the beginning.

Let’s do this.

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Recap #75: The Band by Carmen Adams

four teens on a black cover; three guys and one girl, all white, wearing leather and pouty expressions, very 80s and 90s vampire style

[Wing: RECAP #75! Thank you all for sticking around for this ridiculous, amazing ride.]

The Author

As far as I can tell Carmen Adams has only written two books, THE BAND and SONG OF THE VAMPIRE. [Wing: Well, she also wrote The Claw, which I recapped in 2016, and despite some lazy writing and the main character carrying the idiot ball, it was a delightful romp, so I have high expectations for her other books. Also, I realize this is where Paul recommended The Band and Song of the Vampire, so I’m glad we’re finally hitting them.] Technically that’s their order, however, they do stand alone. I know because I read them out of order and didn’t even really know THE BAND existed (or cared) until fairly recently. I am whole-heartedly convinced Adams was heavily influenced by movies like The Lost Boys and Near Dark when writing these books. While THE BAND doesn’t deal with vampires per se, it does deal with aimless teenagers trying to recruit unsuspecting victims into their dark lives through a blood ritual. They’re vampire enough without actually having to drink blood. And if you read SONG OF THE VAMPIRE and don’t get Lost Boys feels then we didn’t watch the same movie. [Wing: The Band 100% feels influenced by The Lost Boys and Near Dark. It captures that gorgeous feel of seaside horror-comedy even though it’s set in the desert, and it’s just great. AND LOOK AT THAT COVER. They’re basically the Lost Boys.]

Overall I think Adams had her finger on the pulse of teenagers a little better than her counterparts. Her characters aren’t caricatures of teenagers, they’re fairly level-headed and realistic, and she doesn’t rely on over-the-top shock to get her point across. Considering the market at the time it doesn’t surprise me she didn’t have staying power. I think she was a little bit ahead of her time just in the way these two books are written. They actually feel like they transcend time far better than any of the other 90s YA horror I’ve read (aside from mentions of crimped hair and VHS tapes, but that’s neither here nor there).

Really, both of these books are probably some of my favorites. THE BAND goes where literally no other book does: to revenants, not vampires. I’ve never come across revenants in any other book before, probably because they’re not sexy enough. At least Adams’s version of revenants are close enough to vampires that she might as well go with vampires, right? But she didn’t. She does go full tilt vamp in SONG OF THE VAMPIRE, but let’s leave that for the next recap.

For now, let’s get into THE BAND.

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