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

Recap #99: Fear Street: Halloween Party by R. L. Stine, A.K.A. “Niki Meyer Is Stunning And Brave”

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.]

Initial Thoughts

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.]

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Recap #98: The Forbidden Game #2: The Chase by LJ Smith

The Author:

Who uses really oddball descriptions of things, repeatedly. Seriously. What the hell are spaniel eyes?

Maybe? I don’t know. But one character, Michael, always has some kind of spaniel eyes going on. And Audrey with her spiky lashes and bangs. The same thing. All the time.

And who others the crap out of every POC character in her book to extremes. It was really bad in THE CHASE. Really, really bad.

[Wing: Good times, good times. Adorable dog. And I still love Teen Creeps taking on this series. Here’s their episode for The Chase.]

The Blurb: Why is her boyfriend Tom avoiding her – while other boys pursue her as never before? Jenny Thornton has changed. So have her friends. Because of Julian, the Shadow Man, who has returned to terrorize them with a new game, a hunting game, Lambs and Monsters. They’re the lambs, to be stalked, pounced upon, and lost to the Shadow World forevermore. The monsters are the Lurker, a ghostly wolf, and the Creeper, a phantom snake. One by one, Jenny’s friends disappear, leaving behind only a paper doll – and a riddle with clues about who will be next . . . . Jenny must find Julian’s hidden base and save her friends before it’s too late. But how can she resist the predatory prince of darkness who has returned to make her his own?

That entire first sentence can just be erased and it won’t take anything away from the blurb, mainly because it really doesn’t fit and because it’s such an infinitesimal part of the story as to be largely unimportant. Mainly because Jenny knows she’s changed and she figures out on her own why and how. It has nothing to do with boys. Damn YA books.

[Wing: My god, that game sounds amazing. I want to play Lambs and Monsters.]

The Place: This time mostly within Jenny’s neighborhood and home. Julian decides to bring the game to them, to every place they always felt safe he takes it upon himself to violate. Goes along with the mindfucking he does in this book and quite honestly, I kind of love it a little. [Wing: I love the transition from them being in his strange, terrible place to him being in their place, where they are comfortable and safe and happy. Twisting that is a great horror trope.]

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Recap 96: The Cemetery by D. E. Athkins

cover of The Cemetery by D. E. Athkins, has four fingers coming out of dirt with long, sharp silver nailsTitle: The Cemetery by D. E. Athkins

Summary: At a Hallowe’en party with very exclusive guests, the disguised play a game of hide and seek in an ancient cemetery as midnight approaches. When someone is killed, all the partygoers can do is suspect each other – unless there is an unknown player.

Tagline: Don’t look behind you…

Initial Thoughts

Every time I see the name D. E. Athkins, I laugh, which is probably not the intended response. I can’t help it. Deathkins writing Point Horror? Good lord, be more subtle.

Beyond that, I find D. E. Athkins’ work hit or miss, whether under this pseud or as Nola Thacker (who also wrote the Graveyard School series as Tom B. Stone and sometimes filled in as the ghost writer for the Nightmare Hall series under Diane Hoh’s name). (My god, the authors we recap here are an incestuous lot, aren’t they?) (Note: No actually claim or accusation of real incest here.)

All that being said, I love the summary of this book (… minus the Hallowe’en spelling, which just looks twee), and I hope we’ll all enjoy it.

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Recap #94: The Howling (1981)

The Howling cover werewolf claws tearing through a solid sheet and a woman's screaming face behind itTitle: The Howling

Summary: After a bizarre and near fatal encounter with a serial killer, a television newswoman is sent to a remote mountain resort whose residents may not be what they seem.

Tagline: Imagine your worst fear a reality. [Wing: Worst fear. Right.] [Bat: Being a werewolf isn’t my worst fear…]

Initial Thoughts

This was baby!Wing’s first werewolf movie, her first horror movie, and I will forever love it for giving me all that it did: a love of werewolves, a love of horror movies, a love of dramatic full moon shots and cheesy dog and wolf puns and silver bullets, certain iconic images — I watched it at a fairly young age, despite the fact that neither of my parents like horror movies and we weren’t allowed to watch them growing up. [Bat: This explains SO. MUCH. I’ve known Wing ~20 years and now I understand the werewolf love all the better.]

My dad was a truck driver, and I often spent large chunks of my summer and holidays with him on the road. (Why I love road trips and driving to this day and can’t settle down in one place too long before I’m itching to leave and have an adventure.) One night, we had a break at a truck stop. I’m not sure how old I was. Maybe nine or ten? Eight or eleven? I’m not sure. Anyway, we were hanging out in the trucker’s lounge, and The Howling came on. My dad swears he doesn’t remember this at all, and probably he had fallen asleep, but I watched the entire movie, enthralled, and then when we headed out to the truck later, we had to walk through rows and rows of idling eighteen wheelers, and I kept picturing werewolves leaping from trailer to trailer. That thought still makes me catch my breath every time. [Bat: Why haven’t you written a long-haul werewolf trucker story, Wing?] [Wing: That is a very good question.]

Welcome to the first ever Snark at the Moon! recap. Every October and November, Bat and I will be recapping werewolf movies and the recaps will go live on the full moon. This year, October’s moon is the Harvest Moon, one of my favourites. (Why yes, I have a favourite full moon.) Take a look at it tonight, but keep an eye out for werewolves. You never know when you’re living a horror movie life.

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Recap #92: More Tales To Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine

Title: More Tales To Give You Goosebumps

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Summary: “Reader Beware – You’re In For Ten Summertime Scares!”

Is Matt’s summer camp being taken over by an evil patch of poison ivy? Will Eric escape from his tank, now that he’s been turned into a fish? Can Tara help the terrified voice she hears inside a beautiful seashell? Find out in these ten creepy Goosebumps short stories perfect for reading around the campfire or under the covers!

Initial Thoughts

This was the first of the short story books I read, and I… I think I actually stole this when I was a kid. No I remember back in elementary school, I found this book in a bag of books inside a closet in one of the classrooms. I think they were going to get rid of these books so I just kept the copy for myself. A few years later when the hardcover collection was released I gave my copy away.

As you could probably tell from the summary and cover art, the stories in this book all take place during the summer and yet surprisingly only two of them involve summer camps. Only one book was adapted for the French Goosebumps illustrated novellas, but none of them were made into TV episodes. One story, “The Cat’s Tale,” genuinely feels like some sort of pilot version for “Cry of the Cat,” the first in the Series 2000 line. I can safely say I found the stories in this one more interesting than the previous one. The original edition also came with a bonus booklight.

For this recap, I’m gonna be doing “3rd Rock from the Sun” jokes for the subtitles. Which means prepare thy selves for a bunch of dick jokes.

I’m also gonna include some of my ideas for potential sequel stories.

[Wing: I don’t know why, but I am so charmed by a creepy summer themed book coming with a booklight. Damn you, Stine!]

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Recap #80: Fear Street Saga #9: Heart of the Hunter by R. L. Stine

cover of Heart of the Hunter by R L Stine shows an Indian woman being stalked by a shadowy figure in the fog, with the head of a wolf in the clouds, under a full moonTitle: Fear Street Sagas #9: Heart of the Hunter by R. L. Stine

Summary: A medicine woman tells Jamie Fier the love potion she gave him will cost him. Now Jamie finds himself transforming into a wolf—and if his true love sees him in this form, he will remain a wolf forever.

Tagline: The full moon summons the beast.

Initial Thoughts

Wing and the Werewolf, a Story in Three Acts

Act 1: Wing discovers a werewolf book by Stine. Immediately buys a copy because WEREWOLVES! STINE! FEUD! JOY! HATE! LOVE! LOATHING! THAT COVER! THAT TAGLINE! SO EXCITED!

Act 2: Wing reads the back of the book. Wing rereads. Wing reads yet a third time. Ooooohhhhh nooooooo.

Act 3: WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK, STINE.

[Wing: Now updated with comments from recapper Jude.]

(Jude: HEY! HEY EVERYONE! LOOK OVER HERE EVERYONE I’M COMMENTING FOR THE FIRST TIME! The Fear Street Sagas were admittedly my favorites of all the Fear Street spin-offs. I enjoy historical fiction and cheesy, gothic romance and horror so these were right up my alley. I’m still hoping to somehow find more information on the two Sagas which never got released, “The Raven Woman” and Carousel of Doom.” I hope to do Wing as much justice for her post as she’s done for mine. BTW, this one was ghostwritten by Eric Weiner, who also wrote “Door of Death.”)

[Wing: Aww, thanks. And wait, there are supposed to be two more sagas? Those titles have me intrigued.]

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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 #76: Tales To Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine

cover of Tales to Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine with a ghost in front of a background image

Title: Tales to Give You Goosebumps

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Tagline: N/A

Summary: “Reader Beware — You’re in for ten scares!”

From an evil baby sister, to a remote control that can control more than just the television set, to a teacher who’s obsessed with snakes, to a cute, cuddly teddy bear gone bad, here are ten creepy, spooky stories guaranteed to give you Goosebumps all night long!

Initial Thoughts

So this is the first of the six short story collections and, honestly, it’s kind of boring. It’s clear that most of these are ideas Stine had that he just wasn’t able to convert into full length novels. While most of the other collections had themes, this one’s kind of all over the place in terms of genre, with one that’s not supernatural or science fiction-based at all. Four of the stories managed to get turned into TV episodes, which is more than the other collections could say (and a bit of a waste since the one really good story wasn’t), while two were adapted into illustrated novellas for the French Goosebumps line. [Wing: Now that’s interesting! I wonder what the illustrations are like.]

I never read this book on its own, just after it was reprinted alongside the following two collections in hardcover format. I will say it’s interesting that this entry seems to be the birth place of Curly the Skeleton, the original Goosebumps mascot. You might remember him from the merchandise that appeared in the mid to late 90s when the series got popular. He was the skeleton with the buzz cut, bandana, and sunglasses who often had a big pit bull by his side. On the cover he was depicted with long hair and tattered white robes, more like a ghost, and Scholastic supposedly asked Tim Jacobus to redesign him. He’s sadly forgotten by the current young Goosebumps readers, discontinued like so many of the monsters like Amaz-O, Cuddles, and the Masked Mutant to make way for the disappointing likes of Madame Doom, Murder the Clown, and *ugh* Dr. Maniac. But he will forever live on in the goosebumps of our hearts.

To add a bit of fun, for subtitles this time I’m taking a page from one of my favorite animes, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and adding “Duel” with each recap entry. The French words translate to a trait shared in the stories. I’m on a small Utena kick lately.

[Wing: Again, I’ve never read this, I’m excited for the recap, and I’m grateful that someone else is recapping a Stine book.]

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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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Recap #72: The Skeleton on the Skateboard, A.K.A. “Wes Craven Presents Rocket Power”

cover of Skeleton on the Skateboard by Tom B. Stone, has a skeleton on a skateboard and a creepy black and gray backgroundTitle: The Skeleton On The Skateboard

Author: Tom B. Stone, a.k.a. Nola Thacker, a.k.a. D.E. Athkins

Cover Artist: Barry Jackson

Summary: “Dead Man’s Curve Is Scary Enough…”

Who’s the new hot dog on Skateboard Hill? He’s the only thrasher who can take Dead Man’s Curve alive. Skate and Vickie are determined to meet him – he may be their only chance to beat obnoxious Eddie Hoover in the upcoming skateboarding contest. But if the phantom boarder gives the secret of his awesome moves, will Skate and Vickie have to take the ultimate wipeout in return?

Initial Thoughts

This book is just soooo 90s, but not in an obnoxious completely dated period piece kind of way. The Skeleton is by far the most prolific and noticeable monster of the Graveyard School series, by far the easiest to get a commission of, but the reveal is pretty much obvious during the climax when you remember what the goddamn title is. That said, you come for the Skeleton, you stay for Vickie Wheilson in all her tie-dye, headstrong, neon glory.

[Wing: This sounds like the under 16 version of drag racing, right down to the Dead Man’s Curve, and therefore I am predisposed to love it. That description of Vickie only cements the deal. As long as I don’t think too hard about the real author, I’m excited. Let’s do this!]

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