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

October Patreon Bonus Recap: Are You Afraid of the Dark? 01×01 The Tale of the Phantom Cab

Submitted for the approval of the Devil’s Elbow Patreons, I call this post: The Recap of the Tale of the Phantom Cab.

INITIAL THOUGHTS

Are You Afraid of the Dark? was a horror anthology tv show that aired in the early 90s. The premise was that a group of teens are brought together by their love of horror and meet up each week to take turns telling scary stories. They call themselves the Midnight Society, and though they are all very different, their stories keep bringing them back together.

Baby!Wing loved the hell out of this show when it first aired in the USA, and adult!Wing loves the hell out of it to this day. Revisiting it with you, amazing Patrons, is going to be fun.

You can read this bonus recap by supporting our Patreon at the $5 level or higher, and receive access to our Patron-only feed, bonus recaps, bonus episodes, and more. Click here to support the Devil’s Elbow.
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Recap #106: Fear Street #14: The Knife by R. L. Stine

Title: Fear Street #14: The Knife by R. L. Stine

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 terrors and unexplained mysteries are true? You’re not afraid, are you?

Quiet — hospital!

Sshh. There are a lot of things they want to keep quiet at Shadyside Hospital. In fact, just about every private room holds a private secret of its own. Poor Laurie Masters. The student volunteer innocently happened to stumble onto the hospital’s sickest secret of all. Laurie has seen too much — and now the doctors and nurses are taking a close look at Laurie. What they come up with is a deadly diagnosis. Laurie may not be sick, but she’s getting a prescription anyway — a prescription for horror!

[Wing: Oh god, that summary. That last line. I am dying. This is terrible.]

Tagline: In this hospital people are dying — to get out.

Initial Thoughts

I’ve never read this one before, and thank god I wrote this recap before I read that summary, or might have never read it at all. The book is a billion times better than that summary.

Continue reading »

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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 #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.

Continue reading »

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Devil’s Elbow Podcast #7: The Hitchhiker by R. L. Stine

Wing recaps The Hitchhiker by R. L. Stine, and spoilers: she doesn’t hate it. Come listen for rollicking adventures, car theft, and murder.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Written Recaps: pointhorror.com

Episode Media: The Hitchhiker by R. L. Stine

Facebook: Devil’s Elbow

Tumblr: Devil’s Elbow

Patreon: Devil’s Elbow

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Recap #73: Silent Stalker by R. T. Cusick

cover of Silent Stalker by R T Cusick, shows a white girl on a floor in what looks like a cave, cowering away from a bunch of ratsTitle: Silent Stalker by R. T. Cusick

Summary: Trapped in a madman’s castle, a young girl must fight to save her sanity

Thunder bellows as Jenny and her father pull up to the gate of Worthington Hall. As they inch onto the grounds of the ancient estate, a disheveled young woman thrusts her head through the open window. “Leave!” she yells. “Before it’s too late! He’ll kill you. I swear.” Jenny is terrified, but her dad laughs it off. The girl is just an actress – part of the medieval fair being held on the castle grounds. But it’s not long before Jenny wishes they’d heeded the warning.

The house is a drafty maze of narrow hallways and dungeons. Jenny wants to flee, but her father is intent on the work he’s come to do. Soon the Worthington family sets upon young Jenny, playing twisted tricks on her until she forgets what’s real. The Worthingtons play cruel games – and if Jenny loses, it will mean her life.

Tagline: None

Initial Thoughts

WELL THIS IS OFF TO A GREAT START.

[Note from the future: While I don’t remember anything else about this book, and didn’t think I’d read it, the rat scene from the cover seems immensely familiar. Not sure if I saw something similar in another book, though.]

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Recap #69: Up the Airy Mountain by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald

book cover for Up the Airy Mountain by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald, is a snowy woods scene with the title in white lettering on the blue sky and the authors' names in black lettering on the snowTitle: Up the Airy Mountain by Debra Doyle & James Macdonald (Bad Blood series) (podcast)

Summary: Valerie Sherwood is a werewolf. That doesn’t make her high school social life any easier. Good thing her boyfriend’s cool with it. But tonight she’s followed her nose into more trouble than she knows, and the question stops being can she save her friends and becomes can she save herself.

Tagline: None

Initial Thoughts

Considering we only just found these books about a year ago, my excitement over this additional short story is as extreme as if I’d been waiting for more for the past thirty years. I love Val and this series and this world so damn much, and I am thrilled to get to spend one more month recapping it.

(Val and friends have previously shown up in Bad Blood, Hunters’ Moon, and Judgment Night, all recapped earlier this year. )

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Recap #65: The Hitchhiker by R. L. Stine

The Hitchhiker by R L Stine book cover, right hand with thumb raised up in front of two headlightsTitle: The Hitchhiker by R. L. Stine 

Summary: He wants a ride. She wants a thrill. So, in spite of her best friend’s arguments, Christina stops to pick up the handsome hitchhiker. He’s everything she thought he’d be. And more. Much, much, more. Enough to thrill Christina and Terri… to death.

Tagline: Don’t stop now

Note: As Dove requested, I’ve updated my template, because we now apparently call the Bad Guys Muffin Man. Hey, it makes as much sense as most Point Horrors.

Initial Thoughts

I don’t remember ever reading this one before, but I love road trips and road horror and hate the torture porn that now comes with this type of story. We’ll see where Stine falls in that spectrum. I don’t have high hopes, considering our feud.

(Here’s the podcast episode for this book.)

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