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

Recap #126: The Last Vampire by Christopher Pike

Cover of The Last Vampire by Christopher PikeTitle: The Last Vampire by Christopher Pike

Summary: Alisa Perne is the last vampire. Beautiful and brilliant, she hunts alone, living among humans, living off humans. But someone is stalking her. Someone wants her dead. And Alisa has a choice to make – to keep a long held promise or protect the mortal she seems to be falling for.

Tagline: This time someone is hunting her…

Initial Thoughts

Oh god, here we go. Five years into recapping on Devil’s Elbow, and I’m finally spending an entire year focused on my favourite of the 80s and 90s teen horror authors, Christopher Pike. I’m saving my absolutely favourite books for the end of the year, but first, I’m taking on The Last Vampire series, which is significantly longer now than the first time I read it.

Note: There’s a lot of religion throughout this, particularly centered around Krishna and Vishnu. I do some basic research as I read, but I have very little knowledge here. My guess is that Pike’s taking a ton of liberties. I think that reading this as an adult, it’s going to smack of cultural appropriation, so keep that in mind when you read the book and this recap.

I loved this series growing up, especially the first book, but oh my god, does it get weird. So weird. Complicated and twisty and fun, but weird.

Though I’ve reread a lot of my Pike books often, this is not a series I read more than the first couple books obsessively, so I’m excited to go through the entire thing again.

2018: The Year of Christopher Pike. Let’s do this.

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Recap #115: Friday the 13th, Part III 3D

Title: Friday the 13th Part III-3D (Out of eleventy-billion, am I right?) [Wing: Pretty much.]

Summary: A carefree summer becomes a deadly nightmare for another group of naïve counselors who choose to ignore Camp Crystal Lake’s gruesome legacy. They find themselves in a bloody game of cat-and-mouse with the maniacal Jason who stalks their every move… and ruthlessly kills them off one-by-one. [Wing: Why do they keep going back? Why do they keep ignoring recent deaths? Why?]

Tagline: Meet Jason… In a whole new dimension!

Note: I know this says “in 3D”, but I am not watching it in 3D. Yeah, no. My eyeballs don’t like 3D.

Initial Thoughts

Well. Here I am. Again.

Fall, which was hot and weird for my region, not to mention choked with smoke from forest fires, is now sliding quickly towards Winter. Why not make myself all the more unhappy by watching yet another installment in the Friday the 13th series?!

I kid. I wouldn’t say snarkily recapping my way through a horror franchise makes me unhappy. But, man, after that last installment, I’m struggling with the stupidity of the writing and the glaring lack of Kevin Bacon.

Wait… when did Kevin freaking Bacon become my touchstone for this series? Dude’s character died in the first film, he’s not coming back! (Really, I’d rather watch him in Flatliners… maybe I should recap Flatliners at some point… uh, point of clarification: the ORIGINAL Flatliners.)

Let’s see, a bit of run down before we start in. The third film in the franchise was released August 13th, 1982 (ironically, that’s the month I’m wasn’t scheduled to post in, bummer) and I would have been about a year old, so I have no memory of this. [Wing: Boo, next time maybe we’ll switch up the posting schedule to hit something like that.]

It did well at the box office, no surprise.

Gleaning what I can from websites without being totally spoiled on a 35 year old film, this installment was the first to use a David Bowie song as its fake title during production, which also led to an “on-again, off-again tradition” of using Bowie songs for fake titles during production. Bowie was involved in everything, people, everything. Whether he knew it or not.

Oh, hell, let’s just start this recap, shall we?

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Recap #102: Teen Wolf (1985)

Title: Teen Wolf (1985)

Summary: What’s a high school kid got to do to be popular? Just let down his hair and howl! Starring Michael J. Fox, Teen Wolf is an outrageous comedy about a shy teenager with more than a changing voice to contend with… he’s a budding young werewolf! And when his new-found powers help him score at basketball – and with the popular girls – he has some pretty hairy decisions to make.

Tagline: He always wanted to be special – but he never expected like this!

Note: I am watching the Bluray edition, which I don’t know why that matters but I’m still noting it. We’ll see how well the special effects hold up under the digital transfer. (Spoiler: they don’t.)

Initial Thoughts

Happy Beaver Moon, everyone! This is my half of the initial Snark At the Moon! recaps; Wing published a recap of The Howling on the Full Harvest Moon in October. There’s a reason she gave me the Beaver Moon… and not just because I reside in the Beaver State.

I am not unfamiliar to this film, or its sequel, Teen Wolf, Too. In fact, I am more partial to the cheesy story, bad acting, and over-all shameful antics of the sequel, probably because I had a crush on Jason Bateman for all of five minutes when I was 10. It was the movie character I had eyes for, really; I don’t think I ever watched the sitcom that made him famous back in the day. (Y’know, before Arrested Development revitalized his career.) Anyway.

Teen Wolf was released during the heady days of Michael J. Fox mania, which was already in full swing because of Family Ties and the release of Back to the Future in July of 1985. Again, I wasn’t exactly the target age group at the time, at least not in the sense of thinking him a teen heartthrob or some such. (I was 4 years old when this film hit theaters.) So I didn’t see it, properly, until several years out from its initial release. Nor was I really into werewolves. The sequel was more responsible for spurring that interest in weres, since I’m a vampire girl at heart. I think I also had trouble identifying with the story line that is steeped in popularity cliques, underage drinking/partying, and ‘fitting in’. Plus most of the film involves basketball, which is a sport and I have zero interest in those. (I only know what I know about boxing because, again, of the sequel. Being a super athlete with preternatural abilities is the driving story line in both films. At least Todd, Scott’s cousin, had brains to fall back on!)

Still, this film would trigger the sequel I’ve spent a lot of time talking about, a Saturday morning cartoon series, and a whole MTV scripted series “reboot” decades after its release (which was a whole other beast, honestly, but one I deeply loved, and I have FEELINGS now that it’s ended.) I’m sure it’s safe to say that Teen Wolf is embedded in collective pop culture memory for at least another couple decades.

[Wing: So, here’s the thing. I’d say it’s a secret, except I’ve mentioned it around here before: despite my well-known love of werewolves, I have never seen either of these movies or the cartoon series (and only season one and part of season two of the MTV reboot, which I mostly marathoned over a few days after my mom’s funeral, so don’t remember much about). How I missed this movie, when I love werewolves and horror and horror-comedy and Michael J. Fox? Who the fuck knows. But here I am, all these years later, finally remedying it. I’m so glad y’all are along for the ride.]

Okay, let’s just get to recapping, shall we.

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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 #87: Friday the 13th, Part 2!

cover image of Friday the 13th Part 2 with font in white on a black background. Red partially covers "Part 2"Title: Friday the 13th Part 2 (I guess we’re not into Roman numerals yet?) [Wing: Well, the cover image I have is into Roman numerals, but there are a bunch out there without it.]

Summary: Get ready for twice the terror with Friday the 13th Part 2: Deluxe Edition! Fives years after the massacre at Camp Crystal Lake, the nerve-wracking legend of Jason Voorhees and his diabolical mother lives on. Despite ominous warnings from the locals to stay away from “Camp Blood”, a group of counselors at a nearby summer camp decide to explore the area where seven people were brutally slaughtered. All too soon, they encounter horrors of their own and the killing begins again. You’ll be at the edge of your seat for this gruesome thriller about 24 hours of bone-chilling fear!

Tagline: 2x The Fear… 2x The Carnage… 2x The Terror! [Wing: By god, the tagline on the cover version I have is so freaking much better, and it is boring as hell: The body count continues…] [Virgin: Clearly, the creativity died with the first installment, Wing.]

Note: I don’t honestly know what’s actually “deluxe” about this version, but thank Odin it’s not the damn uncut version! Finally, a break!

Initial Thoughts

Oh, I got a whole bunch!

Firstly: this is supposed to take place five years after the first Friday the 13th but in fact was released in reality April 30th, 1981. Yeah, this happened a lot with movies, jumping forward in time as opposed to staying current with the period of release, but still. That’s frustrating.

Also, way to release it on Walpurgisnacht! (Google it, kids.)

Secondly, this film is as old as I am. Wild.

Thirdly: is there a state comprised of nothing but summer camps, each spaced five miles down the road from one another? Is it somewhere in Maine? Are they secretly run by Stephen King? Because, damn. I know, and maybe this isn’t true but it seems to be, that summer camps are/were a big thing in the Northeast, because you’re all crammed in like sardines in the concrete jungle back there. (Greetings from the open spaces of the wild, wild West!) I know we have camps here; in another life I was a participant in Camp Fire and took a couple trips to Camp Namanu, which had a pond full of salamanders but it wasn’t a proper *lake*. (The salamanders succeeded in making us scream, holding onto our oars as we rowed the tiny canoe around. We were suburban-dwellers not good with nature, okay.) I think the scariest thing that ever happened on any of those trips was when the rope snapped while we were climbing a trail up the side of a mountain and then that morning when we weren’t allowed outside the cabin because the caretaker’s dog had died outside the front door and the adults didn’t want us to see the corpse.

Really, putting a dozen pre-teen girls in a giant cabin is a far scarier situation then being stalked by a deranged killer. I’m not sure how I survived. Oh, wait, I am Virgin! I always survive camp!

Now that I have completely finished digressing! In reality, I am picking this recap up not long after viewing Friday the 13th, but you readers won’t be reading this until, uh, September? So just pretend that there’s not a giant gap (ha ha! I’ve time-jumped, like the film has! See what I did there?) and let’s see if I can play “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” with any of the cast members.

Still can’t believe he was in the first film. Seriously.

Important note! Remember, I am rolling over the body count from the first film, so that will be reflected in the counter and final tally.

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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 #68: Friday the 13th (Uncut Deluxe Edition)

Cover of Friday the 13th the deluxe edition

Title: Friday the 13th – Uncut Deluxe Edition

Summary: RIP into a chilling new UNCUT DELUXE EDITION of Friday the 13th. With the addition of unrated footage, and insightful specials features, plunge deeper into the film that spawned eleven sequels and the genre’s unstoppable bad guy, Jason Voorhees. A new owner and several young counselors gather to reopen Camp Crystal Lake, where a young boy drowned and several vicious murders occurred years earlier. They’ve ignored the locals’ warnings that the place has a death curse… and one by one they find out how unlucky Friday the 13th can be as they are stalked by a violent killer. [Wing: They are really trying hard with that first sentence.]

Tagline: Fridays will never be the same again.

Note: The library didn’t have a copy of the DVD I was looking for but it did have the UNCUT version. Am I going to regret this? Probably.

Initial Thoughts

As a child born right smack at the beginning of the 80s, I have failed to see most of the classic 80s horror films that were big franchises while I was growing up. Has this kept me alive? As a “horror virgin”, I’d like to think so. [Wing: I’m grateful you are now risking death just to recap for us, Virgin.]

It’s difficult to tell people yes, I know you’re making a reference, but to what I don’t know. I know Jason is the killer dude in this series; I know Mike Meyers is in Halloween (which, ironically, I have seen the first and third installments of that series, but none of the rest or the reboots), and there was apparently a chainsaw massacre in Texas, but again I haven’t seen that, either.

Somehow I have seen three of the Child’s Play films. God, I hate Chucky.

Look, I love vampires and am generally desensitized to horror stuff, so it’ll be interesting to see not only how this film has aged but if it actually unsettles me in any shape or form.

That’s pretty damn hard for things to do at this point. (Event Horizon is, what, 20 years old but that one scared the shit out of me. And I don’t think I’ve watched it again since I saw it in 1997.) Pretty sure this recap is going to be 99% snark. I will try not to judge it too harshly on its age, as I know I’m viewing it 37 years after its release and a lot has changed in the horror genre since then. But I will be brutal when necessary.

I’m already pre-regretting settling for the “uncut” version of this, because I’ve had run-ins with “uncut” versions. Mostly good but some bad, and some scarred me for life. (True Romance uncut director’s version, I am looking at you. You fucked me up when I was 13.) Oh well, gotta work with what you’re given… or find at the library, I guess.

Oh, and what the hell do you mean there are ELEVEN MORE OF THESE? Shit. What have I gotten myself into…

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Recap #49: Whisper of Death by Christopher Pike

Whisper of Death by Christopher Pike

Whisper of Death by Christopher Pike

Title: Whisper of Death by Christopher Pike

Summary: Returning home one day, Roxanne and Pepper find their small town – and surrounding towns – empty. Finally they find three other teens and realize that all five are each connected through the death of Betty Sue, the plain, shy girl who committed suicide only three months before. Betty Sue had written stories about them, stories of hate, revenge, and death… in a dead world.

Tagline: They returned home to a dead world…

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.

Dove Warning: Just a fair warning — there are mild references to rape in this. Nothing graphic or detailed, but still, worth a mention so nobody gets blind-sided by it.

Initial Thoughts

I’ve read this one before, but not for a long time. Christopher Pike is my favorite of the PH-esque authors, but this book is weird. Really weird. Deeply weird. Brace yourselves.

Note: I am deeply angered and terrified by the political climate in the USA. That may bleed into this recap, as our politics bleed into our lives. I may also be even more bitter and critical than ever, though I am trying to keep to the light-hearted fun of the recapping.

[Dove: I had never read this before, and my only thought was, “This had better be more interesting than the last Pike Wing recapped. It was.]

[Wing: Updated 29 Jan 2017: One of our readers recently introduced us to the Teen Creeps podcast, which also recaps teen genre books. Where applicable, I will link their episodes from our recaps so you have another viewpoint on the books. We are not affiliated with their podcast. Teen Creeps does Whisper of Death.]

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Recap #26: The Cheerleader (Vampire Series: Book 1) by Caroline B. Cooney

The Cheerleader by Caroline B. Cooney

The Cheerleader by Caroline B. Cooney

Title: Cheerleader (Vampire Series: Book 1) by Caroline B. Cooney

Summary: Cheerleaders are beautiful, popular and exciting – girls that Althea longs to be. But Althea is nobody – she gets no phone calls, shares no laughter and has no friends. Then one day she meets him, a vampire who offers to make her a cheerleader in exchange for a simple bargain.

Tagline: She wants it all. But he wants blood…

Note: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy. The “Bad Guy” is a vampire, and owns it proudly, so no need to be coy.

The Cheerleader by Caroline B Cooney - Scan by Mimi

The Cheerleader by Caroline B Cooney – Scan by Mimi

Initial Thoughts:

I remember loving this book back in the day. Not least of all because I had a strong desire to be popular. Not that I wanted to be the centre of the world, just that I wanted a few friends, so let’s just say this one hit home and if someone had asked me to hand over [popular kid] in exchange for it, I totally would’ve done it. In fact, I was pissed off by the end of the book, which I’ll cover when I get there.

Note from the future: it was really hard to trope count this since most of the tropes were triggered by the vampire. I went with it, but they don’t really count for the most part. I probably should’ve used the “I beat you because I love you” tag on every sentence, but didn’t really think about it. Continue reading »

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Recap #13: Weekend by Christopher Pike

Weekend by Christopher Pike

Weekend by Christopher Pike

Title: Weekend by Christopher Pike

Summary: The weekend in Mexico sounded like a dream vacation. Four guys, five girls–and a gorgeous ocean-side mansion all to themselves. It should have been perfect.

Except nothing was going the way they’d planned. There was the girl upstairs who was fighting for her life. The phone lines that went dead. And the explosion in the garage that could have killed them all.

But not even that prepared them for what happened next. Because while they were getting some sun, someone else was getting revenge–and the terror wouldn’t stop until the weekend was over.

Tagline: A weekend of sun and fun in Acapulco turns into a nightmare when nine teenagers trapped in a mansion realize that they have been lured there for a deadly reason.

Note: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy. Also doesn’t mean it’s ever successful at killing/pranking/whatevering.

Initial Thoughts:

I remember really enjoying this book when I was younger, despite the weird metaphorical story that threads through it. We’ll see how it stands up.

[Dove: I read the first chapter dozens of times in my teenage years, I never got any further than that. Then Wing forced me.]

[Wing: Considering you forced me to read Room 13, we are nowhere near even.]

[Wing: Updated 29 Jan 2017: One of our readers recently introduced us to the Teen Creeps podcast, which also recaps teen genre books. Where applicable, I will link their episodes from our recaps so you have another viewpoint on the books. We are not affiliated with their podcast. Teen Creeps does Weekend.]

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