Recap #1: Funhouse by Diane Hoh

Funhouse by Diane Hoh
Funhouse by Diane Hoh

So, I’m going to start things off with my favourite Point Horror of all time, Diane Hoh’s Funhouse. In my opinion, Diane Hoh writes the best Point Horror, and her characters are actually likable, rather than the soulless bastards that I remember running rampant through everyone else’s books.

However, it’s been years since I really read these books, so I could be wrong. Not about Diane Hoh, she is my PH goddess, but about how unlikable everyone else’s characters are.

I love this book so much I have three copies of it. The first is nearly dead and accompanied me on my trip to Austria (yes, Wing, we have been to Austria), someone’s Ribena exploded all over it, and I very unhappy. Ribena is now a banned substance.

[Wing: Since I am the evil twin, I have taken over this recap and littered it with comments. First comment. Why didn’t we destroy said Ribena monster?]

As a side note, I love theme parks/thrill rides. I know a lot of people do, but I like to believe I have a special kind of love for them, because I like them when they’re shut down and spooky, and this book has brief mentions of this.

So, let’s go.

Title: Funhouse by Diane Hoh

Summary: The Boardwalk is the focal point in the lives of the teenagers of Santa Luisa. When the Devil’s Elbow roller coaster flies off its rails, everyone thinks it was a terrible accident. So no-one believes Tess when she says she saw someone tampering with the track…

But one person knows that Tess is telling the truth. That person is playing a deadly game and Tess is in the way. When another “accident” occurs in the Funhouse, Tess knows she was the intended victim. But who is doing this? And why?

Tess is beginning to realise that the Funhouse can scare you… to death.

Tagline: You can die laughing…

Note: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy.

Trope definitions are found here.

We open with Tess and her friend Gina chatting on The Boardwalk. There are a fair few strange names in this book. Example: Gina fancies someone called Doss, and apparently she used to go out with a guy called Beak. Also, we get the following description:

Gina dated a lot. Because everyone, girls and guys, liked to be around her.

This makes me feel that Gina is a bisexual, which makes me squee with joy.

[Wing: Naughty. I like it.]

Also, she’s wearing a blazer, which prompted Wing to comment: Gina is wearing a navy blue wool blazer to the boardwalk? Is she 50?

When Gina and Doss make googley eyes at each other, Tess excuses herself to go to the bathroom. Gina says people look down on Doss because his father used to be on the Board of Directors of the Boardwalk and no longer is, everyone else in their social group still has a parent on the Board. This is important red herring-ing. The guy is a resentful arse, and his dad just lost his job. He’s almost certainly not the bad guy.

She reflects on her life, she lives with her step-mother, Shelley, after Shelley and Tess’ father, Guy Joe Sr, split up. Her brother, Guy Joe Jr, stayed with her dad.

[Wing: At this point, I conceded the awesome that Dove claimed. I wondered why she’d stay with her step-mother instead of her father and immediately the book answered. Rarely do I actually get answers in PH.]

To put off going back, she stops to watch the Devil’s Elbow coaster make its final plunge before curving back to the end. This time it goes wrong, it doesn’t curve at the bottom, it goes straight of the tracks and carnage ensues.

There was screaming on The Boardwalk, as well. People passing by were struck with large and small chunks of falling metal. Some were hit so hard they were tossed like dolls into nearby booths. A mother ran to snatch her small child from the path of a falling car and both were buried beneath the bright blue metal.

That’s a little more brutal than I remember Point Horrors being, a small child and mum get squashed by a falling car? Nasty.

Anyway, Tess spots a shadow under the coaster, and it’s weird because the shadow moves away from the Boardwalk, not towards, so it’s not going to offer help.

[Wing: Wrong, Dove, the shadow lopes away from the Boardwalk. Werewolf.]

We then get a first person pov chapter from the anonymous monster who derailed the roller coaster. It’s about a page and a half of Disney villain laughter/Bond villain explains his motives.

Mwahahahaha! 1

So, the group of main characters gather. We have Sam, Tess’ boyfriend; Guy Joe, Tess’ brother; Gina and Doss, who we’ve already met; then Candace, Sam’s sister; and finally Trudy. Candace is clueless about dress sense, Sam is domineering, and Trudy is prissy and wealthy.

It turns out that their friends, Dade, Sheree and Joey were on the ride, Dade is dead, Sheree’s face has been ruined and Joey lost a leg.

Tess decides that Doss is a bit of an arse because of the following phrase:

“He just came across Joey Furman’s leg. Minus Joey. Shook the kid up real bad.”

And yet when her brother makes the following comment, equally as matter-of-fact, she has no reaction:

“you didn’t have to be on the thing to get clobbered. For all I knew, you could have been creamed by one of the falling cars.”

Tess reveals that she saw someone under the tracks, Gina believes her, Doss might, everyone else is doubtful.

We have another chapter from the bad guy. It’s about a couple called Lila and Tully O’Hare. (and if you don’t get “Captain Bucky – Captain Bucky O’HARE!” stuck in your head every time you read that, then you are not a child of the 80s. Or at least, an English one. Wing is not English. Everyone knows that the English ones are the most evil.) [Wing: Lies.] Bad Guy reads Lila’s diary, and basically the O’Hares owned the Boardwalk, but they ended up broke, which is bad with a baby on the way, and they need a loan from Buddy, the guy who works at the bank. It doesn’t tell us yet whether Buddy helps, but I get the feeling that if they had got the loan, our Bad Guy wouldn’t be so messed up.

Mwahahahaha! 2

Back to now, Tess gets into a fight with Sam, who just wants to coddle her, and while coddling sounds nice now, she doesn’t want him to get the wrong idea and coddle her non-stop, so they separate and Tess drives home. If I haven’t mentioned it, Shelley, her step-mother, is away in Europe. Wing, can you please tell me why everyone always goes to Europe when they leave the country? At least this is specific, Shelley is in Italy. Mostly it’s just “eh, Europe, that’ll do…”

Parents? What Parents? 1

[Wing: Europe is old and full of castles and dead things. Plus in the 90s, it was really something only the well off could do. I am the evil twin who grew up poor. Must get started on that murderous rampage soon.]

Gina calls to check Tess is ok – by the way, PH writers, this is how you write the best friend, learn from Diane Hoh – and Tess asks if there’s been any other accidents. Gina says something happened in the Funhouse, but she isn’t sure what. Gina thinks the tracks are just worn out, but Tess thinks it was foul play.

After she hangs up, Tess spots a note with her name written on in purple marker.

Dade and Sheree went up the hill,
With Joey right behind them,
Now Dade is dead and Sheree’s ill,
And Joey’s leg can’t find him.

If Dade was one, and Sheree two,
And Joey number three,
Who will be next? Could it be you?
Why don’t we wait and see?

I love the way the Bad Guy in PH has a tendency to leave whimsical notes or pictures. I approve.

[Wing: You are much too positive about horrible rhymes.]

Roses are red, Violets are blue, I’m going to fucking kill you: 1

Speaking of Bad Guy, he gets his own chapter again. Lila and Tully were turned down for a loan by Buddy. Buddy deliberately turned the O’Hares down to bankrupt them so that Buddy and his friends can buy it for a song. Lila is worried on a number of levels, they’re broke and have a baby on the way. She will often reiterate this point. I won’t, so just remember, ok?

Mwahahahaha! 3

Back to Tess, she’s freaking out about the note, and wants some company but notes not to call Sam, because she’s so rattled she’d leap into his arms and that would set back the whole “we need space” thing. In case you’re reading, Stephenie Meyer, this is a lead girl. She’s a person in her own right, she has friends, and she can take or leave the whole boyfriend thing. Please read this book, and learn.

Also, Tess does exactly what I would do, which is turn on every light in the house and arm herself with a brass poker, while reassuring herself that the note is just a cruel joke.

The next day, she takes the note to the police, who are just “lol, your boyfriend’s an asshat, he probably did that”. They keep the note and send her on their way.

Oh you wacky kids, with your hi-jinks and your pranks: 1

She has lunch with Gina, who tells her that someone hung themselves in the Funhouse “a long time ago”, before they were born, but her parents changed the subject and she couldn’t get any more details. She has a nice relaxed day with Gina and stays over. Again, these are sensible actions.

I suspect my next recap will be a lot more snarky because people tend to do stupid things in these books, it’s just Tess is stubbornly being normal and trying to preserve her own life.

Bad Guy gets another chapter. Tully killed himself and now she’s even more broke because the insurance won’t pay out on suicides. Thankfully Buddy’s jumping to the rescue, he’ll take care of everything. Lila is suitably worried and sceptical.

Mwahahahaha! 4

Tess goes home, after borrowing a cat from Gina to keep her company. This cat is the most mellow of all cats, because it sits in her lap while driving. My cats would not put up with that shit. They don’t even like being carried from room to room.

Anyway, Gina asks Tess to go to the Boardwalk, her dad has asked them to go and encourage others to hang out to prove it’s safe. She says they’ll just go through the funhouse, and avoid “The Dragon’s Breath or Helicopter Hell” (which are two rides I’d like more details on). Although I’m sure this won’t go well, since the book’s title is Funhouse.

Today, Gina is dressed thusly, “A bright red scarf tied around her dark curls, she trotted purposefully ahead of them in knee-length red shorts and a red-and-white flowered shirt.” It’s like the 90s threw up all over her. Hang on, were knee-length shorts ever cool with teenagers, even in the 90s? Are they bike shorts?

[Wing: I keep picturing board shorts, but they were probably something like these “vintage” 90s high wasted knee length shorts. Bike shorts seems very late 80s to me, a la early seasons of Full House.]

They head through the funhouse, which is a building on stilts over the beach, and Tess pauses on one of the balconies, Guy Joe catches up with her and she asks if he thinks it was deliberate, he says anything’s possible. They move on to the saucer situation, which I will quote because I can’t explain it any better than Diane Hoh.

The hardest part of the Funhouse for Tess was always the chamber where there was no solid floor, only a cluster of constantly whirling metal saucers. They were slippery, always moving, and there was nothing to grasp for balance except the softly draped black nylon folds on the walls, almost impossible to hold onto, no matter how desperately you clutched. She had discovered long ago that the only way she could make it across was by lowering herself to a sitting position and scooting from saucer to saucer. It took longer, and seriously dented her dignity, but it worked.

Anyway, they get through, and chat on the beach. Tess realises that she lost her keys in the funhouse, and Gina offers to go get them. Trudy and Doss give Tess a hard time about that, so Tess heads back to the funhouse. She hears a genuine scream and rushes through. There’s a saucer missing, and through the gap down to the beach, Tess can see Gina sprawled.

Spoilers: she’s not dead. Nobody ever dies on screen.

He’s dead! He’s dead! HE’S FUCKING DEAD! … oh wait, he survived: 1

Bad Guy chapter! Bad Guy is seething because Gina got the hit instead of Tess. In the diary, Lila has been approached by Buddy, he’s now basically brokering the purchase of her baby for some friends of his. The wife is away (yes, in Europe) and when she comes back, she’ll say she had the baby in England, so Lila must keep her pregnancy secret.

Mwahahahaha! 4

[Wing: Touring Europe is often used as code for had a secret child. Interesting to see it used the other way around here.]

Back to Tess, Gina is splatted on the sand, and everyone is tense.

“It’s broken,” volunteered Sam, whose father was a doctor. “Fractured, probably. Doesn’t look like a clean break.”

Because having a doctor for a father gives you medical knowledge. People are like Gremlins that way, their knowledge is genetic.

Tess wants to go in the ambulance with Gina, but some guy who works at the Boardwalk, Mancini, wants to see the missing saucer, so they go through the funhouse, but the saucer is back again. Tess is mystified because they’re big heavy things. So, questions: where did it go initially, why didn’t she see someone walking out with one, and how did it get back again? Mancini, who might well be an idiot, suggests that she was able to see Gina through the tiny cracks between the circles, and Gina probably tumbled over a railing at one of the balconies.

Tess goes back to her friends, Trudy is dismissive of Tess’ theories. Later, the police are just as dismissive and think she’s a poor little rich girl trying to get attention.

Oh you wacky kids, with your hi-jinks and your pranks: 2

Tess goes to the hospital and while in the waiting room she realises that Bad Guy might be targeting the parents, who feel their kids’ suffering just as badly as the kids themselves, and all the victims so far (aside from the bystanders) had been children of the Boardwalk Board of Directors. She also realises that whoever did it sent her a note, which means they must know where she lives, and they must be good friends with her because only her best friends know she lives with Shelley instead of her father. Shit just got real, yo.

She then looks at her friends and comes up with motives: Trudy’s a spoilt brat; Candace might hate everyone because she’s always left out and is kind of frumpy; Doss is supporting his family working at a stall on the Boardwalk when his father used to be on the Board; but she gives no reasons for Sam or Guy Joe.

[Wing: They never suspect the ones they love. Mwahahaha.]

Gina is ok, pained, but ok, so they all go home. Tess finds the cat hanging from a light fixture.

Bad Guy has his lols over Tess freaking out. Another diary entry that’s much the same as before, I’m broke, what about the baby, should I sell it? etc.

Mwahahahaha! 5

Tess is busy screaming and Guy Joe, Sam, Trudy and Candace turn up. Guy Joe points out that the cat is a toy. Trudy snarks at her, and Guy Joe tells Trudy that she’s a cold bitch.

They go inside and Tess tells them about the note. Trudy snarks more, and Guy Joe suggests Tess move back home with him and their dad. Tess says no, and Candace offers to stay with her.

People go home and Tess does her usual night-time routine (every light on, poker in hand) and settles herself on the couch for a long night of guarding the house. She falls asleep and is awoken by a phone call informing her that it’s her fault Gina was injured. The voice meows and hangs up. Meow is the new ciao.

Bad Guy says much of the same but asks a pertinent question: what is the diary doing in their house?

Mwahahahaha! 6

At school, they yet again discuss the accidents and Tess maintains that they were not accidents, while everyone else says they are. Trudy is having a birthday party at the Boardwalk and Tess thinks this might be a bad idea. When she voices that opinion, Trudy bitches at her and mentions that Tess was there for both accidents, so that’s a big coincidence.

And Tess thinks that people at school are eyeing her with concern since she was the only person in the funhouse when Gina got hurt.

She goes to the hospital, hoping Gina will remember that a saucer was missing and will back Tess up that crazy things are happening, but, naturally, Gina has convenient plot amnesia about the event.

Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 1

Gina asks Tess to go to Trudy’s party because Doss doesn’t want to go unless Tess goes, and Tess agrees.

Oh, and when she gets back to her car, her tires have been slashed.

Bad Guy entry: Lila signed the adoption papers/rofl Tess is so scared of me.

Mwahahahaha! 7

I don’t know why Tess is so convinced it’s one of her friends. I’m sure there could be an employee who also hates all of the Boardwalk Board of Directors. Or it could even be one of the parents. It doesn’t have to be one of her friends.

All my friends are a bag of dicks: 2

Tess walks home, someone follows her and then pushes her into the unfinished swimming pool at Trudy’s house.

Bad Guy entry: Lila had her baby in a trailer, with the help of Buddy’s doctor (assuming Sam’s dad). They didn’t even let her see the baby, just gave her a cheque. She ripped it up and taped it in the back of the diary. She plans to “follow Tully”. In the back of the diary with the cheque is a list of names involved, all familiar to Bad Guy, including their own name.

[Wing: Convenient. A checklist of evil doom.]

Mwahahahaha! 8

Tess gets a lift home from Trudy’s dad, and Sam’s there waiting. He suggests she goes to her dad’s and she stubbornly refuses, and at this point me and Tess disagree. Enough has happened to go home and live with dad, at least until Shelley gets back. Sam strops off and Tess gets a threatening call about Trudy’s birthday party.

Bad Guy reveals that omg shocka, they are the O’Hare baby. Also, Bad Guy states they will send the journal to someone they trust after all this is over. Ok. Who? Who are you going to send that to Bad Guy?

Mwahahahaha! 9

[Wing: Here is where I took back my concession that the book was awesome. SEKRIT ADOPTION STORYLINES SUCK.]

Tess goes to Trudy’s party. The guys are wearing jean cutoffs and short sleeved sweatshirts. I’m sure that looks incredibly awesome. Everyone gets food poisoning except for Sam, Trudy and Tess thanks to an anonymous gift of poisoned brownies. Also, this food poisoning is the elegant kind where you write around in pain, but do not embarrass yourself by having an accident in any direction.

We also learn in this chapter that Doss’ real name is Donald. Good to know.

Bad Guy becomes completely enraged at the knowledge that they are adopted. Oh woe is Bad Guy. Poor little rich kid was never loved, they wanted the life with Lila and Tully. They weren’t loved by its adopted family.

Bad Guy decides to follow the Lila and Tully as soon as they’re done punishing the Board of Directors. Oh, and they’re taking Tess with them.

Mwahahahaha! 10

Well, that escalated quickly: 1

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 1

Tess sleeps in Gina’s room, then heads back to her dad’s house. Her dad’s going out, her brother’s going to sleep off the food poisoning.

Parents? What parents? 2

In a moment of pure 90s that night, Tess finds her Walkman, clips it to her metal belt, clamps the headphones over her ears, and listens to George Michael. It doesn’t outright state it, but I can totally see the mom-jeans she’s wearing with it, possibly with a long-sleeved t-shirt tucked into them.

I can’t remember why, but she starts looking through boxes and finds her key case, a class ring with the stone missing (I didn’t mention this but she found a stone… at some point, kind of got distracted), and a napkin with brownie crumbs and Trudy’s initials on, and finally a purple marker.

Dexter would not pull this shit: 1

And our Bad Guy reveals himself – it’s Guy Joe, Tess’ brother. Or not, if you paid attention to the diaries. He rages and drags Tess to the funhouse, where they are going to kill themselves so they can join Lila and Tully. She tries to keep him talking and he reveals that he was behind everything, and she asks how he did the funhouse, he says he picked up a saucer and put it on top of the one next to it.

Doss is working at the Boardwalk tonight but Guy Joe threatens her if she signals to him, and now she regrets thinking nasty thoughts about everyone. Except Trudy, I bet she’s still not that keen on being BFFs with her.

“Go ahead and scream,” Guy Joe said cheerfully when they were inside the empty Funhouse. “Screaming in here doesn’t mean a thing. No one will even notice.”

I’m just imagining Guy Joe completely giving into the absurdity and going all Eminem on her, “Go ahead, yell! Here, I’ll scream with you: Aahhhh, somebody help!

Guy Joe loops a strand of nylon around her neck and pushes her through the funhouse. He says they’re going to tie the nylon and jump. When Tess says she can’t jump, Guy Joe’s all mellow about it and agreeably says he’ll push her, that’s ok. And it’s kind of around here that I think he’s kind of in love with her.

Incest is relative: 1

[Wing: Incest. Wrong. Which for PH probably means you’re right.]

[Dove: I didn’t mean I was for it, I just meant there was an undercurrent from Guy Joe that he was quite pleased that he could take Tess to meet his parents and they could all live together… you know, sort of like marriage…?]

Tess says she’s cut her foot and when Guy Joe leans down to look, she yanks at her belt and jerks it free and swung it at Guy Joe’s head. Two thoughts occur to me: 1) all that description above wasn’t just to heavily date the book in the 90s; and 2) would a chain belt really pull out of belt loops that easily?

She races into the saucer room, yanks out a saucer, and lets Guy Joe fall to his dooooom.

Sam turns up and reveals that Gina is the person Guy Joe trusted to send the diary to. Good call, everyone likes Gina. Also, good old Doss called Sam to say that Guy Joe looked wigged and had Tess with him at the funhouse.

Final Bad Guy chapter: Guy Joe will go and “weave baskets” and wait, because one person got away unscathed, Trudy’s dad aka Buddy.

He’s dead! He’s dead! HE’S FUCKING DEAD! … oh wait, he survived: 2

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 2

Mwahahahaha! 11

[Wing: Needs more werewolves and less SEKRIT ADOPTION OMG.]

Final Thoughts:

This was my favourite of all the PH books on offer, and I think it still might be. Tess makes plenty of the right decisions, and her friends are not all sociopaths, so that’s a definite bonus. However, as an adult, the weaksauce motivation for Guy Joe was just… meh and his chapters were generally there to repeat the same information over and over. Then again, most PH bad guys have weak motivation, and maybe his motivation was less “OMG, I’m adopted!” and more “OMG, my ‘dad’ forced my parents to kill themselves and stole me!”, and every PH is about some kind of vengeance.

Still, it’s a fun way to spent 90 minutes and it remains top of my list of PHs. I’ll just convince Wing to focus on the fact that it was about avenging his birth parents and not that he became unhinged because he was adopted.

Next up: I tackle Trick or Treat and Wing tackles the source of our names, The Perfume.

Final Counts:

All my friends are a bag of dicks: 2
Dexter would not pull this shit: 1
Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 1
He’s dead! He’s dead! HE’S FUCKING DEAD! … oh wait, he survived: 2
Incest is relative: 1
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 2
Mwahahahaha! 11
Oh you wacky kids, with your hi-jinks and your pranks: 2
Parents? What parents? 2
Roses are red, Violets are blue, I’m going to fucking kill you: 1
Well, that escalated quickly: 1