I was not really sure where this book was going but I gotta admit I loved the results.
The cover (pulled from this Fear Street blog) is better than the first one, but not by much. The tribal spears and skeleton look way out of place and ruin a otherwise perfectly serviceable cover. The boy is supposed to be Brandt, and I’m not sure which girl that is, but no matter what she’s inconsequential to the story. I do love their very 90s clothes.
The House of Evil
This is the only thing resembling a tagline I can find. It is in fact the house of evil.
We open with a prologue of Cally watching Brandt and his family move in. She comments on how cute Brandt is but she’s evil now so she doesn’t care. It’s unclear why the house is so desperate to be filled with people, though parts of this book may try to explain that, but it also went thirty years without being lived in, which seems a long time to wait. The motives are bad, is all I’m going to say.
Brandt watches his dad move in his priceless tribal masks while holding his cat. His family just left a small isolated island for the first time in years, and they’re rejoining society. As soon as all these “tribal” elements were introduced I spent most of the book getting ready to cringe. We’ll see if I was right to feel this way.
The house is still filled with rats. Mr. Hankers shows up immediately to offer his services as handyman/rat exterminator. Brandt helps his dad hang up some bronze spears, when one falls out of his hands, piercing his cat. Like other Fear Street books where an animal dies, the parents are pretty apathetic towards this. His parents get pizza for dinner and discuss how things have changed in the States. They tell Brandt to think of high school like an anthropology assignment, which is actually a pretty good scene. Apparently while in Mapolo, Brandt was a prophecy boy who was supposed to break the spell on this woman. I highlighted this assuming this would come up again. It does not.
At night, Brandt hears the scratching of rats and footsteps in the attic. He finds a raccoon that attacks him and then jumps out a window. His parents wake up and scold him for taking matters into his own hands when he has his dramatic pause “condition”. Cally was watching the whole time and is pleased by Brandt, and she clearly has some ideas up her sleeve.
The next day they’re still moving in. Brandt asks to take the car for a drive and careens onto the highway. He gets distracted by a gorge that is near Fear Street which doesn’t make sense in my geography of it but whatever and nearly slams into an oncoming truck. He nearly goes off the edge swerving out of the way and then goes back at eighty miles an hour, telling the audience it was fun. He gets back home and is thinking about Shadyside when he feels something bite him. It leaves no mark though and his parents can’t find anything. Mrs. Nordstrom the housekeeper has also been added to the roster.
Brandt tells his parents he thinks the house is haunted, which excites his father. He tells Brandt he’ll look into it. Brandt walks to school and runs into a girl named Abbie, who tells him his house is evil while also flirting with him a little. They look up at the window and think they see his dad hanging there, and both of them run inside only to find his suit instead. They laugh as they walk out, embarrassed at the mistake.
Brandt gets to school, where he meets Jinny (not a real name) and Meg. They have a kind of flirtatious interaction, until Jinny’s boyfriend Jon shows up and is instantly jealous of Brandt. He tells Brandt to try out for basketball, and Brandt thinks it’d be a good idea, even though he knows his parents would never let him with his dramatic pause “condition”. He goes to tryouts after school, where Jon is a little aggressive but still friendly. Brandt realizes how out of shape he is when he can barely keep up after a few laps.
At home he tells his parents he joined the student senate, which I assume is a debate team style thing. He goes up to his room, and the whole place smells rotten and sour, and a light is coming out of his closet when there is no lightbulb in it. A white smoke pours out of it and starts strangling him. His parents run in, and it disappears, and Cally tells us that she’s going to kill him.
Brandt goes to basketball practice the next day and seems to be doing well, until he’s checked and lands on his arm. A black bruise immediately forms and starts spreading up his arm. He manages to hide it, but the coach tells him to sit out. Jon looks pretty pleased with himself, and he’s worried he’s made an enemy. At night he hears something in the attic again and goes up to investigate, finding Cally’s journal. She wrote down the entire history of the house and includes the line “I died tonight.” He just leaves it on the floor and goes downstairs I guess? Stine really loves those cliffhangers and then jumping forward to not deal with them.
In chemistry class, which he shares with Jinny, Meg, and Jon, both girls try to be his partner. Jon is clearly mad when Jinny claims him. He makes “study plans” with Jinny on Saturday and Meg on Sunday. At basketball practice, Jon gets very aggressive and knocks Brandt down, and his arm snaps. He dislocates his shoulder, which the coach pops back in and tells Brandt politely that he may not be cut out for basketball. Brandt’s dejected and now has to explain to his parents why his arm is in a sling. He also realizes he made plans with Abbie on Saturday and has to tell her he can’t do it, which makes her pretty sad.
Jinny shows up on Saturday, and Brandt shows her around. She notices a leather pouch around his neck and asks about it, and he tells her it’s a good luck charm that saved his life once. She goes downstairs to get a soda, and he hears her scream. When he gets to the kitchen, she’s covered in blood that’s pouring from her wrists. His parents come in and try to calm her down. They wrap her wrists, and she tells them the glass was pulled out of her hands and shattered in midair. After they take her to the hospital, when she finally gets home, she’s clearly upset but does let him know there will be a next time. Brandt walks home and notices a dark, shadowy figure following him.
He runs out of fear and straight into Abbie. They sit on the porch and talk for a while. He tries to ask her on a date, but she tells him she can’t. She leaves, his parents call him inside, and they’re clearly upset that Brandt invited a girl over when they weren’t supposed to be home. They worry about him overdoing it with all these girls, and he storms upstairs. At night he hears noises in the attic again and goes upstairs, where a new page has been added in the diary: “I made Jinny bleed. Abbie is next.”
Brandt is worried about Abbie, but he doesn’t know her house number or her phone number. He goes on his date with Meg the next day, where they watch a movie. Meg has a fluffy white cat that scares him a few times. She starts making out with him, right as Jinny comes knocking at the door. The girls argue for a while, killing the mood. Brandt heads home and looks in the attic again, where the diary now reads: “Brandt, you can’t save Abbie.”
Brandt’s new plan is to steal the diary and hide it so the ghost can’t find it, which is kind of stupid but whatever. He goes to hide it in his room and starts hearing a little boy’s voice calling out for his mom. James is calling out for his parents again, lost and alone in the walls. Brandt read about James’ plight in Cally’s diary and shouts for him. He finds a mallet and breaks the walls until he finds the skeleton of a small boy holding the skeleton of a dog. Instead of calling the police immediately like a normal human, he waits an hour for his parents to come home. His dad thinks all the weird doings might be a poltergeist, stemming from the child, and then they call the police.
With the body gone, they think the haunting might be over. The next Saturday, when Abbie comes over, Brandt no longer feels a need to warn her. He tells her about their time in the Pacific and discusses with her the belief that people have two spirits: one that is a life force tied to blood, and the other is the personality, tied to your soul, presumably. Abbie asks him if he’s ever seen a ghost, and he tells her no. He gets distracted by a phone call for a minute, and then Abbie screams. He runs into the room to find her pinned beneath a suit of metal armor that had been secured to the wall in his dad’s study. After they get her out, he tells her the truth, that he found Cally’s diary and it warned him about this. She tells him the house is evil, and he might believe her.
Brandt is followed by the dark shadow some more. Jon harasses him, and he gets weird in response and tries to follow him to keep from being alone. He looks through the diary again but finds no new information, so he turns to his dad’s research. He finds a book on the nature of evil, and we’re given this:
Evil never dies. Those who do its work can be conquered. But the evil never goes away. It only seeks a new vessel. Anyone can be the victim of evil. Even the kindest heart, the gentlest soul, is at its mercy.
Which illustrates how Cally has been changed by the house. Cally tries to kill him with laughter (no, really), and when Jinny and Meg come back over, they’re both impaled with blow darts. They live, but it’s a good chance Brandt won’t be getting another date. Abbie shows up suddenly when Brandt reads that Cally is planning to kill her, and when he tries to warn her, she laughs and calls him out for reading her diary. Yes, Abbie was Cally all along! Her body stretches until she is ghost Cally again, and she tells him she’ll kill him so they can be trapped in the house together forever. She hits him with a hatchet, but he doesn’t bleed or die. This is when Brandt reveals his dramatic pause”condition” is in fact that he’s a zombie!
Brandt tells Cally the whole story, how two years ago he was accidentally poisoned (at this point I am full cringe). His parents took him to a sorcerer in the village, who tells them their sons spirit is still there, but his life force is missing. The sorcerer found a drifter and invited him to his home for food, where he gave him a drugged tea. He cut the drifter’s hair and nails and put them in the pouch that is on Brandt’s neck, and then dressed Brandt in his clothes. He performed a ceremony until dawn, in which the drifter’s spirit passed onto Brandt. Cally is very excited to hear this, and she tells Brandt they’ll be together forever in the house, and she goes to kiss him right as the dark shadow makes itself known.It’s the drifter! Come to take back his life force! The ghost pulls the pouch from Brandt’s neck, and Brandt’s life starts to drain away. His skin turns green and falls off, and the drifter exclaims that he can hear his heart beating. Cally wails in anger, as she’s now, again, alone.
I can live without basketball, Brandt thought. I’ve got plenty of other activities to keep me busy. Mainly, girls!
Fear Street Trends
The girls are described in detail in this book to no surprise. Abbie/Cally prefers oversized sweaters and tights, and at one point wears a blue vest with faded jeans, the most 90s look. Jinny dresses sexier in a black sweater, black skirt, and black tights. Brandt also jams to a cassette tape in his car.
All of the Fear Street trilogies feel very much like Stine wrote them in the same day, and so they interconnected well. This feels less true, especially since I read the Third Horror immediately after. It seems a lot more like Stine had some ideas he wanted to throw together, and most of them are good ideas. This one was certainly less derivative than the First Horror, and the twist ending was too good. I’m going to give it three zombie boys out of five.