New Fear Street #2 – Camp Out

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The Cover

camp out

The cover (borrowed from Young Adult Revisited) is, um, bad. It has the same weird colors and high contrast of the redone covers, and a stock image of a shadowy figure that looks more like an alien than a murderer.

Tagline

Camping can be murder…

Generic but servicable. Inoffensive.

Summary

Three friends–Ellen, Beth, and our protagonist Maria–are planning for a camping trip. Ellen is a bungee jumper, hang glider, and experienced rock climber, Beth similarly plays sports and climbs, but poor Maria is going for the first time. She looks around the camping store flipping out. Her friends are having fun, at least. Maria’s also a little shaken up because she just broke up with her boyfriend, meaning this is supposed to be a girl’s weekend, though Beth views boys as much a sport as anything else she does. Maria gives them mommy’s credit card to pay for everything, and as they scuttle off, she runs into Bret “the Freak” Freitell.

Bret gives her a hard time in the store and picks up an axe. He starts telling her this would do the job, asking where they’re going camping, and then flips out when he thinks she’s calling him stupid. He swings the ax at her, stopping inches above her face. And then when she storms off he calls her a wimp. No one calls security or does anything else about this. Just another day in Shadyside.

The girls head out to the trail. Maria says they can’t talk about guys, which to Beth means the only other thing to talk about is shopping. I wouldn’t call the Fear Street books a bastion of feminism, but they aren’t usually this. Anyway, Bret nearly runs the girls off the road, and when they get out to yell at him, he suddenly changes demeanor, apologizing and saying he didn’t know the curve was so sharp. The girls stop at a mini-mart up ahead and decide to get some snacks and relax for a minute. There they meet Will, Andrew, and Daniel, also going camping that weekend. Daniel flirts with them a little and offers to help them out on the trail, which sends Beth and Ellen, the two experienced extreme sport enthusiasts, into giggle fits. Maria reminds them this is a no boys weekend, and the two relent, telling the boys they’re fine on their own. They pack up their cars, still chatting with the trio, when something falls out of Daniel’s pack. Maria thinks it’s a gun, but he shows her it’s a flare gun.

The girls head out on the trail as a rainstorm rolls in. Seems like someone should’ve checked the weather, but okay. As they start down the trail, they hear someone near them. A shot rings out. They flip out and see two hunters coming towards them. They apologize, saying they got lost, but, uh, there’s hunting in public camping grounds? That seems ridiculously dangerous. They also have to be close to top of the trail, where the most people would be, which either means they’ve wandered in from a very long way or they’re hunting people.

It starts raining as the girls get going, and they find their way blocked when a creek fills up with water. They debate hiking further up the trail or camping here until the rain stops, when they’re interrupted by a bear sound. It’s just the boys, being boys. Maria’s flipping done and shouts at them. Daniel offers them a beer. The boys have a raft with them, and they offer to help them cross the creek so they can continue onto their camping site. Beth and Ellen cross okay, but when Maria and Will go across, they lose the rope. The raft starts following the wild current, and they’re knocked into the water. Maria has already told us she’s a strong swimmer, and even in the current she manages to stay up until she finds Will, and she helps him to shore. Daniel yells at him for losing the raft. Maria is just happy to be alive.

They continue up the trail, which is just slush with mud. And they still plan to rock climb in this? I don’t know a lot about anything, but I’m pretty sure it’s dangerous to do that in a rainstorm. And this is Maria’s first time, so she’s already exhausted and tired of the mud. She trips and starts sliding down the path, hitting her hand into a rock. Will reaches her first and checks the wrist, making sure she can move it. The girls build a splint for the sprain, and Ellen asks if she wants to turn around. Maria almost says yes, but Daniel makes a snide comment about her not being able to handle it, and she once again feels like a wimp in a scenario where most people would be miserable and happy to turn back. So she says she’ll shoulder on. Will, at least, tells her it takes a lot of guts to keep hiking. He stands up to Daniel for her too, when Daniel gets annoyed that she wants to rest.

Daniel gets them to keep going by saying he knows a great camping spot that’ll be on dry ground. Maria’s relieved, until they reach the end of the trail, with only a steep gray wall in front of them. Beth assures Maria that she won’t be climbing, not with that wrist, and the others will pull her up. Without too much incident, they all get up on the ledge, where a large overhang protects them from the rain, and they can finally relax.

The girls set up their camp and immediately cook some dinner, while the boys remain bros, at least Andrew and Daniel. They down beer instead. Will comes over to sit with the girls a while, and he admits he didn’t know Daniel before today. He’s Andrew’s brother, and so today’s been nearly the nightmare for him as it has for Maria. The girls settle into their tent, exhausted but happy to be dry and warm, until Maria wakes up in the middle of the night. Gentle, on the wind, she hears a sound. Whimpering. Moaning. A wail. She waits and realizes the boys are playing a joke on her. She refuses to stoop to their level, and goes back to sleep.

Maria’s the first to wake in the morning, and she spends a few minutes enjoying the scenery. Then she notices Daniel and Andrew have already packed their tent and were putting their supplies together. They barely acknowledge her. She asks where Will went, and they tell her he wandered off after an argument he and Daniel had. Instead of being instantly suspicious of this, Beth gets distracted by a bunny she wants a picture of and gets the girls to heard it. This places Maria next the edge of the cliff, and she can see below Will’s dead body. Andrew and Daniel insist they didn’t hear anything last night, but Maria remembers that she did. He must’ve been laying there for hours. Bleeding out. Begging for someone to help him.

Ellen insists on checking on the body, even when Andrew and Daniel tell her not to. She climbs down to the ledge his body landed on and lets them know he is, in fact, dead. She also discovers huge bruises on his body, not from the fall, but like he was beaten. Ellen yells this to the people above her, which is fantastic. She also finds Daniel’s walking stick broken in two. And instead of quietly keeping this to herself to give her friends a chance to escape, she lets everyone know, so Daniel can freak out right away.

Basically, for the next twenty pages, Andrew and Daniel go back and forth. They’re going to cut Ellen’s rope! Except they want her to climb to the top. They’re going to shoot Maria with a flare gun! But it needs to look like an accident. The girls promise to tell everyone it’s an accident! But they can’t trust them. They’re going to toss them over the ledge! But they might live.

Finally, Maria convinces them to take her hostage, use her credit card to buy a raft to escape, and then the boys say they’ll tie her to the raft and let it go over the falls. They bring the other two along as well, so they can’t get to a ranger or any help. She says they need her to sign for the credit card, but even if it did flag for fraud, it’d be a minute before anyone realized what had actually happened. Luckily, these boys are not real thinkers.

They get to the raft place, and Maria goes inside alone. She chats with the guy, who gives her all the safety information, and she uses the time to try to figure out an escape. But the boys have her friends hostage right outside. As she goes to pay, instead of signing her name, she writes: “Help. Brothers holding us hostage. Killed someone already.” Behind her Daniel walks in. The man doesn’t even glance at the receipt and just tosses it in the register. I will say, this man probably sees a hundred signatures a day, but I think I’d notice if someone wrote a full sentence instead of the usual scribble.

Daniel and Andrew force them into the boat. They tie up Ellen and Beth, but when they reach for Maria, she punches them instead. They’re already in the rapids, and the raft starts to rock wildly with the water and with the fight onboard. Maria desperately holds onto her friends, who can only bounce along with the current. She gets a Telltale moment, where they’re coming on a big boulder, and she has to choose which friend to help, so she leaps at Beth, while Ellen is tossed into the water. Maria reaches into the water and manages to pull her out as the raft gets past the rapids into calm water. Maria lunges for the flare gun, which goes off as she struggles with Andrew. With the water calm now, she leaps over the edge and swims for shore, Daniel following after her.

Maria gets to dry land, where she books it. She runs into the road and flags down the first car she sees, which–of course–has the Freak in it. Bret calms her down until Daniel bursts from the trees, and the two start chatting like old friends. Daniel openly admits to Bret that he did a murder, and he needs to murder these three girls, Bret is like, anything you need man. Daniel says if they’re not back in about five minutes, Andrew will kill the other girls anyway, so Bret helps him drag Maria through the forest. He grabs his pack first, promising there’s something good inside.

It’s pretty obvious what Bret is doing, but boy does he go along with it. He helps them get all the girls in the raft, and he pulls out the ax to threaten them. He convinces the boys to untie all the girls, and when he gets ready to chop the rope, he hits Andrew instead (with the flat side, I guess, so no one actually dies). Daniel tries to stab him, forcing him to drop the ax. Maria jumps out of the boat and grabs for it. She gets her friends out and then stands there watching Daniel and Bret fight with actually doing anything about it. Daniel comes out on top and starts towards her, but she gets him into the boat, letting the raft go, and watches him fly down the river.

Just in time for a park ranger to arrive! The guy at the boat rental did read her note! Everything’s okay! Even Bret isn’t as big a creep as we thought he was! The girls go home, and Maria is ready to relax, only to find her parents in her living room, ready to take her camping. Cue laugh track, freeze frame, fade to black.

Favorite Line

Andrew glanced at his brother. “She’s right, Daniel. It’s bad enough that we killed Will. We can’t kill four people.”

“Why not?” Daniel asked.

“For one thing, it’s daylight.”

Fear Street Trends

There’s not too many, since most of the story takes place on the camping trip. None of the boys have an earring to let us know they’re dangerous but cool. In the first scene, Beth pulls out a Lycra catsuit that’s just for sale at the camping store? And calls it cute? And Ellen’s reply is, “We’re going camping in the mountains, Beth. Not to the country club.” UM, I don’t know if country clubs are all about shiny catsuits. She then convinces Ellen to try on a pair of spandex shorts, which are actual things someone might work out with.

Rating

This book is just kind of flat for me. I will say it’s short, straightforward, with only one real “twist”, if you can call it that, which is kind of nice. Still, the actions of the murderers don’t make a ton of sense, and it might’ve been more thrilling as a “chase through the forest”/”run for your life” narrative rather than having the girls be held against their will. I’ll give it two blunt axes out of five.

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Fear Street Superchiller – Goodnight Kiss 2

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The Cover

goodnight kiss 2

The cover (borrowed from its GoodReads page) is pretty good, actually. There’s lots of things I like about it. The romantic pose is really nice (though that girl is ridiculously skinny), with the full ocean and the moon behind it. It’s got a good “romance, but spooky” vibe.

Tagline

It’s the kiss of death.

Pretty similar to the previous one, but I like it. Vampires are weirdly romantic, and it plays into the whole “sex and death” thing they usually have going on.

Summary

We open with a scene that’s sort of the inverse of the first scene in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Diana and Eric are walking on the beach, and it leans into Diana being a vampire without saying it. Eric tries to leave before the sun comes up, but she drags him beneath a beach umbrella and tells him her sister died last year thanks to vampires. Eric tries to attack her. She impales him with the stake for the umbrella, and he turns to dust, which is also a very BtVS, though obviously Stine writes of it in more loving detail.

We are then introduced to Billy and his friends Jay and Nate. Billy is returning to Sandy Hollow, bringing with him the memories of his last girlfriend, Joelle. Nate also has a little sister named Lynette who tags along with them. She’s the exact sarcastic little sister character that’s in every 80s movie, but I like her okay. Billy also mentions he’s had a rough year spent in a hospital. This will be important later.

As they walk along, they see hundreds of bats flying from Vampire Island. Billy mentions a story where some kids went out there on a dare, the exact dare being to “find the vampires and destroy them”, which is kind of extreme for your average high school dare. Anyway, they set a coffin on fire, and vampires killed them. Everyone agrees the story is dumb. Lynette turns around and sees two bats trying to carry off a small dog, which is a crazy image. Also, eighteen pages in, and there’s your dead animal.

Billy tells everyone that vampires are real, and his girlfriend Joelle was killed by them. The others argue there’s no proof of that, and when Billy admits his last year was spent in a mental hospital, which makes them pretty dismissive. Jay and Nate try to calm Billy down and remind him they’re here to party, not destroy vampires. Billy is unsatisfied, but let’s it drop.

Cut to April. You remember April. She died in the last book, turned into a vampire. She’s here now, watching as two vampire bats essentially do a Sims costume change and spin into people. They immediately go to attack April, but she yells at them that she’s an immortal. They rehash that Gabri is the one who turned her. Irene and Kylie are our new vampires. Irene is more thoughtful, but Kylie is obsessed with nectar and is hungry all the time. She also doesn’t want to cloud people’s minds, since she thinks she’s attractive enough to snag her prey either way. They roll up to the boardwalk and see the three boys, immediately deciding to drink from them. They do the usual flirtation, and April is amused to see Billy pull away from Kylie.

April invites the boys to be in a play! She explains the local theater group is putting on Night of the Vampire, and they always need more boys to be in it. Rehearsals and performances are always at night, because “a lot of us can only make it at night”. Which sort of makes it sound like a vampire troupe is putting this together, which I kind of love. Also, I know these girls are cute, but I don’t know if I’d want to sacrifice my summer doing bad theater. I can do that anytime.

The boys leave. The girls argue about nectar. A bet is made. Instead of drinking them dry, the first one to turn their partner into an immortal wins. This bet is made a lot, I’m noticing, which is sort of ridiculous. I think more suspicious than people dying on the beach are the number of people turning into fecking vampires.

Billy goes to the tryouts, which I was genuinely surprised to learn were real, which I think just justifies my new theory that it is 100% vampires running this show. Jay reads and does pretty well. Kylie comes over to creep on Billy. His absolute disinterest in her is the best. Kylie goes up on stage and overacts, while a girl named Mae-Linn whispers commentary to Billy. They click really well and are laughing together already. When she goes up to read, she kills it. As Kylie comes back to flirt with him some more, he blows her off, saying he already promised Mae-Linn they were going out. Kylie is clearly angry. As Billy and Mae-Linn walk along the shore, they see April and Jay in the sand. Mae-Linn says goodnight, and Billy has to remind himself why he’s here this summer.

We cut to a scene of Irene and Nate making out, and she’s just about to go for it when Lynette interrupts. She leaves quickly. Meanwhile, Billy has weird dreams about vampires and is woken up by the police. They tell him Mae-Linn was missing and he was the last to see her. He takes them to the spot where they were walking, only for them to find Mae-Linn’s body. Billy vomits, as you do, but he does notice on her neck two small puncture marks.

The vampire girls argue about killing Mae-Linn, and Kylie insists she didn’t. Billy goes to see Jay, only to learn that he’s incredibly sick. Billy is now pretty sure April is a vampire. He goes to Nate next, and Lynette jumps out at him. Billy and Nate walk to rehearsals together, where everyone is talking about Mae-Linn. But the play continues with Kylie in the starring role, and she runs a scene with Billy. Billy, a lost delivery boy, runs into Kylie, a beautiful vampire. She pretend bites him, and he freaks out. The group decides to head out after practice, but someone runs into April and recognizes her. April shoves him somewhere private, and in her absence, Billy tries to get a look at Jay’s neck, but he shoves him off.

Kylie takes Billy out and clouds his mind so the whole thing feels like a dream. Kylie starts to bite down on him when two vampire bats attack. She fights them off, and Billy is impressed. She teases they should go to the island, and he says he can get a rowboat no problem from the guy he works for. As they climb into the boat, Kylie lols that she loves to do stuff like this because she’s just so weird and crazy. We get it, Kylie. You need attention. Billy just starts to think this might be a bad idea as they row up to the island.

I guess Kylie’s plan is to get him alone (and on her turf), while Billy’s plan is to scope out the place. They wander around the dark, lush forest. Bats fill the sky, and dog growls are heard. They find the remains of a burned out house and Kylie drags him inside. Hundreds of bats are inside, hanging from the ceiling. They leave, but almost immediately Kylie disappears, leaving Billy alone. A large black wolf jumps out at him and attacks, and Billy has to fight it off. He finds a table leg and stabs it into the creature. No blood. It isn’t alive. It falls over and crumples up. Billy has killed his first vampire.

Kylie finds Billy and they leave, only to find Rick, the boy April was talking to earlier, dead in the water. The next day the whole group meets, and Billy studies Jay, who’s exhausted and can barely keep his head up, and April, who’s distraught over the death. April says she can’t eat anything. Billy tries to force her to eat a slice of pizza, and Jay cuts him off. Later, Billy goes to tell Jay he’s pretty sure April is a vampire, and Jay says he needs to tell his parents he’s having these thoughts, since he’s clearly not over whatever he went through last year. He goes to find Jay and April and runs into Nate and Irene instead, along with Lynette. At the arcade, he sees another boy, one he recognizes instantly. Jon. Jon, who promised to look after Lynette that night. Jon, who killed Joelle. Jon, who’s dragging Lynette out the door into an alley right now.

Billy races to save her. They fight. Billy makes his second kill. Lynette is knocked out, and Nate runs up behind him, immediately blaming Billy for Lynette’s condition. In a less kind way than Jay said it, Nate screams that Billy is sick and needs to go back to the hospital before storming off with Lynette. Kylie finds Billy wandering alone and tries to bite him again. He leaves and finds Jay, who’s completely out of it. He sees the puncture marks on his neck and tries to convince him, but Jay won’t have it.

After they find the body of the drama teacher with bite marks in her neck, Billy tries one more time to convince his friends that vampires are real. He convinces Jay to go along with it, and on a double date with Kylie and April, they enact a plan. While out, a storm starts up. Billy ditches Kylie and follows April and Jay to the theater. They hang out there until dawn, lying to April about what time it is, telling her that the storm is still going. It’s not a great plan, but it’s working. Billy grabs April and forces her upstairs into the rays of the sun. And, nothing happens. Jay immediately snaps at Billy, but April is only angry that her plan is ruined. April reveals that she’s not April at all, but Diana. April was her cousin, who was turned into a vampire and returned to Shadyside only to throw herself into the sunlight. She’s back for revenge.

The two vampire hunters decide to do something about this. It’s still raining as they row out to the island with stakes they crafted. They split up immediately, which is dumb, but okay. Billy finds a house with coffins inside. He lifts the lid only to find clothes inside, like swimsuits and short skirts. I love the thought of vampires using coffins as storage. It just goes with the decor. He lifts another lid and finds Kylie sleeping there. He raises his hammer and stake but hesitates. She’s not a person, he reminds himself. She’s a monster. But Kylie and Irene wake up before he can finish it, and he’s quickly overwhelmed. Irene is staked, and Diana rushes in, killing Kylie. They leave quickly after that, even though there’s probably a hundred more vampires on the island.

Diana and Billy celebrate with some pizza. Billy is messing with a knife when he accidentally cuts himself, and Diana freaks out when she realizes there’s no blood. Billy admits he wasn’t in a hospital for the past year, but in a coffin, being a vampire. He killed Mae-Linn because he was so hungry, and Rick too. He needed revenge, but now he just needs nectar, and Diana is the closest neck to him…

Favorite Line

What should I do? Billy wondered. Should I tackle him? Rip off his shirt?

Fear Street Trends

These are some fashionable vampires! When Billy opens the coffin, he “picked up a short skirt, a midriff top. He rummaged around, sifting through bathing suits and jeans.” Kylie wears cut offs and halter tops and straight ponytails, which is very early 2000s of her. Tourists are seen with Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts on. Love it. Love all of it.

Like many summer reads, Shadyside only gets a mention. Diana and April are from there originally, obviously, though I don’t think they’re Fear Street residents.

Rating

I still liked this one above average of a Fear Street read. Vampires living in the modern day are always fun, and you can kind of tell Irene is older while Kylie may have died in the last decade and April is fresh. If the plot twist had happened halfway in the book instead, with Diana and Billy teaming up, as a human-pretending-to-be-vampire and vampire-pretending-to-be-human, I might’ve really enjoyed that dynamic. But last scene plot twists is the way of the world in 90s youth oriented horror. I’ll still give it three crumbling corpses out of five.

Fear Street #42 – Killer’s Kiss

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The Cover

I really like the original cover (taken from this Fear Street blog)? There’s something very classic about it, from the old photograph to lip stains on it, to the colors. It has very little to do with the plot, but that’s okay, because it’s sinister and sweet all at the same time.

The new one (taken from its Amazon page) is better than most of the updated covers. I appreciate a good skull though I don’t know why it’s wearing sunglasses? That color with that bridge crack definitely makes this skull look like a cool dude. The kiss on the forehead too is weird. I know why they did it there, but that doesn’t say “tender love turned deadly” as much as “bad Photoshop”.

Tagline

Her lips were sweet and deadly.

Also a pretty good tagline. It could use an ellipses in there to really sell the drama, but I like this.

Sweet, tender, and vicious.

Not as good, but they’re nearly identical. I think vicious isn’t as sellable as deadly I think it loses something from not being a complete sentence.

Summary

We open on Vincent Milano watching Delia apply a tube of purple lipstick to her lips after a makeout session. The first three chapters made me think Vincent would be our main character, and I thought this was going in a more Double Date direction, but he sort of disappears from his own story after this introduction? Unlike other Stine books where someone’s dating two people at once (which is an alarming number of them), Vincent is pretty much just there to lie and die.

The important thing is, Vincent and Delia have just been making out super good, and we see Delia do something she’ll do a hundred times in this book: she applies her lipstick and then presses a tissue to her lips, making a perfect lip mark. Vincent’s also a pretty bad womanizer. Delia asks him about his birthday party, and he realizes both she and Karina are invited and decides to do nothing about this. He’s also invited both girls over on the same night for making out. Too late he realizes the clock in his living room has stopped and Karina might be there at any second, so he kicks Delia out without much fanfare. Literally as she pulls out of the driveway, Karina turns down his street. If you’re going to two-time two girls who despise each other, at least plan it better.

Karina arrives and chats with Vincent on his porch before they walk in, and she realizes Delia left a huge purple lip mark on his cheek. Vincent quickly backtracks with some lame excuse about helping her with her homework and that she gave him a peck on the way out. Karina proceeds to give the same speech that Delia gave about her: the two are rivals, and the one is always stealing the other’s clothes and friends and now boyfriends. Karina flips out though and shouts that she won’t let her win before slamming the door and driving off. A totally normal Shadyside reaction.

We cut to Delia hanging out with her friends on the bleachers in the gym. Britty and Gabe are discussing the Conklin Award, which is never fully explained but appears to be an arts scholarship that allows Delia a free ride to the “most expensive fashion college in New York” (you couldn’t figure out a name, Stine?). Without it, Delia’s not even sure if she can afford community college in Waynesbridge. They say seven kids applied for it, which seems improbably low for a huge scholarship that could get you into art colleges in New York, but maybe it’s a local thing? There also seems to be a talent portion that is unrelated to the actual art that the student does? Delia paints and sketches fashion, but she plays guitar for her talent, and Karina sings, and Stewart, another contender, does a magic show? I don’t know much about art scholarships but I don’t think they work like a beauty pageant.

There’s a little more about Karina and Delia’s rivalry, and Britty mentions they all used to be friends. She still hangs out with Karina and offers to talk to Delia for her. Gabe mentions they had a truce for a whole year and were nearly on friendly terms, but Delia won’t stand for her boyfriend being stolen. Which is when the doors fly open and Karina comes shrieking in. She lunges at Delia and starts to choke her! She screams that Delia’s not going to win this time, and Delia manages to shove her off. For the first time ever in a Fear Street novel a teacher intervenes. The coach takes Karina to the principal’s office, and Delia is shaken. Her friends comfort her, and Britty promises to talk to Karina to see what’s going on.

Delia and Vincent are chatting, and I don’t know why Vincent is even with Delia. He clearly doesn’t want to talk to her and would choose Karina over her in a heartbeat. As he starts kissing her, Delia realizes they’re being watched, and she sees her younger sister Sarah. The two sisters fight, and Delia snaps at Sarah that she’s just jealous because no boy’s ever kissed her. Sarah flips out and screams that she hates her. She threatens her sister, steals one of her paintings, and runs upstairs.

At school, Delia is caught off guard by Stewart, who she says is the stiffest competition for the Conklin Award. She’s clearly into him and forgets for a second that she even has a boyfriend. Stewart asks her out, but she sees Vincent coming down the hall, and she tells him no. Stewart seems genuinely disappointed, which is a little sad. But later on she hears someone talking from within a storage closet, and she sees Stewart and Karina inside, talking quietly. She thinks maybe they’re plotting against her. She runs into Britty, who tells her that there’s no real reason for Stewart to help Karina, and it’s more likely that he asked Delia out because he likes her. They watch Stewart leave, but Karina doesn’t. Delia asks Britty to talk to Karina, to explain that she’s with Vincent, and she’s willing to be cool so long as Karina doesn’t come for him. Britty seems reluctant, but as they see Karina leave, she goes to greet her.

Britty gets Karina to stop walking so Delia can listen in. Britty asks her what happened the other day at the gym, and Karina blows it off. Britty is rightfully upset that she doesn’t see a strangulation as a big deal, and she tries to lightly bring up that she’s acting out of control. Karina gets real menacing and says Delia won’t win the Conklin and won’t win Vincent, and then she calls out to Delia in the hall before storming off.

Delia is all nerves as the competition starts for the Conklin Award. She dreams about Karina covering her in her Midnight Wine lipstick (less fun than it sounds). Delia chose to go last in the competition and regrets it, since she has all the time in the world to get nervous. Karina sings as someone plays piano, and Delia notices her sister sitting away from them, watching Delia. Delia runs backstage, her nerves getting to her, and she picks up her guitar case. The judges call her name, and she’s saved the embarrassment of playing an original song she wrote about Vincent when she realizes all her strings are cut, and a dead rat has been stuffed into its hollow center. Gabe helps her off stage, and she accuses Karina of messing with her. The judges again present themselves as reasonable authority figures and tell the girls that they’ll investigate what happened and decide from there.

Delia gets home to find a note taped to her door from Vincent, inviting her out to Red Heat. She decides to get some clothes that Britty borrowed from her back, and when she arrives at Britty’s house, she finds she and Gabe are making cookies for her. It’s genuinely sweet how these two support Delia, and they chat about Karina and eat cookies together and it’s great. As Delia drives back home, she sees Karina and Vincent kissing. She tries to slam on her brakes but hits the accelerator instead, and then a patch of ice, and then she’s spinning out of control. Karina helps her out of the car, and the two share an awkward moment. Delia admits she didn’t know Vincent was dating both of them, and Karina tells her he’s been lying. Karina apologizes for going berserk in the gym but swears she didn’t ruin her guitar, and she asks for a truce. Delia reluctantly agrees, and then Karina gets the fuck out of there so Vincent can arrive. I’m not 100% sure what happens next, but we cut to Vincent on the phone with Delia clearly the same night, telling her that he can’t go to the Red Heat after all, which is fucking crazy. He tells Delia that Karina was lying and kissed him against his wishes and, like, dude. If you’re going to keep playing this terrible game, at least go dancing with her tonight to reinforce it. Also she almost died getting an outfit to look good for you so you can at least show up. He doesn’t even wait for Delia to respond before hanging up on her. As he hangs up, he cuddles up to the next girl on his couch: Sarah.

The next stage of the Conklin Award appears to be presenting what you’re actually going to school for. Delia waits with her paintings. They’re all also artists and appear to be pretty good, so again, I don’t really know what the the requirements are for this scholarship. Stewart continues to be sweet to Delia and soft asks her out. But Delia’s called in, and she removes her paintings from their portfolio, only to discover they’ve been smeared with Midnight Wine lipstick. Delia flips out and immediately goes to find Karina, who is making out with Vincent.

Britty and Delia talk during an elaborate display of Britty pulling out salsa, jalapenos, and black beans and rice, which I guess is meant to tell us that Britty is Latinx, but it sort of comes out of nowhere? I’m not sure what Stine’s thought process was with this. Delia tells her she’s going to see Vincent, and Britty tells her to drop his ass. But Delia won’t let it lie, and she goes to Vincent’s house, only to find him making out with Sarah. Vincent tries to write it off, but Delia doesn’t even seem to care. She’s worried about Karina, and she makes him promise to talk to her before she gets too out of control.

And now it’s time for something completely different. Britty and Gabe appear to be helping Vincent set up his party in an abandoned house in Fear Street. I’m not 100% why either of them agreed to help or would show up with Delia, but narratively it needs to happen. Karina arrives instead, and Britty and Gabe vacate. Vincent doesn’t even seem to want Delila at his party, and when Britty comes up to him later saying she’s worried, he blows it off. He refuses to be worried about it at his own party, though he still seems kind of worried about it. Britty is getting snippy with him and says that they’re stopping by Delia’s on the way home, not that he cares. But as they start to leave, Delia arrives, making her grand entrance. Her heels are snapped, her dress is torn, her arms are scratched, and blood is on her face, and she collapses right there in front of everyone. They all gather around to see if she’s okay, and Delia points an accusing finger at Karina. She says Karina invited her over to talk, and then tied her up on her bed. She demands to know what Karina’s plan was after the party. Was she going to kill her? Karina screams that she didn’t do it, and when Delia says they can go to her house, she tells them no. Vincent tries to talk to Karina, but she screams at him and runs off.

The next day, Delia seems fine, which is probably the biggest red flag. She won’t go to the police, and she’s applying her makeup like normal. She and Britty and Gabe go over to the house to clean it, but they wait outside for Vincent first. When he doesn’t arrive, they check inside, only to find his body there, his body stabbed, and a purple lipstick mark on his cheek. The police take Delia in, and Gabe tells her not to accuse Karina, in case that makes her sound guilty, but the current story is that Karina ties up people to her bed so like mention that I guess. The detectives leave Delia with their murder board which doesn’t seem appropriate protocol. She watches as they start putting pictures of evidence on the murder board. They come out and tell her they took her lip print (????) and compared it to the print on Vincent’s body and found it a match. We don’t get the scene where a bunch of grown men in police uniforms force a teenage girl to kiss something to get her “lip print” and for that I’m thankful.

They do tell her not to talk until her attorney arrives, but she decides she can prove it wasn’t her. She does a full Mythbusters and says that if it was truly her lip print, the print would be reversed on Vincent’s cheek (?????). She does the thing where she presses a piece of paper to her lips and shows them the print, and then points out that this must’ve been pressed to Vincent’s cheek. I’m not a scientist, or a biologists, or an artist, but I’m pretty certain this is not how lipstick marks work. I don’t know if I could tell the difference between a direct kiss stain and a reproduction. Also, Delia, how much lipstick are you globbing on that your tissue paper blotting can reproduce a full lip mark after use. I feel like Stine maybe thought up this part first and then wrote us a story to get here. It’s written like a real Sherlock Holmes moment, but it doesn’t make any sense.

Anyway, the police go to search Karina’s house and find a saved sheet of lipstick marks. I’ve avoided talking about the homoerotic tension between Karina and Delia but man oh man could I get into some stuff. Karina flips out when Delia accuses her and tries to attack her again. Her mom promises to get her help, and Delia feels it might finally be over.

Cut to senior prom, sort of. Gabe and Delia are going together, but they stop by the psychiatric hospital to see Karina first, I guess to make her feel extra bad? Gabe mentions he’s been coming every week, though I don’t know why. He tells Delia he’s proud of her for winning the Conklin Award, and she says this isn’t how she wanted to win. She then proceeds, with no prompting, to tell Gabe exactly how she dug a dead rat out of the trash to wreck her own guitar, and ruined her own paintings, and she got so mad when she caught Vincent with Sarah, so she faked her own kidnapping, planted evidence in Karina’s house, and then killed him. She kisses Gabe and begs him not to tell anyone, and then comes the worst ending to a book I think I’ve ever read:

Gazing over Delia’s shoulder, he saw a white coated doctor standing grim-faced in the doorway.

“I heard the whole story,” he told Gabe. “I’ll phone the police.”

And then it’s over. What? It’s such a clumsy exit.

Favorite Line

“You’ve been out in the ozone somewhere since we got here.”

Fear Street Trends

So many! Thank goodness! Karina and Delia are clearly meant to be opposites, and they dress like it. Delia constantly mentions finding her clothes at thrift shops, and she wears loud colors and crazy designs. We see her wearing an orange shirt dress embroidered with yellow flowers. The outfit that almost kills her is a black suede miniskirt with a matching black suede fringed vest (ugh) with a purple lace bodysuit (what!) and platform red boots. Her “artsy” outfit for the second part of the competition is a braid with stone studded silver earrings. And her trademark purple lipstick. Karina is only described a handful of times, but Vincent says she looks like Michelle Pfeiffer (I’ve missed you celebrity descriptions!). She dresses more conservatively with pleated pants and a pink sweater.

Rating

This one is bad. It’s the only real word for it. The book is mostly bloodless and the unreliable narrator could’ve been cool if we were given more reason to distrust her. There’s a few red herrings but none of them are played up. The ending’s the worst part, and I think if she’d gotten away with it in the end, I would’ve forgiven this book some of it’s faults, but I guess Stine didn’t want to pull another Best Friend. I’m giving it one rat filled guitar out of five.

Fear Street # 37 – The Perfect Date

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I did not mean to take January off, but my schedule got kind of crazy with things freezing over, taking trips, and working odd weekends, but I’m back! Since February is a month of love, I chose some books to really illustrate the dangers of dating.

The Cover

The original cover (pulled from this Fear Street blog) isn’t bad. There’s no background to it, which feels exceptionally lazy, but the posing is well done. It kind of reminds me of First Date, but the people in this are actually looking at each other and the knife to the back is subtle enough. The updated cover (taken from its Amazon page) is so, so sad. Why they do they do that negative exposure thing to all these books? Was that ever popular?

Tagline

Dream date… or nightmare?

Pretty good, pretty good. Plays into expectations, makes a play one words, but doesn’t reveal too much. I can appreciate this one.

Breaking up can be murder.

Um, what? I guess there’s a subplot about breaking up with someone in this book, but that’s not the central conflict. This seems very out of place.

Summary

We open with a prologue! Brady Karlin and his beautiful girlfriend Sharon Noles are hiking up the tallest hill in Shadyside after a major blizzard burst through their town. Miller Hill slopes down in front of them, and Sharon’s nervous to sled down it. She keeps pointing over to the other hills, but Brady’s insistent they go down Miller Hill. He kind of pushes Sharon on her sled before she’s ready and follows after, and they’re sledding down, avoiding thornbushes and tall pine trees, flying so fast. Brady’s loving it, but Sharon starts screaming. She slams into a tree and goes flying. Brady chases after her, being casual about it at first, even though she’s not answering, and when he finds her body, there’s nothing left of her face.

Cut to a year later. Brady is hanging out with his friend Jon, possibly the most likeable guy in Shadyside, talking about cute girls. It seems like every girl has a crush on Brady, and Jon has to remind him he’s currently dating Allie Stoner. He seems a little upset when Brady mentions he’s been thinking about breaking up with her, and while it doesn’t come up, I’m 90% sure Jon has a little crush on her. Their conversation is interrupted when Brady sees a girl he describes as “perfect”, totally gorg, pouty lips and all. Jon again reminds Brady he has a girlfriend a she gets up to go talk to her. She introduces herself as Rosha Nelson, and her name normally wouldn’t make me bat an eye thanks to all the weird 90s names that get tossed around, but the characters bring it up themselves that it’s kind of weird. They chat, flirt, make plans for a date, and then she pours boiling hot coffee on his hand.

At school the next day, Brady runs into Allie, who reminds him they were going to the basketball game together on Saturday and invites him out for pizza that night. Brady plays her off and starts to break things off with her, but he gets cold feet on it. He lies instead, saying he has to babysit his cousin, and she seems to buy it. She asks if he’s still coming over Sunday to study with her and Jon, and he promises he’ll be there. But Brady’s distracted and only wants to think about Rosha. For the first time since the prologue he thinks about Sharon, and then quickly dismisses her for Rosha.

Brady meets Rosha at the mall on Saturday, nervous he’ll get caught by one of Allie’s friends. At first he thinks he might get stood up, but she shows, and they head off to Waynesbridge to see a movie. Rosha, up to this point, has refused to tell Brady where she lives, meeting at a second location instead, hasn’t given him her phone number, and has clearly lied about why she wanted to meet at the mall. She’s also incredibly cold, and Brady seems supernaturally attracted to her, to the point that he starts stalking her later. She also does that thing crazy girls in Shadyside do, where they ask for the keys to their boyfriend’s car, and then drive it at 90 miles an hour down dangerous streets. Going home from the movies, she plows through some ice, spinning them out, and getting Brady’s head smashed into the windshield. When he comes to, she quickly tells him to get in the driver’s seat since she doesn’t have her license, and when the police arrive, she’s already gone.

Brady goes to meet Jon and Allie for studying, and he and Jon talk about his crazy night. Brady got off surprisingly easy for crashing his dad’s classic car, but maybe the concussion is punishment enough. Allie is a good girlfriend and fusses over him, and Brady gets annoyed and disappears for a bit. He realizes he doesn’t have Rosha’s phone number. He opens up a phone book and looks for the Nelsons before realizing there’s a lot of them, and he doesn’t know her parents’ names. He decides to ditch his friends and blames his head injury before heading home. As he walks back, he sees a police cruiser in front of his house, and the officer hands him back Rosha’s purse she’d been carrying the night before. He opens it, hoping there’ll be a phone number or some way of contacting her, but finds it completely empty.

Brady ditches his girlfriend some more and starts calling Nelsons in the phone book, only for his phone call to be interrupted. He answers, and a voice on the other end tells him to stay away from Rosha before hanging up. This makes Brady only wilder for seeing this girl he has no way of contacting and remembers she mentioned going to the private school in Shadyside. He drives over to the school, but not before talking to Jon, who calls him out on his shitty behavior. Brady’s just pissed, and he races to the school as the students are leaving. He chases down a bunch of blond girls, none of which are Rosha, and goes to the office, demanding her phone number, until they remind him they can’t just give out student information. He sees a boy waiting for the bus and asks him if he knows Rosha, and when he says no, he flips out on him and knocks him to the ground. As he wanders the school, looking for her, he sees this girl on the football field. He saw her on their date at the movie, this blond girl with these horrible scars all over her face. She just stares at him, and Brady starts running, straight into Rosha.

Rosha listens to his story and realizes he was essentially stalking her. She flips out and asks if he’s checking up on her, calling him weird and a jerk. Brady apologizes, and she apologizes for crashing the car. He hands her the purse, and she gets nervous when he mentions the police, but he assures her he didn’t tell them anything. They get a coffee, and she gives him a phone number and an address. She also asks him to go dancing with her Saturday night, and, even though he knows he has a party to go to with Allie, he agrees.

Brady practices breaking up with Allie, but he gets a phone call from the mystery person, telling hm to stay away from Rosha. He figures out it’s the scarred girl. He and Jon talk while lifting weights, and Jon pushes on him to dump Allie before she finds out he’s two-timing her. Brady is lifting weights from the bench, and he sees through the window the scarred girl staring at him, surprising him so he drops his weights on his neck. Jon pulls them off, and he points out that the girl was right there. Jon thinks he’s freaking out because she reminds him of Sharon, and he admits that’s probably true.

Brady decides to ask Rosha if she knows anything about the scarred girl, but when he calls the number she gave him, it’s disconnected. He freaks out and drives over to 7142 Fear Street to talk to her face-to-face. He drives slow down the street, reading the street numbers, and he sees the graveyard where Sharon is buried. He gets up to 7136, and after that there’s no houses. Just the woods.

Brady’s at his house now, thinking about Allie and Rosha and what he’s going to do, especially since he can’t contact Rosha. Luckily, she shows up at his house, and he lets her in. He points out her address was bogus and her phone doesn’t work, and she quickly comes up with some excuses why and then gets mad that he would even question her. As they’re starting to calm down, Allie arrives, and Brady flips out. He tries to get Rosha to go out the back door, and on her way out she trips, plunging a letter opener into his side so badly he nearly passes out from the blood. Allie walks in and flips out, and the two girls get him to the hospital.

Brady wakes up in the Shadyside Hospital, not really awake and only seeing blurry shapes. He’s visited by the scarred girl, who tells him she’s trying to help, warning him that Rosha tried to kill him, and when she almost reveals Rosha’s true identity, she’s shuffled out by hospital staff. Luckily, Brady is taken back home quickly, and Allie’s his first visitor. She says that Rosha told her everything about their dates, and yells at him for lying, and tells him goodbye. Brady’s having a pretty bad day, and it gets worse when Jon calls him, saying he talked to the scarred girl, and she told him the truth about Rosha, and can he please come over, and he almost tells him who Rosha really is, and Brady interrupts him like a dumb potato because his call-waiting is ringing. When he gets back over to Jon’s line, it’s dead. Brady thinks Jon sounded really serious, and he goes to his house, only to find police there and Jon with his windpipe broken, which leads to a very strange timeline. Presumably, Jon wasn’t attacked until Brady interrupted their call, and then Brady got in his car immediately and drove six blocks to his friend’s house. Chocking someone isn’t that easy, even with the help of a marble candlestick. That’s definitely not enough time for anyone to call the police or even notice something is wrong, and not enough time to clean a scene of evidence. I doubt Rosha made it down the block by the time the police arrived.

Brady is still being a dumb potato and wonders if the scarred girl killed Jon, not that it really matters, because Rosha is literally the only thing he cares about. I assume some supernatural thing is going on to make him obsessed, but it’s never really addressed. Anyway, Rosha left him a message on his answering machine telling him to go to Miller Hill and meet her. Brady, having just seen his best friend’s body after being murdered, who was desperately trying to tell him Rosha was bad news, his parents not even home yet, is very excited to get this phone call. To be fair, he phrases it in that he’s going to ask her questions about the scarred girl, but he still races up the hill to see her.

He meets Rosha at the top of the hill, and she asks him if he remembers the last time they were here together. Brady’s confused, but she reminds him that he killed her. She’s not Rosha at all! Rosha Nelson is an anagram for Sharon Noles! She tells him she borrowed a body, because it was the only way her plan would work, and then she starts to choke him to death. But the scarred girl shouts at Sharon to stop and demands her body back. The two girls argue, and then the girl launches at Sharon. They fight in an almost comical way. At first it’s regular catfight pulling hair kicking and all that, Brady sunk into the ground, too close to death to do anything, and then the girl grabs Sharon’s arm and tears it clean off! And then Sharon tears off her leg! They’re throwing limbs in the air, and they both grab each other’s necks, and both their heads are ripped clean off, sending their bodies tumbling down the hill. And then they vanish? So that solves that problem.

In the epilogue, Brady trudges back to his house a full day later, the text tells me. He walks to Allie’s, ignoring people calling his name, or kids throwing snowballs, or any of the obstacles. He’s freezing. He needs to get warm. He finds her shoveling snow from the driveway, and he apologizes for being a jerk. He begs her to take him back, and she agrees, until he puts his hands to her face. He’s freezing, and he tells her the truth. He’s dead now, Allie. Rosha killed him. He’s so cold and so dead, and won’t she please take him back? And then it ends as Allie screams. So I don’t know if he stole her body, or if he plans to be her zombie boyfriend, or what actually happened. At no point is the bodyswapping or dead-to-life thing ever explained, it just is to make the plot work. The end!

Favorite Line

He staggered toward her. “Okay, Allie? Take me back even though I’m dead. Okay? Okay?”

Fear Street Trends

It’s winter time in this book, but these girls know how to look good! Rosha wears some skintight black leggings and tight jeans, and lots of pants disappearing into boots. Allie dresses a little more casual, and in the last scene she’s wearing blue snowboots and a fisherman’s jacket. The boys refer to Rosha as a “Major Babe”, and I’ve never seen that with the capitalization. Is it supposed to be a title, or is she a babe in the key of major? Linguists can inform me. Brady refers to the girls’ “bods”, which is everything we need to know about Brady. The movie they go see in Waynesbridge is a Brad Pitt movie, but it’s a horror film? I think he’s done some thrillers, but I can’t off the top of my head think of what that might be. And, of course, Brady uses a phone book to try to track down Rosha’s address, which paints such a clear divide between cell phone age and before.

Rating

The twist of this book I saw coming from a distance, and I think it could’ve been interesting, but there’s just no reason for it. It’s never explained how Sharon came back from the dead, or why Brady did as well, and the deaths are treated so lightly it can be jarring. It felt like ten other Fear Street books and doesn’t do anything special. I’ll give it two peeled off faces out of five.

Five Best Covers

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During the brief reprieve I gave myself, I’ve somehow accumulated more projects, which means this past few weeks have been busy for me. I was originally going to read another of the modern Fear Street books, but time escapes me, and I’m out of town this week due to the holidays. I didn’t want to leave you with nothing, so I decided to rank for you what I believe are the top five book covers (of what I’ve seen so far).

5. The Stepsister

the stepsister orignal

What I originally said:

The cover to the original 1990 version (borrowed from Retro Daze) is alright. I think it hits the right amount of sinister with the figure showing up to the unsuspecting reader, and I sort of like that they keep the angelic looks of Jessie, but it makes it slightly less frightening.

I do like it. There’s something very sinister about the stepsister’s reflection in the mirror as Emily leans in to read her diary. It’s a great moment in a horror movie, when someone’s creeping around the villain’s room only to be caught, and I think it’s captured well here. I think the most distracting thing in it is the lamp, and removing it could add a little darkness that it’s missing.

4.  The Secret Bedroom

the secret bedroom

What I originally said:

The cover (pulled from Lexile) is’t bad. The contrast of her to the sickly green glow coming out of the door, the skeleton hand, her scared expression, it’s all pretty good. What’s killing it for me (besides the mom jeans and the terrible shirt) is that left arm. It’s so poorly attached, and the line of the shirt makes a line cutting it off, so it looks like they copy and pasted it from somewhere else. Otherwise it’s a pretty good cover.

I stand by this one. I still think the shadow on the left arm makes it look disconnected, but this is a dynamic cover. The placement of the tagline over the opening door as both arms pull adds an urgency to it. The green light might be goofy elsewhere but works here, though the skeleton hand looking like it’s pulling the door back could be changed. Having it claw at her would be a lot better. I like the slant to the door as well. It gives it an off-kilter feeling.

3. The Sleepwalker

the sleepwalker

What I originally said:

I have so many memories of just this cover (pulled from its GoodReads page).  I didn’t remember the plot of the book before reading it, but I have distinct memories of holding this book and its eerie cover. I think this is beautiful. The glow of the fog, the water at her feet, the white nightgown. The only thing I might change is she seems like a dangerous figure here, which I’m not against, but I think a little more delicacy in her face and pose might’ve gone further in the ethereal design they were going for.

This cover is nostalgic for me, and I remember it stacked with my Christopher Pike books I likely purchased from Half-Price books. The fog, the water, the white nightshirt all work together to make this feel dreamlike and ethereal, and it’s a perfect selling point for the book.

2. The Surprise Party

the surprise party

What I originally said:

I really like this cover (pulled from this website). It’s ominous, I like the use of green, the figure is threatening, but doesn’t reveal too much. I’m a big fan of this.

This looks like a 70s horror movie cover. It should be advertising Last House on the Left or something. It’s beautifully painted, extremely sinister, and gives everything you need to know going in. The early books have some legit horror movie style covers that I really appreciate.

1. The First Evil

107928

What I originally said:

Only one cover this time (borrowed from the GoodReads page), and I gotta say I really like it. The skull and blood in the pompom is good, and the girl looks possessed. It’s a nice, sinister cover.

Y’all knew. Y’all knew! This is straight up and down my favorite Fear Street cover. The blood in the pompom with the skull coming out? Classic. You know this is going to be a scary fun book just looking at it. A++ would read again.

Special Mention

one evil summer

What I originally said:

I adore this cover (pulled from Goodreads). It’s so wickedly delightful. Chrissy is just swinging around that cat in her longshirt pajamas having a grand old time being so gosh darn evil. The only change I might make is getting rid of the lighthouse in the background. It’s a little distracting, does not have a place in the plot, and you get enough sense of being on the ocean from the ocean outside her window.

Why even have other covers? Woman laughing maniacally with cat had never made me pick up a book fast enough. Love it love it love it.

That’s it, my friends! That’s all I have time for right now. In two weeks I’ll hopefully be coming at you with the next book, but until then, consider checking out my 1950s monster mash, which is about to finish up its second arc (meaning I have to get started on part three!). After that, I’ve got some ideas for what I’ll be doing. I’m hoping to have the next part of my old west horror serial up in January as well, but there’s still tons of research I’ve been avoiding! If nothing else, I’m going to continue my Modern Monsters series, in which the next part will focus almost exclusively on this year’s best flop, the Mummy. If you haven’t noticed, I’ve switched around how I do donations, and currently you can buy me a coffee if the mood takes you. I’ve mentioned before I purchase the most of these books, which are usually around $5. It’s not the worst expense I have to deal with, but with some other projects in my life, I don’t have a lot of loose change lying around.

Which brings me to my biggest announcement! With the help of some friends, I’ve started an LGBT pop up library! Renegade Libraries is meant to bring literature to queer people in Houston, TX, as well as provide programming and connect authors to their audience. Find us on twitter and Facebook, and if you happen to live in Houston, come check us out at the Montrose Center on January 14! We’re currently looking for the best way to ask for donations, but give us a holler online if you like what you see! This is something I’ve thought about for a very long time and now it’s happening, which is super exciting for me!

See you in December!

Fear Street Superchiller – The Evil Lives!

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A bunch of stuff has been happening for me the past week, the most of which included my computer dying! But I got it fixed, and I’ll do our very last October update on the spookiest day of the year, Halloween! Get ready, folks, for some evil.

The Cover

the evil lives

The cover (borrowed from this Fear Street blog) is… not great. I want to like it. The Cheerleaders books are the only ones who’ve been consistently interesting. This one has too many things going on, and the uniform is all one color, with nothing to break it up. The ghost looks way too small, and the pose on the girl is awkwardly trying to fit in all the subtitles. That Fear Street logo takes up way too much space.

Tagline

Before the Cheerleaders, the Evil lived… in Sarah Fear.

Not horrible. On the nose, but as a clear far off sequel, it deserves a little intrigue into the canon. The only real thing that’s bothering me is how many proper nouns take up that sentence.

Summary

This Cheerleaders book starts the way most do: with cheerleading. We meet the next generation of cheerleaders: Amanda Roberts, cheer captain, Janine Klein, best friend, Natalie Morris, the competitive one, and the other, less important ones. Janine and Natalie both date boys on the basketball team who are competing as well. This’ll come up a lot. Amanda’s dating a boy too, but he’s incredibly unimportant, and she dumps him almost immediately to go out with Judd Hunter, also on the basketball team, sort of a surly dream boy type.

Luke (Natalie’s boyfriend) and Brandon (Janine’s boyfriend) get into a fight on the court while the boys practice, prompting Natalie to make some rude comments in front of Janine. They seem to cool off by the end of practice, though, and the girls go into the locker room to change. Amanda has a new locker (number 113, natch), and she notices there’s something still in it. A pale blue duffel bag with a name tag on it. Corky Corcoran. Amanda finds a couple of things in the bag, including an old uniform, a picture of five smiling girls, and a small box made  of smoother, dark wood with a brass catch to keep it closed. A label is on top of the box that says DO NOT OPEN. EVIL INSIDE.

The girls gather around to investigate. One girl points out Corky in the picture, saying she was cheer captain when they were freshman, giving a hint at the timeline. The same girl takes the box and lifts the lid. Nothing happens. But inside the box is a stack of papers, and Amanda sees that they’re letters written by Corky. Corky says that she wrote this as a warning, and once they’re done reading, they should destroy everything, including the box. This raises the question of, why did you leave a box here Corky? Literally no one would’ve messed with it if you hadn’t. This is all your fault. The letter continues and gives a summary of the first three books, but she managed to drown it. But the evil isn’t dead, she warns. Destroy this box! That I left behind! To be found in a public high school! By literally anyone!

The girls debate what to do about this. They start to look at the other papers, but Amanda’s boyfriend Dustin shows up and ruins the party. He’s oblivious to his girlfriend’s obvious discomfort and tells them that the two boys are at it again, leaving Luke with a bloody nose. Amanda walks with Dustin to his car and decides it’s time. When he leans in to kiss her, she tells him they should just be friends in an extremely awkward way that clearly shows she has no other way of saying I hate dating you. He stares at her for like a minute and then walks away. Amanda is a little freaked out and goes to see her friends, but they’re gone. She looks for the papers again, and those are gone too.

Janine stole it, and the girls decide a super fun thing to do would be to use the spells to call up the evil. While joking about how spirits aren’t real and they’re totally not all going to die, Amanda gets told she has to deal with Janine and Natalie and do her fucking job as cheer captain. Amanda decides to ignore that responsibility and get a snack. She runs into her sister, back from college, and asks if she knew Corky, and her sister responds in the most dramatic possible way. She tells her about Bobbi’s death by scalding and apparently the whole school knew about the evil? Which isn’t the craziest thing, that in Shadyside there are rumors of an evil spirit being summoned to explain tragic deaths, but it’s mentioned so casually it’s still kind of weird. Her sister warns her not to disturb the spirits, and Amanda’s like noooooo of course not.

Amanda goes to practice to be greeted by the sight of Janine and Natalie straight up brawling on the gym floor. The girls manage to pull them apart, and Amanda screams at them. Natalie’s boyfriend got the coveted spot on the b-ball team and wouldn’t stop bragging about it. The appropriate response to this is to grab a girl by the hair. Amanda gets them to calm down, and the girls practice more terrible cheers, but it seems to work. As practice ends, there’s the usual rigamarole of ex-boyfriends who won’t take no for an answer and creepy black candles in a circle, but the girls sit down and summon the evil. Amanda tells them what her sister told her, and the girls shake their heads. Besides, they know how to kill it. All you have to do is drown it. Natalie says that it’s like playing with a Ouija board and it’s all fake and it’s always gone so well for everyone involved. They do the spell, and bright light flashes at them, leaving them all freezing cold, right as two boys walk into the house. Brandon and Judd.

Judd looks absolutely confused and then straight faints. They get him some water and prop him up, and he comes to, telling them he’s probably just dehydrated. Amanda looks at him, no longer certain if that’s really Judd. The game comes, and she’s still thinking about Judd and how cute he is. They get ready to cheer for their boys, and Amanda sees Janine looking at her benched boyfriend. She tries to comfort her, only for Janine to tell her Brandon will play, her voice unnervingly certain. They cheer, the boys play, Luke gets the ball, and he starts running, and running, and running, and passes the basket, and runs and runs and runs close enough to Amanda that she could almost grab him and slams, headfirst into the bleacher. The whole gym stops. Amanda stares. Because there’s something next Luke where he collapses on the floor. There’s so much blood. His head. His skull. His scalp. Torn off by the impact.

Which, like, of course it’s the Evil, but the deaths are so over the top in this it’s almost comical. He gets scalped from running into a bleacher, and later someone’s head just straight explodes. Not even going for subtle. But there’s a funeral first, and everyone’s real messed up about it. Janine goes to Natalie and apologizes to her for her behavior before all this, that she let her competitive side get to her, and she wants to be her friend again, but Natalie screams at her that this is exactly what she wanted and storms off. The girls start to wonder if maybe they did release an evil, but some of them are still skeptical. Amanda isn’t sure, but as Judd comes in she can’t help being suspicious of him. He lets them know there’s still going to be another game, dedicated to Luke, but he zones out and tells Amanda he’s been feeling really strange. When she presses him on it, he kisses her instead. She’s torn, since this is exactly what she wanted, but he’s been acting so weird, and he collapsed right after they summoned the evil.

The girls get ready for the pep rally before the game. Everyone’s so bummed and depressed because of the whole “basketball player gets his head lopped off” fiasco four whole days ago, but the cheerleaders tough it out. Amanda looks to Natalie, who’s not doing so hot, and Natalie tells her she’s going to tell the principal about the Evil. The girls are pretty certain they’ll just sound nuts, but it looks like Natalie just wants to pass this problem off to an authority figure so she can stop thinking about her dead boyfriend. She’s going to tell the principal right after the pep rally. The girls line up and start cheering, and it does seem to work. The school gets into it, people are cheering, and they pull off their routine. But at the end of it is silence. Because Natalie can’t move. Her elbows bend back the wrong way, and her face splits apart. The skin opens up to reveal the skull, which cracks, and blood pours out.

Absolute panic ensues. The auditorium runs for it. The girls are left stranded int he crowd. Amanda sees Janine just staring at Natalie, her face emotionless, unmoving, and then Janine turns to her. She marches at her, taking her by the arm, and the two go into the locker rooms. Amanda can’t help but imagine Bobbi being scalded here. She can’t help but imagine she’s next. Janine tells her she read Corky’s letter again and she does believe the evil is back. Corky told them to drown the evil (even though Corky got told the Evil couldn’t be drowned????), and they have to figure out who’s possessed and drown them. Corky also said the whole thing started with Sarah Fear at Sarah Fear’s grave, and the two decide to go there right now. This conversation takes maybe ten minutes, but Natalie’s body is already cleaned up, and they walk past the police officers who are apparently not taking witness statements. Cool. Dope. Great job guys.

They drive out to the cemetery and investigate the gravestones. Some of them are so old the names are weathered away, but they find her eventually. Sarah Fear: 1875 – 1899. I really should keep better track of the Fear timeline because I’m not 100% sure where she fits in. They decide if the grave is undisturbed, then the Evil isn’t released, which doesn’t make sense. The grave is where the evil was first released, but that isn’t it’s last known location. Ever since the first book, the grave has been utterly irrelevant, and I can’t help but think it still isn’t filled in from all that time ago.

The grave is open and empty, and they freak out. Dustin appears behind them, which is less evil and more asshole ex-boyfriend. He insists he wants to talk to Amanda, who tells him no, she doesn’t want to, she wants to go home with Janine, and he physically stops her from leaving, causing her to fall backwards into Sarah Fear’s grave. She struggles to get out but a darkness overtakes her, and she’s hurtled back… in time. She wakes up in an old timey period where two women are talking. The two women quickly identify themselves as Sarah Burns, engaged to Thomas Fear, a man she’s never met, and Jane Hardy, who plans to travel to England soon. They both desperately want what the other has: a marriage to a rich man or a life abroad. They agree to switch places, live the lives each other were meant for, and tell no one of what they’ve done. Amanda tries to follow them and manages to move the carriage, which you’d think would come up later but does not, and the two women go on.

Amanda is jettisoned to another time, another memory. She’s on the deck of the ship, salt water pouring down on her and wind slapping at the sea. Men are shouting, people are fleeing, and a woman is in the chaos of it all: Sarah Burns. Sarah laments that she was never meant to die like this, that it’s Jane that should be dying, and she’s thrown into the ocean. Her last moments are so filled with hate and regret that Amanda feels it burning out of her. Amanda watches her drown, and as she does, a green snakelike liquid pours from the dead woman’s mouth. The birth of Evil.

Amanda wakes up in the grave and her friends help her out. She’s soaking wet and it tastes of salt water, so she knows it wasn’t just a dream. She went back to that time and saw those things. She tries to explain it to her friends, but Dustin clearly thinks she’s insane, and Janine is having a hard time following her, but the important take away is that this is Jane’s grave, and the Evil is Sarah Fear.

Janine drives Amanda home, and I guess her parents didn’t hear about the whole girl’s facing exploding, because they’re pretty blase. Amanda does not tell them. She’s more concerned because she saw muddy footprints leading to her bedroom window. She creeps towards the door, and a voice whispers to her to come in. She sees in the center of her room a woman, half corpse, half skeleton, flesh dangling from her bones. Sarah Fear tells her they’re going to trade places now. But psych! That was just the cliffhanger! Amanda realized she’s imagining it and opens her door for real. There is mud in her room leading from the windowsill to her dresser. On it is a note signed Sarah Fear. Which, would Sarah ever think of herself as a Fear? She never met the family. She never took the name. Anyway, it’s unimportant. Amanda decides to go back to Janine before it’s too late, but it’s too late. Judd is at her door.

Judd says he wanted to make sure she was alright, since their friend died maybe six hours ago, probably less. Amanda tries to get him to leave her alone, saying she has to visit Janine, but he sees that she’s white and shaking and offers to drive her. They drive towards Janine’s only to pass her in a car on the way. Judd asks if they should follow, and Amanda says yes. She’s now 100% certain Judd is the evil, and she’s looking for the next opportunity to jump out. But Janine and Brandon pass the mall and keep driving all the way back to Fear Street. They walk into the cemetery together. Judd questions if they should really be following them, but Amanda runs as soon as the car unlocks and races up the hill to find her friend. She screams at Janine that Judd is evil and going to kill them, forgetting that Judd is right behind her. Before he can respond to the accusation, Brandon says he’ll help, and his eyes turn an evil irradiated green. Amanda immediately realizes how stupid she’s being.

Brandon tries to kill both girls, but Judd jumps on him. The two boys rassle as the girls try to make their escape, only to see Judd go down like a sack of bricks and not get back up again. Brandon stalks after them. Using her cheerleader agility, Amanda manages to get some kicks in on Brandon and then picks up a branch, using it to whack against his skull. This seems to be working, despite the Evil supposedly being able to force people to kill themselves against their will, but I don’t know. They dance around for a while until they manage to push him into the grave. As they scramble to bury him alive, a skeleton woman approaches and stands at the grave. The girls go back for Judd as Brandon springs from the grave, and he and the corpse look at each other. They scream at each other that they’re supposed to be dead, and they realize the corpse woman is Jane Hardy. They fight some, hurting Brandon’s face, and then Amanda knocks them all into the grave, falling in after them.

Amanda finds herself on a ship once again, this time most likely on Fear Lake on that fateful day. She sees Jane and Sarah arguing, and they grab each other as the boat tips back and forth. She sees Brandon as well, no longer injured, looking very confused. She realizes the Evil isn’t here yet, that they’ve traveled back in time before it’s possessed anyone. The boat continues to rock back and forth, and finally the women are thrown over. Sarah struggles to break the surface of the water, but Jane holds onto her and drags her under. Neither woman comes up again.

And they wake up. This time in a hospital room. Janine is beside Amanda, who she says was found in the Fear Street Cemetery soaking wet. Amanda declares the Evil is dead, and Janine has no idea what she’s talking about. Janine tells her no one is killed, and they didn’t find a box, and she has no idea what this evil is. Amanda demands to see Brandon, and she gets him. They discover that Natalie and Luke are still alive, and the Evil didn’t die so much as never lived. Because it never existed, all the bad things never happened. Which, like, does that mean Kimmy is still alive? What about Jennifer? Bobbi? All of the events of the past few years erased away? They’re relieved for a moment, knowing the spirits are at rest, and then Brandon takes her hand as his eyes begin to glow and tells her they can’t rest. Amanda agrees, her own eyes glowing, and she knows the Evil didn’t drown…

Favorite Line

“Our parents are all having cows! Brandon declared.

Fear Street Trends

Not a ton this time around. A little disappointing. Amanda mostly wears hoodies and sweaters, and the boys wear sneakers. The misuse of slang above is maybe the most hilarious line in the whole thing. No rap style cheers, no attempts at being relevant. I’ll just have to be disappointed.

Rating

This one really feels like the fifth installment of a horror movie, when they’re running out of actors and everything’s sort of tangentially related, and they discover some new twist that poorly fits into the canon that’s been previously established. I didn’t dislike it. I didn’t really attach myself to any of the characters or any of the drama, but it’s a serviceable Fear Street book. I’ll give it three half-corpse women out of five.

Fear Street #50 – Best Friend 2

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The Cover

best friend 2

The cover (pulled from Amazon) is nothing. The only thing I like about it is that Fear Street has a logo on top, but that logo leaves no room for anything else.

Tagline

There isn’t a tagline, just a reminder that this book was written after they held a contest. Fans submitted what they thought should happen to Honey. I wonder how much of this book came from Sarah Bikman, or if she had the initial idea. The initial idea’s fantastic and I wish it’d carried through more of the book, but what’s a Fear Street book without at least three plot twists.

Summary

This book is separated into parts as well, though these parts actually seem helpful to the overall narrative. It’s all done in first person. I cannot remember if the original book was in first person or not, but it’s the only way this book would work. Becka’s now going to Waynesbridge, the town over from Shadyside. She’s nervous about her past following her, and nervous about not fitting in. She calls herself “full-figured” and not cute, but she’s starting to feel good about herself again.

Becka has to check in with a counselor first. It’s not the only counselor she’s seen in the past year since Honey ruined her life, but hopefully it’ll be the last. Miss Englund pulls no punches and immediately asks her about Honey. Becka proceeds to recap the previous book, feeling extreme guilt over Bill’s murder. She sees him everywhere, and makes a fool of herself throwing her arms around some rando. He’s nice about it at least and walks her to her next class. Here she’s thrown into a class with a teacher who lectures and never stops. A pretty redhead girl takes pity on Becka and tells her to write down everything he says, introducing herself under the unfortunate name Glynis. They don’t really get to talk during class, since their teacher drones on, and Becka distractedly writes down whatever she can, only to realize she’d written BILL BILL BILL across the page. This’ll happen a lot, so I’m only going to make this joke once.

The good news is, Glynis seems to want to be her friend. They chat a while about Becka’s old school until Frankie rolls up. He’s clearly Glynis’ boyfriend, but Becka can’t keep her eyes off him, and he can’t seem to do the same. He’s the one who invites her out to pizza with the two of them. As they eat, Becka sees someone she recognizes and runs to embrace Eric. You remember Eric, right? He was in the first chapter of the Best Friend only to be dumped? No? I didn’t either. He’s a little standoffish with Becka, clearly trying to get out of the conversation, but she follows him to his car anyway, grabbing him as they get in and making out with him hardcore, though she’s really thinking about Frankie. When Becka gets home, she’s excited, relieved, and bubbling with hope. She looks at herself in the mirror. Her hairs only a few shades darker than Glynis, and about the same length. If she straightened it, stopped chewing her fingernails, bought a matching nail color, she’d look just like her…

Becka gets a phone call and hears Frankie’s voice on the other end. He wishes that Glynis would go away so they could be together, and Becka realizes she’s imagining this. She’s acting like Honey. She remembers the party, when Honey showed up in a matching outfit after cutting her hair, right before she pushed Trish down the stairs. The moment of revelation goes away as she paints on the same nail polish that Glynis wears, only to realize the words BILL BILL BILL have been scrawled over her face in that very nail polish.

Becka spends more time with Glynis. She ends up trying on all her clothes and then tucks a handful of them away to borrow. Glynis takes her shopping and asks about the clothes, but Becka plays it off, saying she had a date and wanted to try them. They go to the Shadyside mall (a bad idea, Becka), and go into one of the shops where Eric happens to be working. Glynis and Frankie talk to him too before absconding to the food court, and Eric asks the question we’ve all been thinking: Why are they calling you Becka? Because it’s not Becka at all. Surprising no one, it’s been Honey the whole time. Honey loses her absolute shit, made worse when Eric points out the real Becka is standing the same store next to her. She grabs a necklace of glass beads and starts choking Eric. No one seems to do anything about this. It’s not a quick and easy process to choke someone to death, especially with a department store necklace, but Eric goes down, and Becka screams that Honey killed him. Honey pulls the usual “no you!” on Becka, but it’s clear it’s not working.

Smash cut to part two, now narrated by the actual Becka, who has remained in Shadyside, is still best friends with Trish and Lilah. They’re attending poor Eric’s funeral, whose only crime was to make out with a girl he had to know attempted murder in the last year. They discuss how Honey forged her way into Waynesbridge with fake documents, and now she’s disappeared. No one knows where she was living or where she would go. As they walk home, Becka’s two friends try to console her, and they both point out she’s been distant and refuses to talk about anything. They’re interrupted by BILL running up the street! He’s not dead at all! He survived his stabbing last year, though he and Becka are donesville. It seems like he’s gotten very close with Trish, which will be a plot point later. He tries to talk to her, clearly wanting to get back together, even though she has a boyfriend now, and Becka brushes him off. She tells him she can’t.

The girls keep walking, and Trish speaks up. She tells them that Bill visited her in the hospital every day, that he was a good friend to her, and that Becka didn’t do any of those things. Becka tells her she was so messed up after everything that she couldn’t look at the people that were hurt because of her. She feels so much guilt over everything that happened. It’s why she can’t look at Bill anymore. But she promises to be a better friend.

Becka works at the Hacker’s Cafe (delightful) and her boyfriend Larry comes by to chat. She’s too busy to sit with him, and she has to do her job, but she tells him she’ll call later. As she leaves work, someone comes up behind her at her car, and she flips out, only to see Bill. He tells her he stills cares about her and bla bla bla. Knife victim, guilty conscious, boy that won’t take no for an answer. Becka’s rescued when Larry runs up. Larry seems to be one of those rare good boyfriends you can occasionally find in Shadyside. As he helps Becka into her car, she starts screaming, because someone’s taking a knife to the interior and tossed in a dead rat for good measure.

In a rare turn of events, Becka’s seeing a therapist and taking her meds. They aren’t doing their job of calming her down though, and she decides to investigate the house next door. Honey’s dad still lives there, and she wonders if there’s a chance he’s hiding her. But she’s interrupted by Lilah, who wants to show her something. They have a loud conversation outside the window, and that ends exactly as you’d expect it, with Honey’s dad looking outside. As soon as he recognizes Becka, he starts shouting at her, asking her where Honey is. The two girls run away.

Lilah tells Becka what she wanted to show her was a news article she found. It tells the story of Hannah Paulsen watching her father murder her mother and her brother before turning the gun on himself. Becka’s horrified, but Lila tells her they knew Hannah Paulsen. She was a total loser who followed them around in the fourth grade. They tricked her into embarrassing herself in front of the whole school, and soon after that she disappeared completely. And now she’s back. Hannah is Honey. Her “dad” isn’t her father at all, but her uncle.

Becka gets a few more threatening phone calls, because why not, and Trish tells her she’s hurting Bill more than getting stabbed ever did. She goes to her counselor and tells him about some of the stuff she’s learned. He asks if she’s gone to the police with any of this, and she admits no. He does the first responsible thing I’ve seen an adult do in these books, and tells her she has to tell the police about the phone calls, since they can probably track them. No stalling. Go there right away. She leaves, only to be attacked by Honey five feet from the door. As she wails on her, Becka tries to reason, calling her Hannah and saying she knows the whole story now, but Honey screams that she’s not Hannah and she’s not Honey because she’s Becka now! She continues to beat down on her, until all Becka sees is black.

But Becka wakes up again and realizes Honey must’ve stopped because she thought she was dead. She drives herself home instead of going inside the building full of adults, but her parents make her go to the hospital, and the police are called. Someone really should involve them at some point. Despite being beaten in the street, she still goes on her date with Larry, who’s pretty standoffish. Becka screams when someone accidentally pokes her with their umbrella, and at dinner flips out when she sees a waitress carrying a steak knife. Larry, to his credit, doesn’t want to leave her alone and offers to stay at home with her until her parents get in, but she tells him to leave. Listen, kids, neither of you are prepared for this kind of relationship. Don’t blame yourself if it doesn’t work out.

Becka refuses to turn on any lights when she gets home, which is stupid. She makes her way up to her room only to find her bed is full of blood and guts and someone’s etched THIS IS U into the wall. No one has Becka leave the house, or be put into protective custody, or her parents don’t consider moving for a while. Her friends offer to let her stay, but Becka says no. As she hangs around the house, she gets another a phone call, this one telling her that her best friend is coming tonight. Becka flips out when she hears someone at her door, but it’s only Bill. She screams at him what’s happening, and he tells her to get in his car, that he’ll take her to his uncle’s murder cabin in Fear Street Woods. The phone rings again, and Becka answers it in case it’s her parents. It’s Lilah, who tries to tell her something, but she hangs up on her.

They get to the murder cabin, and Bill goes to get some firewood. Becka takes advantage of the phone. She calls Lilah, who tells her that Honey’s been arrested. They caught her two days ago. It was upstate, and Honey was giving different names, so local police only just figured it out. Becka realizes this means that Honey couldn’t have messed up her room and couldn’t have called her. As she realizes this, Bill comes in, telling her to put the phone down. He lunges at her when she tries to call 911 and rips it off the wall. She asks him why he did it, sneaking into her room and calling her, and he says it wasn’t him. Then Trish walks in. Yup! You guessed it! Trish was the best friend the whole time! Trish tells her that when she was in the hospital, Becka never visited her, only Bill was so sweet, and she’d hurt him too, and she was being so selfish getting over the trauma of being gaslit and hunted and thought to have murdered her own boyfriend. She then pulls out a knife, and Bill says they were only going to scare her, not actually hurt her. Trish brings the knife down, and Bill tries to stop her, only to get stabbed once more in the abdomen. As Trish screams this is all Becka’s fault, Becka goes for the knife. The two girls wrestle, but Becka manages to cut her neck as sirens wail in the distance. Becka drops down beside Bill, holding him, and tells him she’ll be at true friend this time.

Favorite Line

I am my own best friend! I told myself. I have to be strong. I have to be my own best friend now.

Fear Street Trends

At least two girls are described as “like a model”, and Glynis is described as resembling Claire Danes (which is actually a pretty good pull). Larry is described as looking like Bugs Bunny (less good). Glynis paints her nails a chocolate brown and calls it “the flavor of the week”, sparking a conversation where Honey as Becka talks about licorice nail polish. Her “very slim and trim” look is a yellow vest over a white t-shirt and a short green skirt over brown tights. That’s so many layers! Were we doing that many layers back then! No wonder we wore basically nothing in the 2000s. I may also have to give you the full description for the Hackers Cafe:

It’s actually just a coffeehouse. But Mr. Arnold, the owner, put computers at the counter so that customers could surf the internet and send e-mail while they drink their coffee and eat their muffins and pastries. The cafe became really popular, especially with kids from Shadyside High and young adults who work in the neighborhood.

Love it, love it, love it.

Rating

I don’t know how to feel about this one. The twists were obvious from a mile away, but they were interesting at least, and the eponymous best friend switching from Honey to Trish isn’t bad. Still, no one’s motives make much sense, and Honey’s barely in it. I’ll give it three murder cabins out of five.