Saturday, 28 October 2017

Retro Reading - Spoopy Edition the Second

I read a lot of RL Stine's Point Horror books, and because I knew he also wrote Goosebumps and Fear Street (even though I never read them), I had this impression of him as A Big Fucking Deal. Like it was probably really cool of him to come and write for Point Horror because, you know, he was RL Stine. Books like The Boyfriend and The Girlfriend, and the Babysitter trilogy (which I also never read) seemed...important to the Point Horror catalogue to me for some reason. I didn't know why at the time and after reading Halloween Night, I'm not the wiser because this book is a shit show.

Let's begin by meeting our heroine,  Brenda. She's your typical American teen, I guess. Just living her best life, dating a guy called Ted, hanging out with her friends and having to share her house temporarily with her cousin Halley, who's living with Brenda's family while her parents work out their horrendous divorce. Brenda is really sympathetic to her cousin during this difficult, traumatic time.

Wait, that's not a great example. Brenda is our heroine, after all. I know the book opens with her picking on Halley, but we're going to follow Brenda through this whole book, so surely Stine is going to show her more empathetic side, right? So we can relate to her when the horror starts. Right?

Right. Okay, well, sure. I mean, it's tough having to give up your room to family in need. I'd probably be angry too, but it's not like this is Halley's fault. She didn't ask her parents to get divorced and pack her off to live with her cousin. She didn't make Brenda's parents give her Brenda's room. This is a rough time for Halley, her life uprooted, her parents in a vicious custody battle, her entire world turned upside down! Surely, even if Brenda is resentful at losing her own space (temporarily), Brenda's friends will try to make her see reason?

Okay, well, never mind.

In any case, Halley is kind of a bitch, managing to steal both Brenda and Traci's boyfriends from them. I personally wouldn't count this as much of a loss, especially in the case of Ted, who's dull at best:

And a downright fucking moron at worst, which is all the rest of the time, to be honest.

Anyway, the crux of the plot is that Brenda, driven mad by Halley inconsiderately being the child of a broken home right under Brenda's goddamn nose, decides to write Halley into a murder mystery story which she and her friends Dina and Traci have to write for a school assignment (what?). Traci is all for it. Dina is more reluctant since, as the child of a broken home herself, she has actual empathy for Halley.

As the story unfolds, strange, threatening things begin happening to Brenda. Someone writes in actual blood on her bedroom wall. She finds a dead bird in her room. She finds maggots in her fucking bed omg. All these warnings seem to point to one thing - someone is coming for Brenda. On Halloween night. Brenda thinks Halley is the one behind it all. Brenda's parents don't really give a shit either way.

"Hey baby girl, sorry someone crept into your room and painted a threat on the wall in actual blood. I couldn't figure out how to fix it myself, so I hired someone, but they no-showed, The couch is free, though."

Okay, I kind of understand Brenda a little better now.

Anyway! As tensions come to a head between Brenda and Halley, and Brenda's Halloween night costume party approaches, Brenda figures out who's really behind all the dead birds and whatnot and formulates a convoluted plan to out the creep.

Okay. Spoilers now. It was Dina. It was Dina, you guys, and you may not be surprised to learn it's because Brenda is an empathy vacuum who can't fathom other people being in pain and needing support in difficult times.

Ugh. So fucking inconsiderate of Dina to make Brenda feel uncomfortable with her traumatic experiences, amirite? Fuck Dina.

So yes, Dina stalks Brenda because she sees Brenda being a dick to Halley just the same way she was a dick to Dina, and she wants Brenda to finally understand what it's like to suffer so much. know, fair enough.

But here's the thing, and the reason why I'm giving away the plot of this twenty-four year old book. The resolution to the plot is so fucking overbooked it's ridiculous. Here's what happens:

1. Brenda figures out Dina is behind the threatening messages, etc.
2. Brenda and Traci agree between them to pretend they still think it's Halley and that they're going to actually murder Halley at their Halloween party like in their story.
3. They think this will force Dina to confess.
4. She doesn't confess.
5. So Brenda and Traci actually proceed as if they're actually going to murder Halley and set up a ludicrous plot involving costume swaps so that (in theory), they can stab Halley at the party and then have the "culprit" apparently disappear because everyone's in costume and therefore nobody can know who really stabbed Halley.
6. On the night of the party, Brenda convinces Halley to switch costumes with her.
7. Dina gets wind of this and stabs Brenda, but doesn't kill her because Brenda sewed extra fucking foam into the costume she borrowed from Halley at some point.
8. Everyone pulls off their masks and shouts AHA! And Dina confesses in a scene I imagine to be like this:

Now, here are the things that didn't happen on page during this sequence of events:

1. Brenda and Traci agreeing to set up Dina.
2. Brenda telling Halley about Dina.
3. Brenda convincing Halley to swap costumes with her.
4. Dina overhearing this conversation and thus knowing who to stab.

And here are some extra things that happened for no fucking reason whatsoever:

1. Brenda convinced Ted to come to her party in a Frankenstein costume because her plan (as she relates it to Dina) is to stab Halley whilst wearing a Frankenstein costume, then get changed to provide herself an alibi. So now anyone who sees the stabbing think Ted did it.
2. Brenda comes up with this side-plot and enacts it without telling anyone else she's manipulated Ted to getting involved, because obviously she isn't really going to stab anyone but she still decides it would be fun if her ex-boyfriend potentially got framed for murder, even a fake murder, even her own fake murder because she's planning to swap costumes with Halley, even a fake murder she can't actually guarantee is going to go down because she has no way of knowing that Dina knows she's planning to swap costumes with Halley and she has no reason to believe Dina would actually stab either her or Halley in the first fucking place.

I can't. I can't even, you guys. Brenda's entire plan is contingent on...what? WHAT? WHAT WAS THE PLAN? Dina refuses to A) go along with "murdering" Halley and B) confess to being Brenda's stalker, so Brenda and Traci are just like, "well, shall we go along with the fake murder anyway? Cool!" AND THEN Brenda decides to costume-swap with Halley even though she has no way of knowing Dina would know about the swap. So what's her thinking here? That Dina, who refused to get involved with the fake murder would decide at the last minute to stab Halley anyway even though Dina has been specifically doing all this shit to Brenda because SHE FEELS SORRY FOR HALLEY?



I just want to spell this out again because it makes no fucking sense whatsoever. Brenda does not know that Dina knows they switched costumes. It's revealed AFTER the stabbing that Dina overheard them agree to swap. As far as Brenda knows, Dina thinks she's stabbing Halley. Brenda, for some reason, knew Dina would stab whoever was in Halley's costume even though Dina has been on Halley's side throughout this whole fucking mess.


Does Brenda just hate Halley so much she assumes everyone else does too, and that Dina just won't be able to pass up the opportunity to stab her once it's presented? One of the reasons it's taken me a week to write up this post is that I keep hoping I'll suddenly understand Brenda's plan, and I can't because there is no fucking plan. It's just everyone hoping the right person will get fake-stabbed. I don't even know if there's that much thought behind it, to be honest.

And even if everything else did make sense, why the fuck did Brenda get Ted involved? Like, I know he cheated on her and I'm not condoning that, BUT BRENDA WAS PREPARED TO FRAME HIM FOR A FAKE MURDER IN REVENGE AND THAT IS NOT A PROPORTIONATE RESPONSE OKAY.

Even Vince McMahon might have refused to book this story line.

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