Halloween Night I & II (1993-94) R.L. Stine – Book Review

Title: Halloween Night 1 & 2 Author: R.L. Stine Release Date: 1993 & 1994 Tagline: 1- “This party is a killer” 2 –“Never take candy from a stranger …” Book 1 synopsis: Brenda hates her cousin Halley. And Brenda isn’t the only one. Because Halley keeps stealing other people’s boyfriends. So Brenda and her friends decide to […]

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Title: Halloween Night 1 & 2

Author: R.L. Stine

Release Date: 1993 & 1994

Tagline: 1- “This party is a killer” 2 –“Never take candy from a stranger …”

Book 1 synopsis: Brenda hates her cousin Halley. And Brenda isn’t the only one. Because Halley keeps stealing other people’s boyfriends. So Brenda and her friends decide to plan the perfect murder. Something to go along with Brenda’s perfect Halloween party. Not that they’re really going to kill anybody. It’s just a joke. Right? Ha. Ha.

Book 2 synopsis: Brenda Can’t forget last Halloween. But she’s trying. Trying to forget that horrible night. When her best friend, Dina, stabbed her at the Halloween party.

Still, this Halloween’s going to be different. Better. Safer.

After all, Dina’s been sent to a psychiatric hospital. No way she’s getting released before Halloween. Right?

Most famous for his Goosebumps and Fear Street books, writer R.L. Stine was producing scary YA novels at a bounteous rate in the mid-’90s. School stores were showcasing entire racks full of lurid R.L. Stine horror covers. He claims he use to write a Goosebumps book in less than two weeks and a Fear Street novel in four weeks.

Last october I obtained a lot of Halloween themed R.L. Stine books–Halloween Party, Halloween Night 1 & 2, Attack of the Jack-0-lanterns.  I read-and-reviewed Halloween Party on MrCreepshow09 in 2015. Attack of the jack-o-lanterns has extraordinary cover art and a brilliant title, yet it’s one of the most irksome, silly Goosebumps books in the series. Therefore, as an adult, I won’t subject myself into the bane of reading it again. Ever!

I read the first book in this series last october, and then read its sequel in october 2016. The books feature no supernatural elements and they’re straight forward whodunit murder mysteries, like most of R.L.’s YA horror books targeted toward teenage girls.

Halloween Night 2, with that macabre cover featuring a triad of spooky skeletons, was the first non-Goosebumps book of R.L.’s that I bought. I owned it for years before it was lost sometime in the 2000s. It was quite strange re-reading something from when i was a kid. Back then, the characters all seemed so intriguing and mature. Reading it really warped my mind in a pendulum of weird vibes. It’s like my mind would portal back and forth to both perceptions. I remembered very little info about it, other than it being about teenagers trying to scare eachother.

Anyway, onto the specifics of the series.

R.L. packs these with his usual array of daft gags–fake blood pranks, incredulous red herrings, mendacious boyfriends, bad chapter cliffhangers, a peevish little brother, and a slew of harrassing attacks on the main character. For it being Halloween themed, the series doesn’t deliver terror worthy enough of the covers. R.L. is renowned for crafting exceptional horror stories within the guidlines of a YA, yet the Halloween Night series fails to be creative. In fact, this same outline is used in his Fear Street: The step sister series. Having read all of them, the correalations are heavy. But hey, Stine’s written over 400 books and the more of them you read, the more muddled and contrived his books become. They’re always entertaining, sometimes too goofy, but the man’s a true writer. The cadence in his prose is masterful.

Halloween Night I: Brenda’s cousin Halley comes to live with the family while her parents are working out a divorce. Forced to move into a smaller room, Brenda’s aggrieved from the start. It turns out Halley’s a janus-faced girl who fills her lonely void by stealing other girls’ boyfriends. Brenda’s a red-head with freckles, probably a 7 or 7.5 based on description, but there’s always a hotter girl than the lead in every R.L. Stine book. That hottie is Halley, of course, with hair as blond as gold.

Brenda becomes the victim of disgusting threats, which she vehemently blames on Halley. Or maybe it was her little brrother Randy, the nintendo playing hellion. But Brenda’s parents don’t believe any of her accusations. They even make excuses for Halley’s behavior, suggesting that she’s going through a tumultuous situation. Therefore, It’s perfectly normal for a girl in her poston to partake in such vile lunacy.

Brenda starts catching Halley (the blond liar) wearing her clothes and staining her favorite dress. But she finally draws  the line after witnessing Halley make out with her boyfriend Ted. Brenda’s friend Dina sympathizes with Halley. Dina’s parents had gotten divorced, too, and she could relate to how Halley felt. We get an extraneous back story on how Dina has to work full time since the divorce, as though her $5 an hour afterschool job puts warm biscuits in the basket. Brenda is often insensitive toward Dina’s feelngs, so you start to see motives and anger burgeoning within Dina. Oh yeah, Dina’s a giraffe-like tall freak who can’t score a date either. This info is crucial to the madness.

Conveniently, in the thick of Halloweeen’s pageantry session, the girls are assigned to write a murder mystery for english class. This leads them to muse over violent ways to kill people. They even joke about killing Halley, but it’s all light-hearted at this stage. Not for long, though.

As we go along, Halley is making out with a new guy everyother day. First, it’s Brenda’s BF Ted. Halley gets ditzy when Ted attempts to give her driving lessons, coaxing him into tongue-writhing kisses. Then Halley goes after Brenda’s other friend Traci’s latest boyfriend, Noah. He’s your typical punk with more balls than brains.  To be fair, Traci and Noah had only been dating for, like, a minute.

At the edge of rage, Brenda keeps getting screwed over with hideous pranks. She’s got worms as thy bedside mate, and a mushy pumpkin whose rictus has been mutilated. The ultimate tragedy isn’t the death threat notes for halloween. It happens when Halley totals Brenda’s car. They altercate and Brenda silently vows to dispatch Halley at the Halloween party. I just chuckle and roll my eyes whenever I read an R.L. Stine main character issue deathly intentions. You know the only one getting bushwhacked is the main character.

Traci is down for murder and gossip, but Dina wavers at partaking in the crime. The scheme Brenda comes up with is cunning for a YA novel, though implausible in real life. While the Halloween party is rollicking, Brenda and her friends will be cloaked in costumes to stab Halley. After the misdeed, Brenda will switch costumes to cause bewilderment and conflicting stories amongst the guests.

What ends up happening at the party is a bit unforeseen. Well, kinda. Brenda is stabbed by a blde-wielding frankenstein’s monster. The chapter ends on a cliffhanger, making us assume that Brenda is a bleeding, lifeless corpse. However, she springs back to vivacity. It was all a ruse to expose the killer. A few chapters back, Halley and Brenda had a heart-to-heart like Catwoman and the ice princess in Batman Returns. Brenda has the hunch that she knows who the killer is, and the halloween murder plans were altered to entrap the culprit.

The party clears out and Brenda has a murder, she wrote moment, confronting her attempted killer. Prying open Dina’s monk cloak, the frankenstein mask tumbles out. Dina confesses to the crime, crying about how Brenda wasn’t there to soothe her during her parents’ divorce. Totally saw it coming all the way from fear street. Before getting anymore hacks in, Dina’s gangly ass is shipped off to the asylum where she will be carefully fitted into a straight jacket sized in Taylor Swift’s measurements.

 

Let’s indulge in the sequel, shall we?

The following year Brenda is still in her teenage hell. Traci is back and down for whatever. Their newest friend is a chubby (I mean, curvy) girl named Angela. She’s a new student and seems to fit right into the group. The  insecurities and boyfriendless past, present, and future comes with the territory when you’re the BBW in an R.L. Stine book.

So the book opens up with the trio making a horror movie. Not just a horror movie, a GORY one. It’s another horrific school project for Halloween again. Why didn’t I ever get assigned something this cool for halloween? The girls really get into this project, amping up the violence and pranks as it goes along.

As you’d assume, Brenda has a new boyfriend named Jake, and somehow he’s more oafish than her EX from last year, Ted. Oh, I can’t forget to mention our psycho from the last book, Dina. She’s been released after serving just under a year at the Asylum, randomly showing up at Brenda’s house. Remember, no one was killed in the first book..Needless to say, R.L. uses this reveal as a cheap scare. Dina’s just there to hang out with Halley, the other pariah from Mckinley High. A sea of pills and repeated rounds of electro shock seems to have quelled the crazy in her.

Or did it? Dina claims she doesn’t remember stabbing Brenda. That’s a persuasive excuse for attempted murder.

With Dina back in town and the leafs starting to molder into yellows and browns, all the horror that Brenda tried to suppress comes back to plague her mind. She refuses to accept Dina’s apology, despite her sheepish demeanor, despite what the doctors say.

The next day, the girls hanging out at the mall. where else, right? I don’t remember what they do there, and I don’t care to recall. In the middle of their dallying, Brenda loses her wallet. But that’s not the only thing she loses. At the food court, she glimpses Jake (her boyfriend) making out with a girl. Yep, you guessed it. It’s Halley–hot and treacherous as ever. Even though she’s dating Brenda’s Ex Ted, Halley is up to her old licentious ways. Like your typical blond in fiction, she’s only good for creating the drama.

Before Brenda could confront them, some old fat dude starts chasing her, Traci, and Angela through the mall. They barely escape out the parking garage before the man could catch them. Rumors circulate about a crime spree in town, with the fat man being the prime suspect. He sidles outside brenda’s house, trying to engage her. He’s an obvious red herring, because some creepy old dude slashing girls would be too orthodox to be compelling in a Stine Thriller.

Anyway, what about Jake & Brenda? Or is it Jake & Halley now?

Clearly on a grandiose ego trip only capable of blossoming inside a seventeen year-old punk, Jake dumps Brenda before she’s able to scorn him. Him and Halley seem to have more fun together. Apparently Halley discarded Ted at some point, so Jake and Halley are now officially a couple.

Another rash of fright afflicts Brenda. More hostile letters and rotten pumpkins arrive in the most inconvenient places. She suspects it to be Halley, but has no proof. Dina doesn’t appear in the picture, too impassive to be a vital factor.

Still several days away from Halloween, the girls are working on their horror film project when they over hear a verbal dispute. It’s Halley and Jake already on the rocks. The girls sneak around the yard to record the drama, like eager TMZ photogs. Jake spots them filming and goes primal on them, damaging their camera, ruining their project. He says some macho stuff: “I don’t like to be embarrassed,” and then walks away like a bad ass, cold and placid.

Consequently, this gives Brenda ample reason to execute her favorite misdeed–Revenge.

First, she terrifies Halley by luring her into Angela’s house. There’s a dandy scare when Brenda wrangles a noose around Halley’s neck, genuinely frightening her. It’s all been taped, too. She wasn’t physically scathed by this attack, of course, because R.L. refuses to even slaughter an animal in this series, a thing he cherishes. Seriously though, bad threats and gooey, worm-wracked pumpkins is about how horrific it has gotten to this point in the series. Why was R.L. so grimless at the most unsuitable time of year? It’s Halloween Night and I’ve seen more gore in books like The New Boy and The Snowman. It’s degrading to his repute. It’s the travesty of a Horror Legend that i’m here to expose.

Since Jake and Halley had huge contention, Halley resorts to other despicable methods to distress Brenda. She invites Dina over again, though not surprisingly. Brenda’s apprehension soars as she finds another threat in her room while the prime suspects are sipping coca-cola in her kitchen. During Brenda and Halley’s quarrel, Dina appears sheepish and reticent from the copious downers she’s been consuming.

Brenda is determined to exact fatal punishment on halloween. The prospect of getting an A+ is only an incentive to the sweet taste of revenge on her cousin. Just when Brenda is concocting this tragic finale, Jake pops up beind her locker. She can’t resist the warm, hot lips of an R..L. Stine prose kiss. Then the diabolical idea of including Jake in on the mayhem is too tempting to pass up. She invites Jake to the small Halloween soiree at Angela’s spooy house.

Brenda, Traci, and Jake dress as cloaked skeletons for a night of trick-r-treating. To re-enforce his brutish character, Jake insults some young kids before they make their way to Angela’s. After arriving, the house is bedecked in ghastly gags–Spider webs, grotesque pumpkins, dismal darkness, dripping black candles, two skeletons, and two coffins. The plan was for Angela to pop out of the coffin and they would fake terrorize Jake for their film.

But Angela is no where to be found. Her parents aren’t there either. Predictably, Halley and Dina crash the party. Halley is sour over the absence of a celebration, suspecting it to be a prank. She showed up after Angela had invited her to what she thought was a party. I don’t remember what costume Halley wore, but you could bet she definitely had Brenda’s clothes on beneath it. Brenda’s panic governs her to search the place, fearing Angela might be in danger. A commotion is heard in the living. Finally, a dead body is found. It’s Jake’s bleeding corpse resting in one of the coffins, stabbed to death.

More panic-stricken noises are heard coming from upstairs. The group finds Angela gagged and restrained to a chair. ‘The maniac got me and he’s still here!‘ she alleges. Could all this terror be induced by the fat man from the mall? They all return to the living room, where Traci suggests they review the camcorder to see who killed Jake.

This forces the killer to reveal themself before the footage is viewed. These sinister antics and macabre plots were all contrived by the new girl, Angela. She didn’t have any parents, which is why she took residence in this abandoned house. Well, she does consider the faux skeletons her real parents. She’s extremely morbid and utterly maniacal. Under the persona of the trustworthy fat girl, she felt invincible, nudging her way into Brenda’s favor. As an added motive, jealousy over Jake’s attention spurred her ire toward Brenda.

Slashing wildly, Angela tries to kill Brenda. Halley intervenes by smashing a pumpkin onto Angela’s head. I guess it’s fitting that this series ends on something so silly. The fat guy is  just a loser who found Brenda’s wallet at the mall, which was easy to assume from the start. That’s right, this guy put in 40 hours of stalking a teenage girl on Halloween week all in hopes of gaining a reward. Brenda’s Dad slips him a $10 bill, but only after the man shamelessly asked for it. It turns out the psycho in Dina really has been purged by the asylum’s drugs.

All the Halloween themed R.L. Stine books have been disappointments for me. I’m a rabid Fear Street fan and have much praise for those books. This stand-alone series came at a time when R.L. was immensely overworked, and therefore it came out flat. Because of his high volume and demand at the time, there have been rumors that many of his books were written by ghostwriters back then. I’ve never heard him address the subject. This series never reaches the horror of his greatest teen thrillers, so my parting sentiments are for you to pass on this series and stick to the evils of Shadyside.

Final Grade: C+

 

 

 

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