Back to Fear Street – Halloween Party (Fear Street, #8)
It’s July and ninety degrees outside – what better time for a Halloween party? October. That’s a much better time. But our imaginations aren’t bound by such restrictions, so on with the show! This month’s outing is Halloween Party, and it’s all about and mainly takes place at a Halloween party. I was really looking forward to this book because I figured a Halloween party would be the perfect setting for some Fear Street hijinks. But I have to say I was pretty disappointed. This book has an overall rating of 4/5 stars on Goodreads so it’s pretty well-received, but I gave it a 1/5. I had the twist pretty much figured out by page eleven and not because of my finely tuned intuition but because a character pretty much lays it all out. I don’t really know if I’m about to spoil anything since it’s spelled out so early but just in case….
Let’s see if you can figure it out. So by page sixteen we know the following – (1) the new girl in school, Justine Cameron, invites only nine people from Shadyside High to an all-night Halloween party, including our main character Terry Ryan and his girlfriend Niki Meyer; (2) these nine people know of Justine but aren’t actually friends with her; (3) the party takes place in the Cameron mansion where Justine lives with her uncle – the mansion is located just beyond the Fear Street Cemetery and is rumored to be haunted; (4) Justine’s parents are out of the picture because, as one character says, they’re “dead or divorced or something”; and (5) Justine tells the guests that it’s not the kind of party where dates are allowed. I don’t know about you, but at this point I said to myself, “So her parents are probably dead, these kids had something to do with it, and she’s gonna get back at them at her party.” I didn’t know the specifics, but I figured that was the plot twist. Turns out I was right. Once I had the plot twist figured out, reading the rest of the book was not as exciting as reading the others because I wasn’t swayed by the red herrings.
Let’s talk about those red herrings. There’s a couple of characters, Bobby McCorey and Marty Danforth, known as being the biggest bullies at Shadyside High, that are ridiculously upset about not getting invited to Justine’s party. They threaten Justine, telling her that she better change her mind about not inviting them. They corner her outside the high school and practically assault her to the point where she screams out, “You’re hurting me!” They also crash her party in spectacular fashion, driving their motorcycles into her house and getting into physical altercations with some of the party-goers, including Justine’s uncle. It reminds Terry, our main character, of Animal House but made me think of Weird Science. Then Bobby and Marty assault a party-goer, David Sommers, who leaves to get help after one of the party guests turns up dead. When David falls and hits his head on a gravestone, Bobby and Marty think he might be dead so they drag him out of sight and leave. These guys are definitely horrible people, but since I had already figured out the twist, I just thought that they were over-the-top distractions and found it hard to believe they were this upset about not getting invited to a party that only nine people got invited to.
Another slightly red herring is party-goer Alex Beale, who used to be Terry’s best friend and Niki’s boyfriend. That’s right – Niki dumped Alex and started dating his best friend. That made me feel some type of way about Terry and Niki because aren’t there codes about this kind of behavior? Anyway, Alex still seems a bit upset (who can blame him), and when the nine party-goers decide to make the Halloween party a “jocks vs. wimps” event to see who can stay up all night in a supposedly haunted house, Alex takes it pretty seriously. In fact, according to Niki, he’s “deadly serious.” Yeah okay. The next words should’ve been “RED HERRING” because it’s pretty obvious that’s what this was.
There are also some unexplained red herrings. Terry and Niki both get threatening letters at school – a gross chicken head in Terry’s locker with a note telling him to stay away from the party and a note in Niki’s textbook telling her she’ll wish she was blind too. I forgot to mention that Niki’s deaf, which apparently served the sole purpose of having her read Justine’s lips while at a pizza place. What did Justine say? “They’ll pay. Every one of them will pay.” Why this wasn’t enough to immediately give Terry and Niki second thoughts about the party I’ll never know. I mean, they’ve just been invited to a nine-guest Halloween party in a possibly haunted mansion next to the Fear Street Cemetery by the new girl in town who nobody really knows. Nothing to see here folks! Somebody also slashed everyone’s tires at the party. It’s never revealed who did all of these pranks. It could’ve been Bobby and Marty or it could’ve been part of the pranks the party guests played on each other as part of the “jocks vs. wimps” thing. It just seems that these particular pranks were way more threatening, and they were definitely written in a way to make the reader think more of them than the others. However, it doesn’t make sense that Justine would’ve tried to keep Terry and Niki from going to her party, although it’s possible that her uncle could’ve slashed the tires since he’s in on the revenge (to a certain extent). Regardless, these pranks are never cleared up, and they didn’t make me second-guess my plot theory.
One thing I liked about Halloween Party is that a couple of recurring characters had meatier roles. Bobby is actually a character that appeared in The Wrong Number – he got into a fight with Deena’s half-brother Chuck and was one of the kids that Chuck prank calls. Another character, Ricky Schorr, was part of the Outdoors Club in The Overnight. Ricky gets an invite to Justine’s Halloween party, so right away we know he’ll be more than just a cameo. And even better, while they’re playing a game called Truth – where you tell the worst thing you’ve ever done and other people vote on whether you’re lying or not – Ricky starts to mention his overnight experience on Fear Island but then says “I really can’t talk about it.” I thought that was a great callback and a fun payoff for those reading these books in order. This also makes Ricky the first character to be directly involved in more than one terrifying Fear Street experience. Some other fun mentions – Niki tells Terry that her friends Deena and Jade weren’t invited to the party. If you remember, Deena and Jade were our prank callers from The Wrong Number. Finally, Lisa Blume returns for her fifth appearance – the most appearances of any Fear Street character thus far. As I mentioned in a previous write-up, Lisa works on the high school newspaper, and in Halloween Party she’s described as being a gossip who “usually knew everything that was going on.” In fact, it’s Lisa who gives us our page-eleven rundown that pretty much laid out the plot twist. I wonder if Lisa will serve the same purpose in future books. If so, hopefully it’ll be done in a less revealing way.
Now for some fun asides. At the start of the book, Terry is very surprised to hear that Justine lifts weights, letting out a low whistle and exclaiming, “Whoa!” It’s hard for me to believe that this would’ve gotten such a reaction even in 1990 when Halloween Party was released, but anything’s possible. Another fun aside has to do with Terry’s costume. The party guests all wear costumes to the Halloween party as expected, and Terry goes dressed as a 1950s greaser complete with black chino pants, saddle shoes, a tight white T-shirt with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his sleeve, a dark jacket, and slicked back hair. But he’s also apparently wearing a mask. Of what? Like a face? I just couldn’t figure out what mask he would possibly be wearing. After everything else he put on, I hardly feel like a mask was needed to really set things off. Finally, at her party, Justine turns on a song with “a relentless synthesized rhythm, over electronic-sounding voices repeating ‘Get your freak on, get your freak on,’ over and over.” Either Missy Elliot was reading Fear Street when she was nineteen (unlikely) or R.L. Stine predicted her hit song “Get Ur Freak On” (much more likely). Is it as clear to you as it is to me? Stine is obviously a psychic specializing in early 2000s hip-hop. I mean, what other logical conclusion could I come to? None, but I’m open to suggestions.
‘Til we meet again…
Kia is a cohost of the Half Assed Horror Cast. Her favorite horror novel is Scott Smith’s ‘The Ruins,’ fave slasher is Freddy Krueger, and her favorite TV show of all time is ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’