Recap #52 – 99 Fear Street: The Third Horror by R.L. Stine

thirdhorror

Title: 99 Fear Street: The Third Horror

Author: R.L. Stine

Published: October 1994

Description: Lights . . . Camera . . . Murder . . .

Kody Frasier always swore she’d come back to 99 Fear Street. She knows the spirit of her dead sister, Cally, is trapped there, waiting to be set free. Now Kody is starring in a movie about the evil that murdered Cally, set in the very house that destroyed their family. If she can just find Cally, she can help her . . .

But Cally doesn’t want to be saved. She’s been waiting all this time for revenge. And once the movie camera is rolling, Cally is going to give Kody the surprise ending of a lifetime!

Nostalgia Time!


Well, here we are, closing out the 99 Fear Street trilogy. (Recaps of the first and second books can be found at these links.) This is an odd one. I’m tempted to say it’s the weakest of the trilogy, but then I remember how monotonous the second one is in between the random ridiculous shit. This one doesn’t have anything as off-the-rails bonkers as that one (no zombies; no one fights a raccoon), but it does have long stretches of monotony. I dunno, guys. Let’s get into it and see if my opinion crystalizes as I examine this book more closely.

Recap


The book opens with Kody Frasier arriving at her old house, 99 Fear Street, two years after she and her parents fled. You know, after her brother and twin sister were killed in the house. Even though several trees have been cut down in the front yard, no light seems to reach the house. Sorry, “several” trees were cut down? How the fuck many trees were in the yard to begin with?

We’re told it’s a two-and-a-half story house, and I had to Google this to make sure it’s actually a thing, and not just Bob being Bob again. Apparently it is real. Seems like an odd way to describe a two-story house with an attic, but okay. As Kody forces herself to move toward the house, the door opens and a blonde girl steps outside. Kody gasps in shock and horror, and calls out to her dead sister, Cally.

Oh, psych, it’s not Cally. It’s an actress, Persia Bryce, who is going to be playing Kody in the movie of 99 Fear Street. She demands to know where the director, Bo, is, and Kody thinks about how nice she always seemed in interviews, but what a bitch she is in person. Apparently Persia is a Disney Channel-type child actor who starred in a sitcom called Big Trubble. She’s eighteen now and ready to try her hand at movie acting.

Already I have an issue – there’s no way two eighteen-year-olds would be cast to play sixteen-year-olds. I think there’s a law that all teenage characters in movies have to be played by thirty-year-olds, right?

Persia had been sweet to Kody’s face when they met three months ago, then turned around and tried to get Kody booted off the movie because she didn’t want to work with an amateur. Gee, an amateur getting cast in a shitty horror movie? I’m sure that never happens!

Then Kody thinks about how she promised Cally she would come back for her one day, and wonders if she’ll find Cally in there. I guess it never occurs to her to wonder if her sister’s ghost might have turned evil from haunting the evil house.

Meanwhile, we get a perspective jump to the director, Bo Montgomery, who is in the attic with his associate producer, Sam McCarthy, asking if they’ll be able to light this room or if they’ll have to build a set back in L.A. Um, is that something you would ask a producer? Wouldn’t that fall more under the purview of the lighting director? (I know next to nothing about filmmaking, but somehow I think Stine knows even less, so prepare for me to question a lot of what’s going on with the making of this movie.)

Bo is stressed out because his last two movies were turkeys and he’s lucky he’s getting another shot. Bitch, please. You’re a white man in Hollywood; you can make as many terrible movies as you want and still keep getting as many chances as you like.

He’s also pissed that he has to film on location in the actual house instead of on a set at the studio, and says it’s because the studio doesn’t want to spend any money. Sorry, wouldn’t this actually be more expensive? You’ve got to fly the entire cast and crew out to Shadyside, which is all the way on the other side of the country from L.A.; then you’ve got to pay for a hotel for everyone for the entire duration of the shoot; not to mention paying to buy the house. (There’s a reason I believe they bought the house even though we’re told they leased it, but it’s a bit of a spoiler.) Wouldn’t it be cheaper to stay in L.A. and shoot on the Paramount backlot or what-the-fuck-ever?

Bo complains about having to cast Kody, the amateur, in the starring role, and McCarthy points out that she tested well and has had acting lessons, and oh yeah, she’s already getting them publicity and a People Magazine article.

They go down to the basement, where they promptly get attacked by rats. Look, these rats are super considerate; they always stay in the basement and never venture anywhere else in the house. Maybe don’t look a gift rat in the mouth.

The two men valiantly fight off the rats, Bo by swinging his clipboard at them and McCarthy by kicking and pinwheeling his arms wildly, and then run not-quite-screaming out of the basement and outside the house. Then Bo tells an assistant to call an exterminator or two. Or ten. He may be the one behind the camera, but I think we found our drama queen!

Meanwhile, Kody meets up with an actor named Rob Gentry, who will be playing Anthony, the boy Cally liked, who ended up getting his fingers chewed up in the garbage disposal. Let me guess; he’s also eighteen? He asks Kody if she’s okay, and says it must be weird being back here, making a movie about her own life. I mean, yeah. We’re told that Kody “realized” he knew all about her life, along with everyone else, because they’d read the script. Was this some big sudden revelation to Kody? I mean, she was annoying and whiny in the first book, but I didn’t get the impression she was stupid.

Oh, and apparently Bob doesn’t know the term “craft services,” because he keeps having Kody refer to the “caterers’ table.” Bob. Come on.

Kody complains about Persia being so horrible to her, and Rob tells her Persia is jealous of her. Kody responds by crying “Huh?” which is a thing I hate so fucking much in these books. How often do you actually hear someone gasp the word “huh?!” in surprise? Anyway, Rob thinks Persia is jealous because she wanted to play Cally, not Kody. For some reason I find this far more confusing than it ought to be, because I keep thinking Kody is playing herself rather than playing her sister. I have to keep reminding myself that Kody is Cally and Persia is Kody. Ugh.

Kody tells Rob that she has two reasons for coming back here and doing this movie. First, her life was so terrible, she had to get away and be somebody else. Her family moved to L.A. after James and Cally died in the house, but it was a miserable life. Her father never regained his sight, and her mom was never the same. So when she tried out for the movie and was offered the starring role, she had to take it.

Second, she promised Cally she would come back for her. She saw her in the window the day she left the house, and she promised she’d come back and save her. Now it’s Rob’s turn to cry “Huh?!” and tell Kody that her sister was dead, though! Yeah, duh, she’s a ghost, please try to keep up, Rob. Jesus.

Rob goes off to do movie things, and Kody decides to head back and go over the scene she’ll be shooting tomorrow. As she makes her way up to the house, she sees Cally in the living room window, looking sadly out at her. She screams Cally’s name and runs toward the door before stopping to wonder if it’s just Persia again.

Now, every time we get a Cally POV, she is most definitely not sad; she’s angry and filled with the house’s evil. Does Kody have some serious trouble reading the room, or what?

Speaking of Cally POV, we get some now. She slides away from the window, thinking bitter thoughts about how Kody didn’t come back for her, she came back to be a movie star. She thinks about how jealous Kody always was, and how she’s finally getting what she wants – to be Cally! Then she promises that Kody will get to be famous, but not for being a movie star. She’ll be famous as the actress who died while making a movie about Cally’s life!

Really, Cally? Because previous books in this trilogy have shown us that you’re pretty shit at killing people.

When Kody runs up to the front door, Cally telepathically makes it stick. Then she conjures up metal spikes that she drives through the door, hoping to impale Kody.

She misses. Like I said, shit at killing people.

Kody screams, and Bo rushes over to look at the door. Oh, good, the spikes are somehow real and don’t disappear, making Kody look like she’s imagining things. Bo yells at McCarthy because he needs a list of what special effects are set up and what aren’t, so that people aren’t constantly walking into booby traps. Okay, what the fuck. This isn’t a fucking Halloween haunted house; it’s a movie set. You wouldn’t show up and set up all the special effects on the first day. You would set them up right before you film the scene. There’s no way this is a real movie set; Kody, if they start asking you to take your shirt off and make out with Persia, run girl. (Or at least renegotiate your contract.)

Anyway, McCarthy cries “Huh?” and part of me wants to make a drinking game out of the “huh”s. The other part of me has to go to work tomorrow, so must shoot that idea down. Anyway anyway, he tells Bo that there are no effects involving steel spikes shooting through the door. Kody thinks that it’s the house, up to its old tricks.

I guess we’re just shrugging off the mystery of the steel spikes, because McCarthy tells Bo to come to the kitchen to see what he and Ernie have rigged up. They’ll be shooting the garbage disposal scene first, and if you don’t remember that from the first book, Kody helpfully remembers it for us, telling us she’s not sure she’s ready to relive it. She also tells us that Anthony never spoke to her or Cally again after he got out of the hospital, and he never came close to the house again. I’m not sure how she would know that since she left town like a minute after that happened, but okay.

Rob comes running up, telling Bo that Persia is demanding her own fruit basket since the fruit on the craft services table has been pawed over and is unsanitary; Bo says he should tell her parents what a brat she’s being, but Rob informs him it won’t do any good, as her parents work for her – Dad as manager, Mom as secretary.

They make their way into the house, and Kody expects to be bowled over by bad memories, but the house is all made up like a movie set and hardly looks the same. The kitchen has been entirely rebuilt, with all new appliances. McCarthy wants Rob to stick his hand down in the sink drain. There’s apparently a special effects prosthetic glove down in there for him to stick his hand in, then pull back out, and the glove will make his hand look all chewed up and gross. Bo says they’ll need the water running, and supposedly this glove is positioned so that water won’t get inside it. I don’t think that’s physically possible. Whatever.

Rob has a bad feeling about this, and doesn’t want to stick his hand in the drain. Bo jokes it’s because he’s read the script, then Kody mentions something about that being why Bo hasn’t given them the last ten pages of the script. Oh, boy. Then McCarthy decides to test out the glove himself, and sticks his hand down the drain.

Wouldn’t you know it, right at that moment, someone (something?) pushes Kody forward, and she stumbles into the front of the sink. The garbage disposal grinds to life, grinding up McCarthy’s hand. He drops the prosthetic glove on the floor, just in case we thought he was just fucking with us. Nope, his hand is truly ground up into hamburger meat. Yum.

So. Not only did this movie production hook up an actual garbage disposal on their set for absolutely no purpose; they left a disposal unit in the very drain they needed to stick their hands down in. Now, this might sound like a stupid idea for any number of reasons, but right now I’m stuck on the practicality of it. I don’t know if all y’all’ve ever seen a drain with a disposal in it, but you’re not sticking an entire arm down there, nor is anyone hiding a special effects glove down there. There’s not room! You can stick your fingers down a couple inches before you hit the blades, and there’s no room to jam your arm down around the blades, either. The drain is completely blocked up by the disposal unit. I can only conclude that Bob has never looked into his sink drain.

Also, who the fuck puts the switch on the counter in front of the sink? That bitch is always on the wall behind the sink, where no idiot is going to stumble and accidentally turn the fucking thing on. Jesus Christ, Bob.

Later that day, Bo sits everyone down in his trailer for a chat. Apparently this residential fucking street has room for production trailers to be set up all around it. Sure! Why not! We’re told that Persia is spinning her wig around on her hand while her own crimped black hair hangs down to her shoulders. Oh, I see Bob still must be under the impression that hair can be naturally crimped just like some hair is naturally curly or whatever. Because there’s no fucking way a girl is going to spend all that time and energy crimping her hair, only to shove it all up under a wig. Bob doesn’t understand that hair isn’t naturally crimped, fucking hell.

I’m so annoyed at all this stupid, logic-less shit that I’ve lost track of the damn story.

Okay, so Bo asks Kody what happened to make her stumble and hit the garbage disposal on; Kody exclaims “Huh?”, I made it a drinking game against my better judgment and died of alcohol poisoning, the end.

. . .

. . .

. . .

Fuck. I’ve committed myself to finishing this, haven’t I?

(I don’t know why I’m so annoyed by this book right now. I actually enjoyed the stupid thing until I had to start writing about it.)

Kody realizes Bo is blaming her for the accident, but in the nicest way possible, telling her he knows it’s rough on her being back in this house. Persia cattily remarks that he cast Kody for the publicity, which he denies, but come on. It’s kind of obvious and makes total sense. I don’t know why everyone is acting like it’s some sort of treason to believe that Kody’s casting was at least a little bit of a publicity stunt. Not all of us are as stupid as this book thinks we are.

Then Persia complains about how tacky her wig is, and then tells Kody she supposes it’s supposed to be tacky, since it’s supposed to look like Kody’s hair, after all. Rob laughs at Persia, who then snarkily tells him how much she loved his dog food commercial – it was his best work! Okay, Persia. You’re not quite on the Teen Creeps cunt scale yet, but hang in there, I’m sure you will be eventually.

Bo tells them that they’ll start shooting tomorrow, but they’re putting the kitchen scene on hold. They’ll shoot some reaction shots out in the backyard instead. Then Kody sees someone lurking outside the window, and recognizes him but doesn’t know why, even when Bo says that’s a guy named Lurie, who leased them the house. (I want you to remember that the house is leased. This brings up a huge question later.) Kody can’t remember if that’s the same guy who sold her family the house two years ago. Um. I guess it was Cally who found out that Lurie was the original guy who built the house and then hanged himself in it after the house killed his family, but . . . did nobody ever mention this fact to Kody? That seems like the sort of thing she should know . . .

As everyone’s leaving the property for the day, Persia pulls Kody aside and tells her that if she’s too freaked out by being here, everyone will understand if she drops out of the movie. Kody screeches that she’s not going to quit, and somehow this devolves into a fist fight between the two. Good thing you’re basically nobodies, or the tabloids would eat this shit up. Actually, Persia is a well-known child star; there probably should be at least a couple paparazzi hanging around, trying to catch her snorting coke, or making out with the director, or throwing a phone at someone. Maybe they’ve heard the stories about Fear Street and decided to stay away.

Rob and Bo separate the ladies, and Persia claims she was just trying to get into character – after all, weren’t Kody and Cally very competitive sisters? Uh, not from what I remember of the first book, no. Not to a fist-fighting degree, at least. Then Persia acts all wide-eyed innocent at Kody and claims that if she couldn’t tell she was just acting, then Kody really is in bad shape. Then she flounces off to go to the house she’s rented, because no way is she staying in a hotel with the plebs.

Rob asks Kody if she’s going back to the hotel, and Kody says she’s going to hang out in her trailer for a while and try to “cool out.” Ah, here we have Bob trying to make fetch happen again. This isn’t the last time Kody will say “cool out.” It’s like Bob tried to say “chill out” and “cool off” at the same time, and this is what we ended up with. Bingpot!

Then Rob kisses Kody and tells her he’ll be in his room later if she wants to give him a call. As he leaves, Kody wonders if he’s actually interested in her, or if he’s just acting, like Persia.

Kody lies down and drifts off to sleep, then gets awakened sometime later by someone knocking on her trailer door. As she fumbles around for the light, she suddenly realizes that the knocks are three short knocks, a pause, then three more knocks. She panics, because she remembers those knocks – the soft knocks of a ghost!

What the fuck, Kody. Do you mean the knocks you made when you were trying to make Cally believe you were a ghost? I mean, let’s not rewrite history here, mmkay?

Kody acknowledges she was the one who knocks, then jumps to the conclusion that Ghost Cally is the one knocking now. She whips open the trailer door and calls for her sister, but no one’s there.

Her trailer really must be parked right in front of the house, because she can see the front yard from the door. She also hears a baby crying down the street, and then sees a flashlight beam go around the side of the house. She decides this is the perfect time to go nosing around, and peeks in the window by the front door, where she can see a light on in the kitchen. Apparently nobody cares about keeping the movie set secure, because the front door is unlocked and Kody goes waltzing on in, wondering if the light got left on by the crew, or if it’s Cally waiting for her.

She makes her way to the kitchen, and sees a figure hunched over the sink. She covers her mouth to keep from crying out, and – cliffhanger chapter end! (There have been several already, which is of course SOP for Stine.)

It’s not Cally; it’s Mrs. Nordstrom, the housekeeper who apparently just hangs around waiting to offer her services to anyone who moves in. She’s trying to scrub the blood out of the sink, which I feel constitutes about 90% of her job in this house. She at first mistakes Kody for Cally, then asks after Kody, tsk-tsk’s about all the sadness in this house, and tells her that the family who moved in after the Frasiers had a boy about her age who also died. I mean, he was dead before they even moved in, but sure. Kody tells Mrs. Nordstrom she looks exactly the same, and yeah Kody, it’s only been two years, what did you expect? The only people who undergo dramatic changes in appearance over two years are, like, toddlers and preteens.

Kody makes her way back to the living room and starts calling for Cally, saying she can feel her and she knows she’s there, she just knows it! Then a hand grabs her shoulder and she spins around all delighted because she knows it’s Cally!

Except it’s not. It’s the night security guard, demanding to know how she got in and why she’s there. Kody says the door was open, but apparently the guard didn’t care about that half of the question because he brushes it off and yells at Kody about why she’s there. Instead of channeling her inner movie star diva, Kody stammers out that she’s in the movie, and she used to live here, and then the guard realizes that she’s “the sister” and gets all excited. Kody goes to leave, disappointed that the Ghost Cally energy is no longer around her, and the guard says it’s a good thing she wasn’t a looter or a burglar because if she was, he would have shot her. Oh, how he laughs at this. Then he asks for her autograph, for his nephew. Mmhmm.

The next morning, everyone convenes in the backyard to shoot some reaction shots. Kody has had full hair and makeup, and so has Rob. As she observes, he’s wearing more makeup than she is! Welcome to the movies, dear. Also, we’re told that Rob is wearing straight-legged black denim jeans. So, jeans, then? Is there a type of jeans that aren’t denim? This feels as redundant as saying “a flannel flannel shirt.” (Although I just found out recently that people in Ireland and the UK calls washcloths “flannels,” and the world just stopped making any sense to me at all with that revelation.)

Bo wants to do a close-up zoom shot with Persia, just to test the camera. I feel like that should be done without putting a human at risk for the trial run, but what do I know. Anyway, Persia is nowhere to be found, so they have her stand-in, Joanna, do it. The shot they want involves setting the camera up on top of a high boom, then releasing the camera to slide down the boom, zooming in on the screaming actress. It’s a real horror movie shot, according to Rob. He’s explaining everything to Kody, but it’s really Bob Stine explaining to the ten-year-olds reading this book.

Bo tells the boom operator, Ernie (is this the same Ernie who was a special effects guy yesterday?), to release the lever on three, sending the camera sliding down the pole. He does, and ten points to Slytherin (my house) if you foresaw something going terribly wrong here. The camera moves down the pole much too fast, and doesn’t stop where it’s supposed to. It slams into poor Joanna’s face, leaving her head “impaled by the protruding lens.” Okay, Bob. Damn, I didn’t know Fear Street had its own redshirts.

The backyard erupts in chaos, and Kody thinks that the sound she heard upon collision had to be Joanna’s skull cracking. I mean, we were just told her head was impaled by the fucking camera, so . . . yeah, Kody. Probably.

Ernie (who is now referred to as the camera operator) yells to Bo that the bolts on the catch were all loosened – the catch was totally loose! Gee, you’d think that would be something they’d check before sending a camera flying at another human’s face, but nope! Guess not. Then Kody spots the security guard from last night talking to Bo and pointing at her. I guess that’s the thanks you get for signing an autograph for a guy’s nephew, huh?

Somehow when Bo starts asking Kody what she was doing in the house the night before, it takes her forever to figure out that he’s really asking if she loosened the bolts on the camera. I guess Kody’s personality trait in this book is “clueless.” Then Bo asks if she knew Persia’s scene was going to be shot first, and Kody is back to her exclamations of “huh?” Great. Also, I know movies have call sheets and shit, so you should know what’s being shot and when, but this whole production seems pretty slapdash. I honestly don’t think Bo himself knew what he was going to shoot first until two seconds before he shouted it out to everyone else. Anyway, Kody proclaims her innocence like an indignant, wounded puppy, and Bo apologizes.

Oh, also, Joanna is still alive somehow. For now. Someone mentions a lawsuit, and I’m like, yeah, but also, don’t movies have insurance for this very reason? Wait, I’m still going on the assumption that this is an actual, legitimate production, aren’t I? My mistake.

Kody wanders into the house, into the kitchen, wondering if the accident was really an accident, and then realizing that there are no accidents at 99 Fear Street – only deliberate evil. You’re not wrong, although loosening bolts on a camera seems pretty pedestrian and not very ghostly. Then she sees that the refrigerator door is half open, spilling light across the floor, and she thinks it’s weird because all the appliances are props, so why is the fridge plugged in?

Wait, the appliances are props that weren’t plugged in? Then why in the everloving fuck was the garbage disposal hooked up? Oh, never mind. Who am I to question the maestro of teen horror?

Kody opens the fridge door to see what’s up, and finds a human head on the shelf – blond hair, blue eyes, and a mouth as green as moldy bread, set in a twisted smile. Yeah, yeah, it’s Cally’s head, but why the fuck is the mouth green?

Kody screams like a fucking banshee, bringing all the boys to the yard a bunch of crew running, and one of them takes the head out of the fridge and asks Kody if that’s what scared her. She’s informed that it’s just a model; the props department put it in the fridge to let it harden. And then walked off and left the door half open because they were trying to air condition the whole neighborhood, apparently. I have no idea where Cally’s decapitated head with moldy bread mouth fits in with the story of 99 Fear Street, by the way. Talk about artistic license.

People are whispering and muttering about Kody thinking it was a real head, and Bo tells her he’s afraid being in this house is too much for her, and we can’t go over the edge because he’s got a movie to make, and he’s going to make it, dammit! He sends her off to rest in her trailer, and Persia makes snotty comments at her as she walks by. Persia tries to be heinous, but she’s really only in the minor Bitch Leagues.

Ghost Cally watches Kody trudge to her trailer and gloats to herself about the head freaking her out. She thinks again that Kody didn’t really come here to find her, because as soon as she did find her, she lost her shit. I mean, come on Cally, it was a head in a refrigerator. Not exactly anyone’s idea of a family reunion. Then she gloats about people suspecting Kody of loosening the bolts on the camera, because no one would suspect a ghost of loosening bolts! Maybe because you’re a ghost and have all the supernatural shit in the world at your disposal, and you decide to play at being Bob the Builder instead? Weaksauce, Cally. Be better at ghosting, okay?

Then Cally thinks there’s no time like the present, and if Kody came back to find her, then find her she shall! Here she comes! So, what’s the over-under on the number of chapters left before Cally actually reveals herself to Kody? I’m thinking . . . a lot.

Kody knocks around in her trailer, wondering if people think she’s a murderer, and wondering if she should quit the movie before she goes totally crazy. Then someone starts tapping at her door, three taps in quick succession, and she yanks the door open in terror! I’m sure we’re supposed to think it’s Cally finally stopping by to say hey, but it’s not. It’s Rob.

So, when is this ghost story going to, you know . . . ghost? The shit Cally is pulling so far is very amateur hour. I am disappoint.

Kody is so freaked out that she immediately grabs Rob and starts kissing him. They make out for a while, then Persia busts in, makes a catty comment, and tells them Bo said they’re breaking for the day because “that girl” died, revealing that Persia didn’t even know her own stand-in’s name. I can’t decide if Persia and Reva Dalby would be best friends, or deadly enemies. Probably the latter – only one Head Bitch allowed around here, thank you very much!

The next morning, Kody arrives to find police cars still parked in the driveway, and everyone gathered around the living room because Bo called a meeting. Apparently nothing he wants to tell them is all that important, because Kody stops listening as soon as she spots her family’s old handyman, Mr. Hankers, heading down to the basement to take care of the rats. Oh, like he did in the first book, when he did exactly nothing? Cool. She wonders why he and Mrs. Nordstrom aren’t afraid to come back to the house after everything that happened there, then she wonders if she’ll find Cally in the house, too.

Kody tries to contact Cally in her mind, wondering if she’s there, if she’s watching them all there having their meeting, and asking her to give her a sign if she is there. Then a hand grabs Kody’s shoulder, but if you actually believe it’s Cally, you’ve clearly never read any of Bob’s books before.

It’s Bo, whose perspective we now shift over to. He can’t believe how jumpy Kody is, and thinks about how he has to calm her down so the show can go on. He tells Kody and Rob that everyone will feel better once the cops clear out, and he wants to shoot the attic scene tomorrow – Kody and Rob stuck in the green goo. Kody tells him that actually it was her and Cally in the bathroom, and the green goo started pouring out of the sink faucet. Yeah, and why are we calling it “goo”? The way it was described in the first book made it sound like chunky pea soup vomit. That’s not the image that springs to mind when I hear the term “goo.”

Anyway, Bo tells her that the bathroom is too small to film in, and the attic will be more dramatic. Also, I don’t know why Kody seems surprised by this scene; hasn’t she read the script? Rob is happy they’ll be as far away as possible from the rats, because like I said before, these are the most considerate rats in history, staying in the basement instead of running all over the house. Bo looks at Kody and wonders if he should replace her now, beg the studio to let him talk to a real actress, but then Persia rocks up and demands his attention because it was her stand-in who died, after all – it could have been her! Bo resists the urge to laugh in her face, and leads her off away from the others.

Rob has rented a Mustang convertible, so he and Kody go for a long drive out of Shadyside and have lunch in a diner. They head back and park at the lovers’ lane Kody knows the Shadyside high kids use, although I’m unclear on how she knows this. They left town before she met any kids from the high school, so . . . Anyway, they hug each other until it starts to rain; Rob has to manually put the top up, even though I’m pretty sure there should have been a button for that by this time; then they kiss and he suggests they head back to the hotel and rehearse in his room. Uh-huh, “rehearse.” Is that what the kids are calling it these days?

Kody realizes she doesn’t have her script, and asks Rob to stop by her trailer so she can pick it up. When he suggests just using his, she protests that hers has all her notes on it. He pulls up by the trailers, and now it’s really pouring out, and he jokes “Don’t get wet,” and oh fuck me, I forgot everyone is a fucking comedian in Stine’s books. (Let’s never forget that Fear Street was named after Mr. Street.)

Even though it’s only a few steps from the car, Kody is immediately soaked by the time she reaches her trailer. She grabs her script, then hears knocking at the door. She looks out the window and doesn’t see anyone. Additionally, she doesn’t see the Mustang, either. She exits the trailer, looking around for Rob and the car, but they’re not there.

Then she starts hearing Cally’s voice calling her, telling her to follow.

She follows the voice into the house, talking to it the entire time, asking if it’s really Cally, then telling her it sounds like her! What a strange thing to say. “Hey, Ghost Sister, it sounds like you! It really does!” Like, what? So unnatural.

Kody follows Cally’s voice all the way to the basement door, where she hesitates and finally starts getting the feeling that something might be off. But, you know, Ghost Sister Reunion and all that, so she opens the door and starts creeping down the stairs, despite remembering there are rats down here. She gets into the basement, sure she’s about to see Cally, but then she trips over a wooden crate and falls to the floor. She sees a shadow come toward her and starts to scream, but a hand clamps itself over her mouth.

Oh, it’s okay. It’s just Bo. I’m not sure what we were supposed to think it was, but it was Bo. Whew, amirite?

Bo starts questioning her about what she’s doing there, and saying he doesn’t want to believe anything bad about her, but he keeps finding her in places she’s not supposed to be. But then she sees the labels on the crates Bo’s leaning against, and exclaims that they’re full of explosives!

He says it’s supposed to be a secret; that he just moved them down here tonight. He doesn’t want anyone to know the end of the film – he’s planning on blowing the house up for real, and he’ll only get one shot. He wants to see real surprise and horror on the actors’ faces, but he supposes it doesn’t matter if Kody knows since she won’t be in that shot. On account of Movie Cally being dead by that point in the movie.

Okay. I have so many issues with this, I don’t even know where to start. Remember I wanted you to keep in mind that he’s only leasing this house? Yeah, you can’t blow up a house you’re renting; what the fuck. Then there’s the fact that this is a residential fucking neighborhood; I doubt your neighbors are at a safe distance from the explosion zone. Speaking of which, how exactly are you planning on getting your actors to a safe distance while keeping them in the dark? Literally nothing about this seems like a good, or even a doable, idea.

Bo tells her that she still hasn’t told him what she’s doing down here; he was down here checking the explosives were stored properly, but what about her? So, you think proper storage of explosives is stacking them up willy-nilly in crates that anyone can trip over, Bo?

Kody makes the mistake of telling Bo the truth – that Cally led her down here. Oh, Kody. Bo’s into it, however, and tells her that maybe they could even add it into the script. Kody loses her shit and starts screaming that this is real, not part of the movie!

Then they get attacked by rats. The super considerate rats that stay in the basement rather than run around the rest of the house fucking your shit up. Really, you should respect the rats’ domain the way they respect yours.

Bo complains about Mr. Hankers not getting rid of the rats, and then he and Kody make their way out of the basement while he states that if one more bad thing happens, he doesn’t know what he’ll do!

Ghost Cally hears this and does a super villain laugh, thinking that she can arrange one more bad thing. How about tomorrow? Sure, Cally. I mean, your antics so far have been incredibly underwhelming, but hey, I’m an optimist.

The next day, we meet up with Kody and Company in the attic, ready to shoot the Goo Scene. We’re reintroduced to Ernie, who is back to being “the special effects person.” Either there are a plethora of Ernies on this shoot, or Ernie needs a raise since he’s doing the work of at least three people.

When Rob shows up, Kody asks why he drove off and left her there last night, and it’s now his turn to throw a “huh?” around while he tells her that she came out to the car and told him to go back to the hotel without her. Kody is baffled, but manages to avoid a “huh?” in response.

Bo and Ernie instruct the kids as to what’s going to happen in this scene – they’ve sneaked away to the attic to make out; the machine dubbed the Goo Works will start pumping out an oatmeal-like substance which they don’t notice until it’s nearly up to their knees; then they panic and flail around trying to get to the door. Simple.

Ernie tells them there’s only enough stuff in the machine to reach their knees, and I’m having logistical problems with this. There are four ducts in the floor that will pump the goo out, fine. But how big is this attic? Even in a moderate-sized room, do you have any idea how much of a substance you would need to fill the room up to a person’s knees? Or how long that would take? This seems completely unfeasible. If they had some sort of barrier built up to limit the space the goo needs to fill, okay, but they apparently don’t. Therefore I’m led to believe they’re trying to fill the entire attic to knee-height, which is . . . ridiculous. Just . . . fucking ridiculous.

Anyway, it’s now break time. Before anything has even started. Cool. Bo and Ernie take off, but Kody and Rob stay in the attic to rehearse. Kody tells Rob that he really helps “cool her out.” Nope, that’s still not a phrase, Bob. They start “rehearsing” the make out scene, when the attic door slams shut. Oh, I’m sure that’s nothing menacing or anything. You kids just keep slobbering on each other. *thumbs up*

Then the goo machine starts up by itself and starts pumping burning hot green goo through the ducts in the floor. Instead of being worried about their safety, Kody thinks she has to get it shut off because it’ll ruin the shoot if she doesn’t – it’ll take too long to clean up and reset.

Of course they can’t shut the machine off. Even though Ernie said the stuff was odorless, this crud stinks. Rob helpfully exclaims that it smells like really sour milk. Yeah, Rob, are you really mansplaining the smell to the girl who’s standing right beside you, also smelling what you’re smelling? Or was that Bob’s lazy effort to tell the reader what it smells like, instead of just working it into the narration like a good writer would?

Somehow this stuff is both slippery and sticky, because Kody keeps sliding in it, but it’s also holding them down, especially when Rob slips and falls into it. He can’t get up, even though it’s only a few inches deep. This is absolutely disgusting, but it’s also pretty funny. These two idiots, slipping and sliding in chunky boiling vomit, splashing chunky shit everywhere while they panic.

The Chunky Vomit Goo is up to their knees by the time they make it to the attic door, and wouldn’t ya just know it, the door won’t open. Well, what were the odds of that, do ya think?

Suddenly we’re told the stuff is up to Rob’s waist, so it rose at least a foot in the last few seconds. Unless this attic is roughly the size of my linen closet, I call the most serious of bullshit on this room filling up so fast. Physics? FUCK YOUR PHYSICS!

Kody is triggered into remembering the night the green goo poured down the bathroom walls, even though it didn’t. It poured out of the sink faucet. Get your shit right, Kody.

Kody realizes that the house is manufacturing this goo, not Ernie’s machine, especially since there was only supposed to be enough in the machine to reach their knees. Even that would necessitate a ginormous fucking machine, but whatever. For some reason, Kody believes that Cally will help them and starts calling for her, despite Rob’s skepticism. How the fuck does Kody not know her sister is an evil ghost? I know Kody’s bad at reading the room, but holy shit.

We’re told that the stuff has now climbed waist-high, even though we were already told that two pages ago, and at that rate it should be up to their chins by now. They spot a window across the room and decide to try to make their way over to it since Kody remembers it leads out onto the roof. The vomit goo actively tries to hold them back, but Kody finally makes it over and starts celebrating prematurely – until she realizes the window won’t open. She grabs a light tower and breaks the window. All right! Now it’s celebration time, right?

She dives out the window, then turns to see Rob floating face-down in the goo, inches away from the window. She thinks that the idiot must have tried to swim (she doesn’t call him an idiot, but she should have), then goes back in to save his stupid ass. She gets him over to the window, then thinks that she can’t lift him out, but she can slide him. Sorry, how high up is this window? All the windows in my house are somewhere between my knee and mid-thigh, and I’m fucking short. This goo is supposed to be waist-high, right? It ought to be pouring out of this window and onto the roof, but apparently it’s still below the window? How high up are windows in Bob’s universe? (And yes, my kitchen and bathroom windows are up higher. But I’ve lived in a house with an attic, and those windows were set very low in the walls – not even waist-high when I was a tiny eight-year-old.)

She manages to get Rob out on the roof, then she performs mouth-to-mouth on him, getting all the chunky vomit substance in her own mouth. Well, thanks for making me want to puke now, Bob. This shit just went from funny-gross to I-actually-feel-sick-now-gross.

The next day, Bo has a sit-down with everyone in the living room. Rob is in the hospital in shock. Bo let Ernie go, and Kody suddenly-for-the-second-time realizes that it wasn’t Ernie’s machine’s fault – it was the house. Like, yeah Kody, you already realized that, but get down with your bad self, I guess. Kody thinks she sees Cally outside the living room window and calls out to her in front of everyone, just so she can continue to appear super normal. Bo tells everyone that they’re going to block out the dining room scene, and they’ll do the attic scene later. So, that’s the attic scene; the kitchen scene; and the backyard reaction shots all put on hold, yeah? They’re running out of rooms, huh?

Kody waves to the actor, Burt, who’s playing her father, and is upset that he looks nothing like her real father, but she guesses that’s just the movies for ya. Very good, Kody. Now you’re getting the hang of it.

Persia snipes at Kody, then mentions the idea she had for changing the seating arrangements for the dinner scene. Kody has no idea what she’s talking about, so Persia informs her that she suggested to Bo that the two of them sit next to each other so that they can fight over who gets to pass the carving knife to their dad. You know, because Kody and Cally were such competitive sisters and all. Kody thinks it’s stupid, but according to Persia, Bo thought it was a great idea. You know, that or he was just humoring her so she’d go away.

Kody goes into the dining room and stares at the prop carving knife sitting on the table, and that brings back memories of the night the house made her dad stab himself with the knife while he was carving roast beef. She has an overwhelming sense of foreboding, even though she tells herself it’s just a prop knife and it can’t hurt anyone. It’s like she’s forgotten what house she’s in. You are in 99 Fear Street: The House of Evil, Kody! Pay attention!

They’re not actually shooting the scene until tomorrow, so Kody ends up taking a nap in her trailer, where she dreams about eating doughnuts that turn into the green goo. When she wakes up, it’s dark out, and she’s determined she’s going to find Cally tonight. Because she still apparently hasn’t figured out that her ghost sister is trying to kill her. Or others. Or . . . actually, Cally is really bad at this ghost thing, so you’ll probably be fine, Kody. Carry on.

Kody makes her way into the house, and almost immediately Cally’s voice starts urging her toward the basement. Kody is initially reluctant, asking Cally if they can talk up here, but then she forgets all about the rats and explosives when Cally says she’s been waiting so long to talk to her. Cally keeps urging her forward, telling her she wants to show her her “special place.” Ah! No! Twincest!

Oh, no, it’s fine. This isn’t Game of Thrones. Or Sweet Valley. Or Point Horror, for that matter.

Kody makes her way into the basement, past the crates of explosives and the plunger-detonator, probably with ACME stamped across it. So, is this how you properly store explosives? With the detonator hooked up and ready to be tripped over? Okay, just checking.

Cally’s voice leads her to a narrow door in the wall that she’d never noticed before. Secret doors in creepy basements that your evil ghost sister led you to are probably fine, right? She goes through the door and finds herself in a “dimly lit room no bigger than a closet.” So, a closet?

I must still be in Fright Night (2011) mode, because I’m picturing the dirt room in Colin Farrell’s basement, even though Stine tells us this room has stone walls and a concrete floor. Eh, fuck reading comprehension. There’s also a bare lightbulb hanging down on a wire, and a three-legged stool against the wall. I feel like I’ve never seen one of these three-legged stools in person, only in movies.

Cally’s ghost appears in a cloud of white mist, and Kody loses her mind with joy, running forward and wrapping her in a hug, then exclaiming how cold she is. No shit, Kody, did you think a fucking ghost would be warm? Cally smiles all evilly at her, and Kody still can’t read a fucking room, as the billowing cold mist envelopes her and she asks what Cally is doing to her. Okay, maybe she’s starting to catch on.

Cliffhanger chapter end, because BOB.

The next thing we know, it’s the next day, we’re in Bo’s perspective, and they’re finally going to shoot a scene – the dinner scene! With the knife that gave Kody such a bad feeling! Persia insults Kody’s hair, Kody is sarcastic in response, Bo tells Persia to back off. Then he wants to see what her idea for the “knife-fight” is, and suddenly I’m picturing this production turning into West Side Story. With two blonde, white Marias.

Persia explains that she just wants her and Kody to have a little tug-of-war over the knife, to show how competitive Movie Kody feels. Okay, our Kody is right; this is a stupid idea. Persia treats Kody like a three-year-old, telling her to be careful not to cut herself and insulting her lack of improv training. Bo calls for them to rehearse the scene, and as soon as he gives the cue, Kody grabs the knife and stabs it through Persia’s hand, pinning it to the table.

*blinks*

Hahahahahahaha! I’m probably a bad person, but Persia got what she fucking deserved, for real though. I only wish it had really been Kody who did it. (I mean, spoilers, but we all kinda figured this isn’t really Kody, right?)

Kody is perfectly calm about the whole thing, until Persia starts screaming at her and calling her an idiot, then Kody protests that she didn’t know it was a real knife – someone must have switched it! Chaos ensues, including Persia screaming that she’s going to bleed to death. We should be so lucky.

Bo confronts Kody before she slides out of the room, and tells her that he has to remove her from the picture. He’s not saying she’s responsible, but he thinks she’s a jinx. Wait, what do you mean you don’t think she’s responsible? You literally just watched her stab her castmate, Bo. What the fuck.

Kody tells him no, she’s not leaving, then picks up a spotlight by the pole and slams it into his face, holding it there so it burns him. The last thing he hears before he passes out is Kody cheerfully yelling to everyone else that that’s a wrap!

So, was this happening in front of other people, or had everyone cleared out? Also, I would give anything if this really was Kody, and she finally found her backbone and was just done with everyone’s shit.

See, we now know it’s not Kody, because Kody is tied up in that room in the basement. That’s right, folks, the ghost tied her to a stool. Instead of possessing her, Cally tied her to a stool in the basement. I’m so disappointed that this was Cally masquerading as Kody instead of possessing her. What the fuck is this shit, Bob?

Anyway, at least Kody now gets that Cally is evil. So there’s that.

Kody hears rats scuttling in the basement, and somehow manages to stand up, even though her feet are tied together at the ankles and her hands are tied behind her back. She sees a crack in the wall down by the floor, big enough for a rat to crawl through, so she gets down on the floor to either listen or look through the crack. Because yes, let’s put our face down where the rats are, shall we?

She looks through the crack, and I guess she’s looking into yet another secret room? Eh, whatever. She sees rats, and then she hears . . . Mrs. Nordstrom talking to the rats! And Mr. Hankers and Mr. Lurie are there, too! They’re all playing with and feeding the rats! Kody can’t believe it!

I mean . . . are you really surprised? We had to know something was up with these guys, yeah?

The three . . . people? . . . start talking about Cally, and how obedient and ignorant she is, how she does whatever they say but thinks she’s following her own will. Because, you know, Kody needs a bit of an exposition dump. She thinks that she was right; Cally isn’t really herself, and now Kody is just as scared for her as she is for herself. Is this why Cally is so shit at killing people? Is part of herself fighting back by being totally incompetent at ghosting?

While Kody is internally freaking out about all this, Cally shows up and menacingly says, “Goodbye, sister. Goodbye forever!” . . . but then she just unties her and waves her out the door, telling her she doesn’t need to hurt her, because she’s pretty well fucked – Kody did some very bad things today, you see.

Kody is horrified, but still tries to tell Cally about how the house and Mrs. Nordstrom and the guys are controlling her. Cally has no idea what the fuck she’s on about (I guess she’s never run into any of them in the ghost realm?), so Kody tells her to look through the crack in the wall. I mean, Kody’s been shrieking pretty loudly, but I guess we’re expected to believe no one in the next room has noticed.

Cally humors her, looking through the crack for several minutes, and when she stands up again, the evil light has left her eyes and she tells Kody she’ll get her out of the house. That seems like a pretty abrupt face turn, but sure, I guess. When they step out of the room, Mrs. Nordstrom and the men are waiting for them, and she thanks Cally for bringing Kody to them, and now they’ll make sure Cally gets her revenge.

Cue Kody losing her shit over Cally’s betrayal. I want to say fucking duh, Kody, she’s an evil ghost, but I’m wrong. Cally tells her she hasn’t betrayed her, she’s grateful Kody showed her the truth, now run to the stairs and she’ll protect her. I mean, she’s probably still going to jail for assault, but sure Cally.

Cally keeps screaming at Kody to run, but Kody is hanging back, because . . . Mrs. Nordstrom and the two dudes are turning into rats. Yup, that’s a thing that’s happening right now, sure enough. I mean, to be fair, I’d probably stick around to watch that, too.

So. They’re rat people. No word on how this is a thing, because Mr. Lurie at least used to be a real, live human person, but . . . these three are rat people. And they start attacking Kody as she remembers she should probably GTFO right about now, and Cally heads for the explosives detonator. Kody asks Cally what about her, and Cally responds that she’s dead. We’re told it’s a heartbreaking reply, but I like to imagine it was more like, “I’m  already dead, you fucking idiot!”

Kody flees from the rats and the house, and she’s halfway across the yard when the house explodes. That . . . can’t be within the safe zone, can it? Like, either the shock wave or the shrapnel should be pulverizing her right now, shouldn’t it? Oh, right, I keep forgetting these books employ cartoon physics. Silly me.

She looks back at the house and sees hundreds of rat bodies being thrown around and burned in midair. Wow, this remake of Willard is really weird. Then she sees all the tortured spirits twist up out of the house and into the night. I know I’ve seen a movie (maybe several, honestly) with this imagery in it, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Anyway, odds are pretty good that whatever it was, Bob saw it too, and wrote it into this book.

Kody lies in the grass, and apologizes to Cally for not getting to say goodbye. I mean, you kind of did, though? I dunno.

Three weeks later, Kody and Rob are hanging out at her place in L.A. She tells him (us) that the cops are still having trouble believing it was Cally and not her who did all those horrible things. Are . . . are you really telling me that you told the police it was a ghost who did everything? Like . . . make up a plausible cover story, goddamn. The cops aren’t going to believe that it was ghosts! Then she says she’s just relieved no one is pressing charges, even though she has to go to therapy twice a week. No. I don’t believe for one second that Persia isn’t both having charges pressed and suing you for all you’re worth. The way this is yada-yada’d is infuriating.

The doorbell rings, and Kody sends Rob to answer, thinking it’s the pizza she ordered. Instead, it’s a delivery from McCarthy – a videotape. It’s the only footage that was shot of the movie, and when Kody puts it in the VCR, it turns out to be footage of the house exploding. Within the flames, the figure of a girl appears, waving slowly and sadly. When Rob asks what that is, Kody tells him it’s her sister, saying goodbye.

Nostalgia Glasses Off


Okay, so there are people who will argue that the second book in this trilogy is the weakest. And maybe they’re right. But for me, it’s this one. Sure, there are a few good moments, and bringing Kody back gave the story some closure, but so much of this book just felt like Bob had an idea for a scary scene but didn’t bother to give any thought to the logic of it. In other words . . .

could-should
Take heed, Stine

I really wish Cally had possessed Kody instead of just pretending to be her. That felt like a cop out. Kody was the worst part of the first book, so being stuck with her for the entirety of this one started wearing on my nerves after a while. It would have been nice if she’d actually stuck up for herself, even if it meant stabbing Persia.

I knew way back in the first book that I remembered Mrs. Nordstrom and Mr. Hankers turning into rats! Yay, vindication! Although I’m not sure it makes sense upon close inspection. Are they actually rats that take human form? Are they ghosts that can take rat form? Are they something else entirely? Are they part of the house? Are they people that died in the house (well, Mr. Lurie was, at least)? I think Bob just thought it was a scary image and didn’t give it much thought past that.

I like this trilogy as a whole, but I’d definitely say the first one is the best overall. Even if everyone did keep acting like a thirty-year-old house was ancient. At least that oddity was dispensed with after the first one.

I wish I had kept a “huh?” count throughout this book, but it occurred to me a little too late. Suffice to say, if we’d turned it into a drinking game, we’d all be well and truly sloshed right now. Cheers!

 

 

 

 

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