Thursday, January 22, 2009

Trapped or “Breakfast Club Horror Show”

Holy. Crap.

Ever since we started blogging Fear Street books, I have had a vague recollection of a book that really disturbed me when I was younger. I actually seemed to think Fear Street was kind of scary, because of this book. Something about being underground. When I found Trapped, I got excited, because I realized it may be that very book.

Was it ever.

Have you people read this book? Did it scare the bejeezus out of anyone else? Because I have to say, this was a really good HORROR book – it reminds me of Stephen King’s short novels.

So, enough of a lead up. Needless to say, I liked it. And felt the need to sleep with stuffed animals after reading this.

Trapped starts off as R. L.’s answer to the Breakfast Club. Goody goody Elaine is stuck at school on a Saturday for detention, with a motley group of kids. There’s the geek, Jerry, who’s only there because he refused to dissect his frog in biology on ethical grounds. Max, the badass artist, who apparently uses graffiti as his major means of expressing himself. Bo, the badass badass, who is clearly Judd Nelson’s character from the Breakfast Club. To the point that I feel no need to describe him, as in my head he looks like Judd Nelson. And Darlene, his stoner girlfriend. For the purposes of this blog, Elaine will be played by Molly Ringwald.

Everything begins exactly like the Breakfast Club. 5 students who would never hang together thrown into a classroom for a full day together. Bo keeps harassing Elaine, but it’s pretty clear he’s into her, while Elaine finds herself inexplicably turned on by this good looking but troubled punk. They are being watched over by their principal, a Mr. Savage, whom everyone agrees is a very strange man.

It doesn’t take long for the kids to rebel. Since Mr. Savage is not around, they go to the cafeteria to raid the kitchen. They stuff full of iced tea, and old doughnuts, I guess, and all have a very good time. Look at the delinquents getting along together! On the way back to the classroom, they hear Mr. Savage coming down the hall, so they duck into the auditorium. The badasses of the group start defiling the stage, which Elaine disapproves of, so she wanders a little behind the scenes. At the very back of the theatre is a long dark sheet tacked to the wall. She rips the sheet down, revealing a long dark passageway that she’s never heard of before. What else can a girl do? She starts walking along it, until the floor gives way beneath her.

Elaine falls far enough to hurt her ankle, and looks up to see she’s in a tunnel under the school. Bo finds her and comes down to join her, via a very rickety old ladder. Elaine is secretly very happy to be alone with Bo in the rat-infested tunnel, and is a little choked when the others come down to join them. Bo uses his lighter to illuminate the walls, which are covered with graffiti saying: LET’S PARTY.

Everyone is momentarily awestruck as they realize they are in The Labyrinth – a tunnel system under Shadyside created in the 1950s under the threat of nuclear holocaust. When the inevitable end of the world proved to not be forthcoming, students would go down there to party, getting really fucked up and pretending it was the end of the world. The whole tunnel system was blocked off years ago after something bad happened. No one knew what, only that a bunch of kids died.

So you’ve accidentally discovered a mythic party tunnel, what else are they going to do? Of course they go exploring, detention was so 10 minutes ago. Bo makes some torches with the handy lighter fluid he keeps in his pocket. Yes, he keeps lighter fluid in his pocket. Everyone thinks this is psychotic, even Elaine who’s ready to strip him the second his back is turned. There’s no reason for the lighter fluid, it’s a “just in case” kind of thing. And, turned out to be danged useful today, so what’s everyone going on about? They take off down the dark tunnel.

Repressed Elaine feels excited and liberated, until she remembers she’s afraid of the dark. Oops. They quickly get lost, although Bo, being male, refuses to admit it. They finally come to a new tunnel, with a deep body of water blocking it (no idea where this deep body of water comes from, it’s just a really deep stagnant pool). They cross it using the thin ledge at the side, but Elaine loses her balance after stepping on a rat and falls in. Bo pulls her out and she drapes herself all over him. Darlene is super unimpressed and tries to decide when the best time to stab Elaine will be.

They continue on and find another oddity – a patch of wall that has been bricked over, potentially covering a passageway. As they stand there, the bricks start to move of their own volition, as if being pushed on from the other side. Before anyone can really panic about that, the whole wall explodes outwards, knocking everyone down, although the torches fared okay.

A red dust seems to pour out of the now-exposed tunnel, swirling and thickening as if it was alive. It turns into a red cloudy mist, and moves over to Max, engulfing him. As he screams, the red mist lifts him off the ground, and breaks every bone in his body, contorting him in ways that humans cannot be contorted, blood spurting everywhere. Once everyone got an eyeful of Max’s crumpled corpse, the mist speeds down along the tunnel with him.

Bo, the lighter fluid carrying psycho, runs after the mist. Jerry and Darlene, being rather more sensible, run in the opposite direction, leaving Elaine and her hobbled ankle behind. She only catches up to them as they realize they’re lost again. They are all starting to fight when they come across a decaying body, just as their torch goes out. In total pitch darkness now, Darlene thinks the body was wearing Bo’s clothes. Elaine realizes that Bo had the lighter, so they had to go through the body’s clothes to get it to make a new torch. She’s about the feel up the corpse, when Bo comes running towards them from another tunnel, torch still in hand.

Reunited and lit again, everyone seems very happy. They make new torches and head off again, trying to find another exit from the Labyrinth. They find several creepy chambers, one which is graffitied over and over again Let’s Party, which has a really disturbing effect.

As they take it in, the red mist finds them, creeping into the chamber. They run for it, but poor Elaine is the last man out because of her ankle. She collapses, but right in front of the rickety ladder that exits to the Shadyside theatre. They all clamber to get up, Jerry at the back. He doesn’t make it. The red mist grabs him and Elaine is trying to hold on to him, but has to let go of him to save herself. The mist snaps Jerry’s back in half, then grinds him up a bit before hauling him away. The ladder collapses, causing Bo and Elaine to fall. Elaine is thrown into ecstatics about Bo being on top of her. I’d say girl has a poor set of priorities, but in life or death situations, you have to get your kicks somehow, right?

Darlene didn’t quite make it to the top, and falls back down on top of them. The three of them regroup, trying to figure out what to do. Elaine brings up a controversial suggestion: going through the bricked-off passageway, the only one they know they didn’t take already. Perhaps it leads outside? Having really no other ideas, they head back to the brick wall, following the passageway through to a cave-in. The passageway is nearly entirely blocked off, except for a small hole up at one corner they squiggle through. The hope is that a sunny exit is on the other side ...

Nope. Just one more creepy Let’s Party chamber, completely blocked off. Except this one is full of human skeletons! The skeletons are arranged as if they died sitting around, or holding each other. They are the skeletons of the kids who died down here, apparently trapped by a cave in. On the wall, beside all the Let’s Party signs, are six names – the names of the dead. Inscribed next to the names is: SCOTT SAVAGE KNOWS. As in, Mr. Savage, the principal? Darlene and Elaine are arguing whether the kids died because of the red mist, or because of the cave in, when the red mist finds them, pouring into the room. They can hear it breathing, as if it was a person.

Bo mans up again and tried to get the mist to come after him, allowing the girls to escape. As the girls run, the mist re-incorporates the skeletons, going after them all at once. As one skeleton goes for Darlene, Elaine dives through the hole in the cave in, hearing Darlene’s screams behind her. She struggles through and waits on the other side.

Someone grabs her from behind – Mr. Savage has joined them. At that moment, Bo pops through the hole, and Elaine goes to pull him away from the mist. There is a cave in behind them, causing them all to believe the red mist is trapped. Time to sit around and reminisce about the past.

Mr. Savage explained that he had partied there years ago with a bunch of kids, when one night there was a cave in. The dirt separated them, with Savage on one side, everyone else trapped on the other. So little Savage did the only explicable thing to do – the next day he came down and bricked up the exit of the passageway, so nobody would know about his dead friends, or how they died.

Only, they weren’t dead. The six trapped managed to crawl through to the other side, only to run into a freshly made brick wall, which very efficiently ended their escape attempts. They went back to their little chamber, accepting their death, and inscribing their names on the wall as victims, and Savage as their murderer.

As Savage comes to the end of his story, the pile of dirt blows out, releasing the red mist. As it buzzes around them angrily, Elaine can see faces within the mist – the kids who died in the cave in. The mist was them, and their rage and despair. All of them are staring at the mist, as Savage calmly tells Elaine and Bo that they can get to the boiler room by taking 6 consecutive left turns (otherwise known as a big circle). The mist surrounds Savage, and breaks him, turning him in on himself until he’s nothing but a ball of flesh and blood.

At this, the red mist dissolves, having finally gotten its revenge. Bo and Elaine shuffle along the tunnels until they reach the school, where they smile at each other. No, there’s no inappropriate kissing or cute quips here, they just agree to get the hell out of there.

Maybe it was just me, but I thought this book was SCARY! And well done. Was it my favourite Fear Street ever? No. Because I find I really like the cheese. I like letter opener slashing abusive boyfriends, and the women who love them. I read Fear Street to snark on outfits from the early 90s, and the inappropriate kissing at the end. That being said, this book was AWESOME for entirely different reasons. I give it 55 clouds of rage-mist out of 55.


A. M. Stine said...

Seriously. We are getting WAY too into R.L.'s "work".

L. K. Stine said...

Don't I know it!

Chad Walters said...

I'm right there with you guys! I'm actively planning a Fear Street tv show (I highly doubt it'll ever get made, but if it does, the work will already be done). There are enough books for at least five seasons, which is a good run for a tv series.

Anonymous said...

Holy Hells, would that ever be a creepy story done right. Does the copyright say if it was ghostwritten or not? And I have to say that I would totally go exploring abandoned underground nuclear holocaust tunnels if I found them. Maybe with more preparation. Like I'd draw a map, for a start.

L. K. Stine said...

As long as you bring your trusty lighter fluid!

Anonymous said...

No joke, there was an underground tunnel that connected my high school to a junior high. Every year they raffled off a tour of the tunnel in an attempt to raise money for skimpy cheerleading outfits or something. I never tried to bid on it based on principle, but now I wish I had!
This reminds me a little bit of The Cask of Amontillado.

Anonymous said...

I tried to get into the basement of my rickety old English department building a while back, but it was off-limits. Probably also devoid of corpses, rage-mist.

Actually, this book strikes me as more of a Point Horror, somehow. It falls out of the usual Fear Street mould... i.e. camp.

LAK said...

I think we need more tunnel systems. Just because.
And I wouldn't have to go outside to go to the grocery store in winter.

BTW, I want to watch the Breakfast Club now. Emilio Estevez-Before the Mighty Ducks!

RecallerReminder said...

Yawn. This one was too boring for me, works better as a short story than a hole book.

Anonymous said...

R.L Stine is making a Fear Street movie.