Monday, March 30, 2009

Door of Death, or “Don’t Tease Me With Your Barn Door of Decapitation … LIES!”


I’m not going to lie. When I first saw this cover, all I could think was: awesome! I had no idea what was going on, but I wanted to know more. The guy seems to be in a barn – is said door of death a barn door? I like how his fingers are clenched and curled, as if in agony for having lost his head. Or maybe surprise, like: where’s my head?

To my grievous disappointment, the cover in fact has nothing to do with the story in any way, except that there is one scene that does occur in a barn. I would much rather have read the book I thought I was reading then the one I in fact read. Keep this in mind as I feel rather bitter and scathing as I write this blog. In much funnier news, I feel obliged to report that this book was found in the bedroom of A.M.’s rather embarrassed boyfriend. Closet Fear Street fans just can’t stay hidden.

Jake Fear’s Journal: Shadyside, October 1, 1853

Jake Fear had lived a sad and lonely life, living alone in his expansive property, but with the fear of the Shadyside villagers, who believed his family was cursed. No one ever went near him, until he was the age of 67, and Cassandra Ryan walked through his door. Cassandra was from Ireland, and had in fact just walked off the boat, and into Jake Fear’s life. Their’s was a whirl-wind romance, although everyone thought Jake was completely delusional in thinking that the beautiful young woman could actually love him.

Cassandra, though, was unsure of his love. One week before their wedding, she asks him to prove how much he loved her. Jake proves (how badly he wants to get laid) his love by crossing out his name on the deed to his property, and writing hers in place. How romantic. They marry the next week and Cassandra is a good wife to him.

Shadyside 1854

It’s a year later from that random diary entry, the day before All Hallow’s Eve. Amy Burke is hanging out at her friend Bridie Padgett’s house. So, did 19th century teens hang? The gang is all in Bridie’s sitting room: Amy’s boyfriend (suitor?) Richard, his weaselly little sidekick Giles, and chubby but earnest Everett. Richard is known as a prankster, and can get out of hand on Halloween night. He is telling them all how Jake Fear will return from the grave on the anniversary of his death, on Samhain, or All Hallow’s Eve, to look for revenge. He used to wander the town, muttering “cheaters never prosper,” so they all need to watch out for this.

The kids are either freaked or titillated by this story. Birdie is scared and clingy, but Amy’s more worried that her boy is going to land himself in serious trouble one day. Richard and Giles take off to make mischief, leaving Everett to escort Amy home. We learn that Everett is in love with Amy, and Bridie is super jealous of her friend for all the attention she gets. Sigh. It must be hard to be you Amy.

While walking home from Bridie’s, Amy and Everett run into a bull and some cows, and flee for their lives. That was Richard’s big trick – releasing some farm animals? Somebody slow this kid down. Everett takes this life-or-death moment to profess his love to Amy, and she’s all “um, no, but let’s do get back at my douchey boyfriend.”

As they continue home, they come to the town square, where a bunch of villagers are gathered around the church doors. The church doors of death? On it is this parchment:

Henry Gray
Giles Laughton
Bridie Padgett
Richard O’Connor

Cheaters never prosper
Jake Fear

Apparently in Ireland, lists like these were posted by dead people, who then came to kill the people on the list on Samhain. Seems reasonable. Also, Jake Fear’s grave had been dug up. Most people are freaked, but Amy is furious that her boyfriend took things this far. I’d be pissed too if my boyfriend was digging up corpses – not cool.

Jake Fear’s Journal – Shadyside, October 10, 1853

After a month of marriage, Cassandra Fear introduces Jake to Owen Compton. She had given the Fear estate to Owen, and now they were kicking him off his property. Cassis got an annulment for the marriage (probs for impotency), and married Owen. Here’s the thing, though. Why go through with the marriage at all? Why not do this the day after he signs the property over? The constable and lawyers back up this whole deal. I feel certain there is no way this transfer of property is legal. I mean, total lack of witnesses for the first transfer, right? Could women even hold property back then? Whatever. Jake is thrown in jail and becomes homeless. The Comptons sell his property, then the estate is hit by lightning and burns to the ground. Now that is damned unlucky.

Shadyside, 1854

All Hallow’s Eve. Amy goes to meet Richard by their makeout tree, and they make out for awhile. This romantic moment is interrupted by Bridie screaming in the distance. They run through the fields to find Bridie’s body, her neck oozing blood, her eyes staring lifelessly. Richard and Amy freak and run, until Amy stops at the edge of a wood, unable to go any further. She unfortunately stops right at the tree where the body of Giles is hanging, swinging on the end of the rope in the wind. That Jake Fear works fast! Amy is convinced this is the work of a ghost, but Richard’s all: don’t be an idiot. There’s a real killer here. Just at that moment, a headless man grabs Richard and spins him around. The man stabs Amy in the gut, then places the knife at Richard’s throat. Richard is about to shit himself, when Amy’s all: Gotcha!

The headless man is Everett, wearing his clothes up over his head, and Giles and Bridie come laughing into the clearing. It was a huge joke, planned by Amy to get back at her prankster boyfriend. Richard is about to boil over mad, then starts laughing, saying he’s the luckiest man to have such a clever girl in his life. I guess. All the friends share a good laugh and everything is right with the world.

Jake Fear’s Journal – Shadyside, October 30, 1853

Jake is living in the shed of the church, dying of unknown reasons. Cassandra comes in to see him, being all fabulously rich, and starts laughing at him. She tells him she’d fed him poison the whole time she was living with him, and he was near the end. Okay, but why? Isn’t that a little unnecessary? Jake curses her: Cheaters never prosper, and she leaves laughing. So the guy dies a little bitter, I imagine. Like the bitterness I feel at blogging on this awful book.

Shadyside, 1854

Everything is all right in Amy’s world. After schooling Richard, she goes over to Bridie’s to have a backwards dinner: if you eat your entire meal backwards, in complete silence, at the end of it a vision of your husband will appear. True story. They do the backwards dinner, and Amy gets all dizzy and sees the rotting corpse of Jake Fear. Well, that’s not good. He says he’s going to claim her for a bride before the night is over. Then Amy falls over and starts to have a vision. She sees Henry Gray, the town blacksmith, in his shop, his head stuck in the vice as it magically tightens until his head pops like a rotten melon. Youch! Amy comes to screaming.

She can’t be consoled, and goes to Richard, demanding he take her to see Henry Gray immediately to ensure what she saw was only in her head. Richard thinks Amy is being overwhelmed by delicate lady sensibilities, or something. There’s no sign of the blacksmith, but his anvil is covered in a slick of fresh blood. Not a good sign. They discuss how Henry was known for shortchanging the villagers – in other words, he was a CHEATER. Hmm, I wouldn’t want to be on this list right now.

Richard takes Amy home, and she collapses into bed, wanting to take a nap before the big barn dance later that night. As she falls asleep, she has another vision. It’s of Giles irritating the constable by knocking on the door, then running away. He carves Richard’s name into a tree, to make the constable think it was his friend irritating him. Before Amy can huff that Giles is a big cheater, the tree comes alive and grabs him, choking the life out of him. The branches start to grow around him and through him, popping through his eye socket and all that. Gross visual, and soon our Giles is the second victim of the “list of death.”

Just at that moment, Richard and Bridie show up to take Amy to the dance. Hmm, Richard and Bridie together, what could they possibly have been doing? Amy agrees to go to the dance, but only to see if either Henry or Giles are there, to either prove or disprove her nightmare visions. They show up there, but everyone is dressed up in costumes and masks, making it difficult to determine who is who. Amy can’t find either of the men she’s looking for, but she does see the rotting corpse of Jake Fear. He lures Bridie away from the dance, into the graveyard. Amy runs after them, only to be confronted by Jake who starts choking her. Richard and Everett come flying in to the rescue, and Corpse-Jake kisses her and disappears, saying he’ll be back for her.
Richard tries desperately to calm Amy down, and finally confesses that he dug up Jake Fear’s grave and posted the list. Only it’s too late, Amy doesn’t believe him, and can prove it wasn’t him. All they need to do is find the list, and compare the handwriting to that of Richard’s, found on a love letter he wrote to Amy that she carries with her everywhere. Aww, how sweet.

Richard agrees to this test, and they four of them take off to break into the rectory, where the pastor kept the list. Richard finds the list, and as he goes to compare the handwriting, his hand slips, causing the candle he’s holding to set fire to the love letter. How convenient. Which is exactly what Amy thinks … clearly he didn’t want her to compare the writing. Then someone notices that the names of Henry Gray and Giles had been crossed off in red ink. That sounds like an odd thing for a pastor to do. As they watch in horror, a red line magically scratches across Bridie’s name. Yikes, I would be out of there.

Bridie does the most sensible thing possible and huddles into a ball weeping, as a cold wind starts gusting around them. Jake Fear slowly stalks into the room, wielding a knife. He goes after Bridie, who nonsensically grows a pair and bites him on the leg, ripping out his rotting flesh. Um, ew. And also, what’s that going to do? Amy grabs the knife and stabs him in the chest, and he’s all: I’m already a corpse, hon. He pulls out the knife and guts Bridie with it. Blech.

Amy, Richard and Everett run down the road, until they think they are safe. I don’t know, being stalked by a supernatural corpse, I’d keep on going. As they watch, Richard’s name is slowly crossed out on the list. Richard tearfully confesses that he’s been messing around with Bridie for months, but has always loved Amy. She forgives him, but it’s not enough. Jake Fear shows up carrying Bridie’s bloody heart in his hand. Blech again. They run back to the rectory. So, they must not have run very far in the first place, right? I’d try to avoid my friend’s gutted body, if I were them. These kids are stupid.

Once they’ve TRAPPED themselves in a confined space, Richard lights the candles on a candlelabra. Ooh, scary. Once Jake Fear is on them again, he sets fire to the corpse. The corpse lights up like a jack o lantern, but is still alright. He pulls Richard in for a toasty hug, and Richard immediately goes up in flames. Jake Fear turns on Amy, and she stabs him with a letter opener (a letter opener! That hasn’t come up in a long time in the Fear Streets I’ve read), until the corpse is “dead.” Unfortunately, Richard is dead too. The list is completed, and Jake seems to be a corpse once again. Amy and Everett are found by the pastor, who takes care of everything.

Amy goes back to her house, where her parents tell her the bodies of Henry Gray and Giles had been found. She goes to bed, hoping it was all a nightmare. Except the nightmare isn’t over. She has a vision of Jake Fear in a groom’s morning suit. She hears a little scratching sound, and finds the list in her pocket, as Everett’s name is slowly scratched into it. Amy realizes the prank they pulled on Richard that morning was going to cost them their lives. Everett’s name is savagely crossed out, then A-M-Y is scratched in. She realizes her husband is coming for her, and makes herself ready.

What the fuck. This was tripe. There were no decapitations, and only one lame not-actually-headless guy. I couldn’t handle this book. I was going to make a “If You Seek Amy” joke, and couldn’t even be bothered. The Saga series totally went downhill, and I believe brought about the end of the Fear Street books in total. I feel cheated – I wanted barn doors of decapitation, but in fact this book should have been “List of Death” or something equally lame. Ugh. I give this 3 missing barn doors out of 79.

11 comments:

Chad Walters said...

I actually don't think it sounded that bad from your description, but I know that reading a description of a book is not at all the same as actually reading the book, so I'll take your word for it.

HelenB said...

I agree with Chad that this doesn't sound so terrible, but that ending was kind of desperate. How does practical joke = cheating?!

I think the cover looks like a scene from a comedy version of "Sleepy Hollow". You know. "Hiding out in this barn will give me a head start!" No?

L. K. Stine said...

HelenB, that made me laugh out loud! I totally thought Sleepy Hollow when I saw the cover. I think my bitterness comes from me wanting it to be a Sleepy Hollow comedy, and it came up wanting.
Thanks for liking the description, the actual book was really confusing, and random. I don't recommend it to anyone.

A. M. Stine said...

I was also confused by this book! There was too much time spent in the Pastor's rectory.

I wonder if M.A. Stine would read this post if I tell him he gets a shout out?

Anonymous said...

While I'm sure there were doors in this story, very few of them struck me as deadly. Sounds fairly screwy otherwise, though. What a plotline!

M.H Stine said...

plz plz plz plz plz plz plz plz do The Babysitter 4!!!!!!!! i just finshed 2, and 3 I NEED 4! but in the 3rd book didnt Jenny get taken 2 the mental hospital anyways plz review it! and btw i bet Cal and Deb made out after Jenny was taken away Cal is a a-hole

Reepicheep-chan said...

I think the ending would have been better if Jake Fear's reanimated body was super hot and Amy was all, like, 'Whatever. Power through evil, bitches!' and then her and zombie Fear make out over her dead boyfriend's body.

Anonymous said...

Thus necrophilia would be added to the long, long list of R.L. Stine's vices.

The Black Sheep said...

This is embarrassing... but I love this one!! I was so scared when I first read it... checking under my bed, behind the door... the lot.

Broken1again said...

I hated this one, I picked it up and put it down a million times. The story seemed like it was so long and drawn out and I agree to much time was spent in the pastor house. I got lost to because I was so not in to it I just kept skimming through everything to finish it. Thumbs down vote from me.

Harper said...

I remember this one being extremely graphic. Like stabing Bridie's stomach and slicing up to her chin. Also, taking a bite out of Birdie's heart and throwing it at the gang.

This one actually scared the shit out of me when I was a kid.