Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Don’t Stay Up Late, or “Crazy Things Happen to Crazy People”

Time for another new Fear Street!

I am liking the new Fear Street relaunch, in theory. The new books definitely look appropriately scary, anyways, and Don’t Stay Up Late is no different. Girl alone in a darkened room, horrifying shadow pressing in behind her. It’s creepy. Even the title, Don’t Stay Up Late, gives a shivery warning, which makes it feel just a little bit naughty. The tagline: In the dead of night, the evil one awaits. That is effing creepy. So far I’m impressed. Does the substance of this newer, sexier Fear Street live up to its shiny wrapper? Wait and see …

Part One

Oh, lordy yes! Already divided into parts. This used to be how you could tell a super chiller from a regular Fear Street, it was separated into parts. Now, all the books have parts? We will roll with it.

Enter Lisa, our heroine of the novel, who is new to town and self-identifies as a twisted psycho. An interesting way to introduce yourself, she’ll fit right in at Shadyside High. Lisa has been at school for a month and already she has a best friend (Saralynn) and a boyfriend (Nate). Nate and Lisa met when she (accidentally) pushed him down a flight of stairs. It was love at first assault. They also have another friend, Isaac, who is described as chubby and funny, which pretty much ensures his death.

She explains the night of the accident started off like any other. She was out with her friends at the local burger joint as Saralynn tells them that she wants to make a horror movie for a class project. And it just so happens that Nate is a horror film nut, with tons of movie posters and costumes in his attic. They all agree to be in this film. I love it, I can already see how things are going to go south here, crazy boyfriend, film becoming much too realistic.

While they are chatting, Lisa confesses she snuck out of the house to be there as her parents are super overprotective. This is just as her dad comes storming into the diner and forces her to leave, causing her to die of embarrassment. Lisa behaves exactly like any other teen ever, and is a brat, fighting as they drive home. Her dad loses control of the car and they have a horrific accident.

When Lisa wakes up, she’s in a hospital bed. Her father is lying next to her, the steering column jammed through his skull. As she starts screaming again, her mom and nurses appear to calm her down and explain she’s had some head trauma that is causing hallucinations. But she was right about one thing – her dad is not okay.

Well, that is effing horrible. Rarely do Fear Streets start off with such genuine grief and horror. I’m feeling for Lisa. On top of losing her father, she’s going to see horrific visions due to the brain trauma. That’s just peachy.

Part Two

Lisa has started to see a psychiatrist to help deal with her grief and hallucinations. Dr. Shein doesn’t think she’s up for school yet. Just as an aside, I’m impressed that they all seem to be coping with their dead dad/husband quite well, as in their actually trying to deal with their loss. Like, she’s having nightmares of his death after two weeks? No problem, that’s normal. In old Fear Streets, you were supposed to get over death instantaneously. Grief must expire at the funeral, otherwise everyone acts like there is something wrong with you.

Late one night, Lisa hears a dog howling under her window so goes out to find it. The world looks strange at night, and she sees a shadowy creature – standing on two legs, skinny, bald, with red glowing eyes, pig ears and snout and a row of fangs. Lisa figures she must be dreaming but she can’t stop screaming, and the shadow creature grabs her …

It was her mom, who’s frantic that her daughter’s sleepwalking in the middle of the night. Lisa wonders if she’ll be crazy forever.

The next morning she goes to Nate’s and starts screaming because she sees a hideous green creature. It comes towards her and grabs her around the waist – it was Nate and he’s all pleased with his joke, as Lisa is like – yup, I’ll be crazy forever. They are filming Saralynn’s horror film, using one of Nate’s many horror costumes. Hmmm … like maybe with a weird pig mask with red eyes? Lisa gets a funny feeling that Nate and Saralynn are keeping something from her. Like how they are trying to make her even more crazy by torturing her with monster costumes?

Lisa sees her shrink again, who lets her go to school and encourages her to get a job. She knows of a woman looking for a babysitter for her little boy, which would be perfect for Lisa. And they live on – dun dun DUN! – Fear Street.

Part Three

Isaac tries to convince her not to take the job. She’s at his house, waiting for her other friends to arrive, listening to his horrible band rehearse. Isaac is wearing a (pop culture reference!) Vampire Weekend tshirt. Yay! I don’t remember that many pop culture references from the older books – maybe I just didn’t get them. Isaac stresses how much she should not go to Fear Street. He even gives a brief run down of the Fear/Goode curse and that they learn about it in school! Awesome. Lisa is mad that Isaac is such a downer. Then he behaves as all Fear Street men do and leans in to kiss her after trying to scare her. Nate arrives just then and Lisa doesn’t know if he saw the kiss or not, but he doesn’t mention anything. He does say that Brendan Fear is a good guy and Fear Street isn’t so bad. He drives Lisa to meet her new boss, Brenda Hart.

The babysitting job isn’t hard – she’s to pick up eight-year-old Harry from his aunt’s house (where he’s homeschooled) three days a week when Brenda has to work late, and the job pays really well. There are some signs that Harry is different – he’s super self sufficient, there’s no sign of a kid in the house, and he goes to bed very early. Brenda stresses how important it is that he doesn’t stay up late. Lisa thinks Harry is adorable, but Brenda warns Lisa to NEVER let Harry stay up late. She’s very intense about this. Her reason is because he would be cranky the next day. Haha, as a mom, I totally get this.

Lisa gets a call from Summer Lawson, Nate’s ex. Summer warns Lisa that she’s in lots of trouble because of Nate, then hangs up. Alright, Lisa is getting creepy on all sides here.

The next day she goes to pick Harry up, first day on the job, and once again thinks how angelic he is. Lisa hears what sounds like sobbing from Harry’s aunt’s basement, but the aunt says it’s just the cat.

Nate calls her while she’s babysitting to see how it’s going and Lisa tells him about the weird call from Summer. Nate gets cagey when she asks him where he is and he just says “out.” Hmmm, following his cheating heart or getting ready to terrify his girlfriend? Given that it’s Fear Street, I’ll take door number two …

Lisa drifts off on the couch as she does her homework, only to be awoken by tapping upstairs. She sees a figure at the top of the stairs – she chases it to Harry’s room where it jumps out the window. It looks up at her and she sees the same demon face as before.

Harry isn’t in his room and she’s full out panicking, until he makes a noise at the front of the house. He was hiding in the front closet all along. Lisa doesn’t tell Brenda about the demon intruder because she doesn’t want to lose the job. That’s some crazy logic. I’d be like: fuck you and this crazy house, I am out of here.

She does tell her mom, Nate, and her shrink about what she saw, and not one of them believes her. Dr. Shein wants to put her on medication for her hallucinations.

Friday night, she goes to hear Isaac’s band playing. They talk about their fake IDs and their club outfits – the place is open to teens because a teen band is playing, but Nate has to use his ID to get beers. Nate snuggles into Lisa’s neck and it sends a chill down her spine, but in a good way, I guess? Lisa likes that kind of thing. Saralynn cryptically tells her there’s a lot she doesn’t know about Nate. To reiterate this, Summer Lawson approaches her and warns her about Nate, but Lisa thinks everyone is just jelly. She’s the only one who’s getting his spine-chilling caresses! Nate comes to kiss her again and she gets another chill when his cold lips find hers – Fear Street is so hot.

Summer calls her again when she’s babysitting, but she doesn’t answer. Later on Lisa hears footsteps in the kitchen and freezes in fear – the demon! She goes to call 911, but her cell phone is dead – of course it is! Half of horror stuff can’t happen when there’s proper communication. She makes a mental note to ask Brenda for an iPhone charger. Then she goes back to being terrified.

Never mind, it was just Nate, creeping around. He wanted to make her feel better about the intruder last time by breaking in himself. Good to know some things haven’t changed in Fear Street and boys still behave like stalkers. Lisa goes to check on Harry, and when she comes back down, Nate is gone.

The only person there is the demon creature! It spit green goo at her and runs out the back door. She hears screaming outside but doesn’t see anyone.

When her babysitting shift is over, Nate comes back to pick her up. He has blood and scratches on his face he can’t explain. As they leave, they see something across the street. It’s Summer Lawson’s body, her stomach ripped open and bite marks all over her.

Part Four

At the police station, Lisa is told Summer was torn apart and eaten by a human, yuck. Lisa tells the police about the creature and is shamed by everyone, because they are all a bunch of assholes. But Lisa is beginning to suspect that Nate is into more than just horror movies.

Once she has Harry again, it is reiterated that he absolutely can’t stay up late. Now they’re telling her he gets seizures if he doesn’t have enough sleep. You would think that’s kind of pertinent information.

When Harry is in bed, Lisa peeks through some family albums on the shelves and finds a photo of a family reunion that includes both Saralynn and Nate. She calls Saralynn with the evidence and Saralynn confesses they are all second cousins, Nate just didn’t want to tell her.

On Friday, she picks up Harry, and this time her friends come over and they study together – I guess it’s okay because they are related to Brenda and Harry? Nate leaves to see if he can find Isaac. Right after that, Lisa sees the creature, but Saralynn calmly tells her nothing is there. She’s totally gaslighting her, right? Lisa runs to check on Harry – he’s gone too.

As they search for him, she hears a fight outside, then screaming and runs out to see the creature running away. It left something behind – Isaac’s mangled body, half-eaten. Yuck again.

At the police station, once again no one believes her and call her crazy. Saralynn explains she didn’t see a creature. But, like, there was still the body, right? A hallucination didn’t do that. Dr. Shein thinks that Lisa should be better by now – ouch. She puts her on medication and threatens her with a mental hospital.

Lisa has had about enough. She doesn’t take the meds and decides that Nate is the killer. Just then Brenda calls, because she needs an overnight sitter. Lisa thinks she can find something at the house. She searches all the photo albums for clues, and finds a letter from Harry’s former babysitter, Joy, explaining she was having nightmares from her time at their house and had to quit.

Lisa goes to see Joy from the address on the letter, only to be told she was at a mental hospital. Damn. Joy looks normal, but freaks out when Lisa mentions Harry. She keeps shrieking “he’s a demon,” while Lisa is like “oh, so you know Nate?” Lisa is not exactly the sharpest tool in a Fear Street mental institute.

The next day with Harry, because Lisa keeps going back despite the pile of disemboweled bodies, he forgets his backpack at his aunt’s house so Lisa goes back to get it. She hears screaming at the aunt’s house, and follows the sound to the basement, where there are three creatures like the one she saw, in cages. So, it’s a family of demon breeders? She’s all like, yay, proof, but doesn’t take an effing picture, because that would be too easy. She gets Harry home, calls the police, then leaves Harry by himself to go see what happens at the aunt’s. But when she arrives, there’s nothing in the basement and everyone is pissed. Lisa realizes she’s about thisclose to rooming with Joy. She lets Harry stay up late and that’s when the shit hits the fan. His eyes glow and roll back in his head as he turns into the demon and tries to eat her.

Brenda comes home and is remarkably calm, is just mad at Lisa for letting Harry stay up late. She can’t let Lisa go, now that she knows about their family and how they raise demons. There is no explanation as to why they are raising demons. Or why they would rely on a bunch of teenage girls to keep these demons in check. Seriously, what is Brenda doing on those nights that’s more important than not letting the demon out? Anyways, Harry is special because he can take human form. Brenda then tries to stab her in the chest. Nate comes in and saves her and Lisa escapes.

Lisa is at Dr. Shein’s, telling her everything. Of course Shein is in on the whole thing and plans to have her institutionalized because she knows too much. Lisa was chosen for the job because she was already hallucinating since her accident.

But, haha, Lisa was on FaceTime the whole time with all of the police officers outside the door, and they watched Shein’s entire confession. FaceTime ftw! Lisa had figured out Shein’s involvement because she had referred her in the beginning. Lisa and her mom get to go home. Nate and Saralynn disappeared in the night, as does anyone else in connection with the demons.

All is well in the world. Lisa gets a job at a daycare and really likes it. Until one day an angelic little boy comes in, looking exactly like Harry. He’s not Harry, but he does want to stay up late …

Okay the final word on this is that it started off with such promise, and ended up being really cheesy. I mean, the whole demon breeding thing doesn’t make any sense. I guess I’m expecting too much, but I think the whole thing would have been much creepier if her friends had actually been trying to drive her crazy while filming it. That would have been genuinely horrifying. And while little kids can be uber creepy, once Harry turned into a demon, all I could imagine was some kind of cheesy old school horror movie, like creature from the black lagoon, especially with the spitting of green goo.

But hey, I’m just happy that there are new Fear Streets out there! I give this book 4 cheesy swamp monsters out of nine.