What could be better than a spooky old mansion on a secluded island? A few murders, perhaps?
R.L. Stine's Fear Street series of books has been a staple of young adult horror and thriller fiction since the late eighties. Stine, who is more well known for his middle grade Goosebumps books, took a long hiatus from the classic young adult series after its original run in the nineties.
However, in recent years, he returned to the seminal haunted town with a six book run from Thomas Dunne Books. While it was a short run, this new series was a welcome return for fans of the popular horror author--and thankfully, we have even more titles to look forward to in the upcoming Return to Fear Street series being put out by Harper Teen, which supposedly will take on a retro appearance for the cover art and presentation, a smart move considering the popularity of Stranger Things.
However, I'm here today to talk about the original revival of books in the Fear Street universe. Party Games was the first entry in this six book run and proved to be a strong opening to a series of exciting stories that appeal to today's teens and nostalgia seeking fans alike.
Party Games stars a young woman named Rachel, who is your regular high school aged girl. She enjoys spending time with friends, works a part time job for extra cash, and has a strong interest in boys. When she is invited to Brendan Fear's birthday party at a secluded mansion on Fear Island, she is all too thrilled. Not only does she have a secret crush on Brendan, but the party allows her to hang out with a wider circle of popular teens.
As any fanatic reader of Stine, as myself, we all know that things will never go according to plan--and they don't. Omens of doom follow Rachel everywhere she goes, warning her not to attend the party. Passing these off as nothing to worry about, she makes the boat ride out to the island and the party. However, when some of the party guests turn up dead, it seems that someone is playing a much sicker version of party games than anyone expected.
As with any Stine book, the first half of the story is riddled with "false scares." It is exciting because you are never sure what is really happening and what isn't. Are the teens really dying, or is it all an elaborate prank to scare the party goers witless. Let me just say now, not ALL the spooky happenings are fake.
There are some truly effective scenes in this story which are filled with gore and scares galore. Stine also is a master of making you both care about and hate his characters. Some of the people in this story you wait around hoping they'll get their just desserts. Others you root for to escape. Others you just aren't even sure if you can trust.
My favorite scenes from this particular title revolve around the house's grim history and the potential ghosts it has left behind. Stine knows how to come up with some disturbing backdrops for these stories, which makes the book all the more enjoyable.
The only trouble I saw with this title was that perhaps there were one too many fake outs. Just when I thought the story might be getting into some seriously scary territory, it all turned out to be a facade. Even when there was some good scares left underneath, I almost wished some of the scariest moments had actually occurred.
All in all, Party Games is a fast paced and easy read for those looking for a quick scare. You can't usually go wrong with R.L. Stine, and Party Games is no exception. If your a fan of teen horror and haven't yet looked into this revival of a classic series, I'd encourage you to check it out.
RATING: 4 OUT OF 5 PENTAGRAMS
Occult Concept is a horror blog and podcast focusing on cult cinema from the 70s and 80s as well as fiction in a similar vein. We are also a publisher of indie horror fiction in the genres of occult, paranormal, and sci-fi.