*Sorry about the blurry pic. Not much going on there anyway. Just some frightened teens and a nutjob in a ski mask.*
"Red" Porter was a stranger they'd met on their ski weekend. But Ariel Munroe, Doug Mahr, and his girlfriend Shannon Harper were grateful he was there when they set out for home on the icy roads. Thank heaven for Red! He spotted the hilltop lodge when they were stranded by the blizzard. He took charge when they stumbled into strange surroundings, scared, tired, and looking for refuge. But can he save them when their refuge becomes a trap? Suddenly their hosts are acting very sinisterly. Doug's car is gone. The phones are dead. And the house is full of guns. If they steal one, maybe they can escape! Until a shot is fired and the REAL terror begins...
The gang is headed home after a stay at Pineview, an expensive ski lodge. Doug is driving on an icy road like a frigging maniac and the rest of the gang is completely freaking out. He eventually realizes it isn't funny to play around with other people's lives and slows the damn car. Ariel is relieved, but nervous for another reason--she has to sit beside Red in the backseat and he's practically a stranger. They met him two days before at the ski lodge where he asked for a ride to Brockton, a city which isn't far from Shadyside (where everyone is unfortunately headed). But it's ok because he's really cute! Typical Shadyside reaction. You'd think these people would learn that really cute usually means really homicidal. Ariel's thoughts turn to her absent boyfriend, Randy. Randy left the lodge early because of some basketball game instead of riding home with them. Oh well. More room for Red! Anyway, snow is blowing everywhere and suddenly Doug loses control of the car and they're all going to die! AHHHHH!
Oh, never mind. It's ok now. I think I wish Doug would fall off the side of a mountain. They all start to whine and complain about the heater being busted which leads to April playing meteorologist for some reason: "Did you know that snow has ten times the volume of rain? That means every inch of rain is equal to ten inches of snow."
A few minutes later, Red says he knows the area and there's a county road coming up soon that Doug should turn on even though it won't get them to their destination (they're headed to Fear Street. I think they'd be better off burying themselves in a snow bank.) any quicker. Why? "The county guys get the snowplows out a lot faster than the state highway guys." I find it to be just the opposite around here. But whatever Red says must be right because he's a handsome stranger! So Doug makes the turn and everyone except Red immediately starts complaining about the scenery: "It's all woods and farms." WAHHHH. Shut. Up. Fortunately for me, they're nearly ran off the road by a red moving van and that mercifully shuts their traps for a second or two. Doug cheers "We're gonna be ok from now on!" because they narrowly avoided the accident, but he spoke too soon. The car inches forward a few yards and completely dies. Well, that's what they get for complaining so much. Karma is a real bitch, kids. Doug keeps turning the key until the car starts back up and Red says they won't get much further because the engine is overheating. He also points out that there is a house a little further in the woods and it's really huge so they might be able to stay the night. A house in a remote location where no-one will be able to hear you scream if the owner turns out to be a homicidal maniac? Great idea! Ariel mentions something about a phone, but I think we all know there won't be a working telephone in that house. Don't you know your horror clichès, Ariel? Doug parks the car and they all grab their overnight bags and begin walking to the house. I guess they just automatically assumed that the people living there will allow a bunch of strangers to stay in their home. Ariel has a feeling of dread, but she ignores it because that house looks so warm and inviting...
Doug knocks on the door a few times and a damned dingbat answers. The way this guy talks makes me want to slice my ears off. A sample: "Whoooa! Well, well--look what the cat dragged in! Get your buns in here. Whoooeee! You guys looks frozen. Eva! Eva! Get in here, gal. We've got unexpected company!" He sounds like an extra from "Deliverance" . Seriously, reading this shit is making me insane. The things I do for you people! He introduces himself as Lou Hitchcock. He tells them that they can wait out the storm there, but quite frankly, I'd rather freeze to death than listen to his crap for one more second. When the long suffering Eva enters the room, Lou says "Well, there's her nibs." Can someone please explain to me what the bloody hell that even means? Anyway, Eva is a lot younger than Lou and sounds as if she could do a bit better: "She had very fine, curly blond hair that looked bleached and she wore metal-rimmed glasses over blue eyes." Lou is described as "tall and broad shouldered. He had scraggly brown hair that looked as if it hadn't been combed in days and a short brown beard." I don't want to think about this man anymore.
Everyone makes themselves comfortable on the sofa and Lou gets his creep on, continuously telling Shannon that he just looooooves her red hair. Hitting on a teenage girl while your wife is in the next room? Go stick your wiener in a meat grinder, Lou. Doug goes to use the phone to call his parents and surprisingly, it isn't dead. Then Lou brings up the subject of hunting, telling everyone that one of his friends got his head blown off by a hunter. Of course he laughs his ass off at this. Creep! Doug laughs along and then Lou utters a word that I have never seen in a Fear Street novel. Yes, ANOTHER ground-breaker! "The Sleepwalker" had the word 'sex' and this book has 'jackass'. I know--crazy! Who knew that R.L. Stine curses?! Ariel, disgusted by Lou's story, heads into the kitchen and asks Eva is she can have a cup of tea. Ariel thinks it's weird that Eva doesn't seem to know where anything is in her own kitchen. Doug comes in a minute later and Eva goes upstairs after telling Ariel to pour the water when it's done boiling. I think she could've figured that out on her own, Sherlock. Suddenly a gunshot rings out. Did someone finally take the initiative and kill Lou??? No. It wasn't a gunshot at all. It was a freaking MOUSE TRAP. These people are paranoid as hell. Doug tosses the suicidal mouse and the trap into the trash. Then he and Ariel start talking about Red, but they're interrupted by a loud noise outside. Lou opens the front door and finds that a tree limb has crashed through the porch roof. He, Doug, and Red go out to remove it. They come in a few minutes later and Lou is pissed at Doug because Dougie doesn't follow directions. Or something. I kind of tuned out because I hate Lou.
Later, they all gather in the living room with bowls of chili. Lou ruins the good mood by telling a story about the time he was trapped in a cabin with three beautiful women. *barf* This guy is more repulsive than all of the Fear Street murderers combined. Once again, Ariel gets grossed out by Lou (hahahaha) and asks Eva to show her where she'll be sleeping. A little while later, Ariel is awakened by the sound of the front door opening and closing. She looks out the window, sees no-one, and hears footsteps downstairs. She can't resist the urge to play Nancy Drew so she creeps to the staircase and peeks over the balcony. She hears a crash as a lamp falls to the floor and her imagination begins to run wild: "Horrifying thoughts flashed through my mind, pictures of masked men carrying bloody hatchets and chainsaws." In this case, that's actually probable. Ariel turns to go back to her room, but freezes when she hears someone coming up the back staircase. A dark figure heads right toward her...it's Red. All that suspense for absolutely nothing! Red follows her to her room and tells her that he heard Lou and Eva fighting and he's pretty sure Lou hit Eva. Ariel finally says what we've all been thinking: "Lou gives me the creeps. We've just got to get out of here!" Amen. Red says he took a walk outside after he heard them so he's not sure what's going on now. They chat for a little while longer and inevitably end up making out. There's a woman in danger! You two can tangle tongues later! This ALWAYS happens! When the going gets tough, the morons start kissing. Ariel breaks it off and Red goes back to his own room and I guess we're all going to ignore the fact that Eva could be hurt. Ok then.
The next morning, Ariel wakes up to the smell of bacon cooking and dresses hurriedly. She finds Lou cooking in the kitchen and when he notices she's there, he says "Hey, there's Blondie. Good morning, Bright Eyes!" *sigh* Shannon, Doug, and Red are already at the table eating eggs so Ariel joins them. She asks Lou where Eva is and he responds "I'm giving my better half a treat. I'm letting her sleep in." Yeah right. Liar! A few minutes later, Doug announces that he's going to check on the car and Lou tells him there's really no point in worrying about it until the road crew comes. But Doug insists and Lou says "You are the stubbornest jackass. Glad I'm not your father." Again with the jackass! And 'stubbornest' isn't a word. Red and Ariel decide to go with him, but Shannon elects to stay behind and risk molestation by helping Lou with the dishes.
When the three get outside, they realize that the car is gone. Things couldn't get any better, could they? Red walks around the area where they parked the night before and spots the car. Unfortunately, it's lying on its side at the bottom of a ravine. They trudge back to the house where Lou greets them at the door with a mutilated mouse in a trap. "Hey, my little snow bunnies. Look--I caught us some lunch!" *barf* Doug explains what happened to the car, but Lou doesn't seem to give a shit. He does go over to the phone, though, intending to call a tow service. The phone is dead OF COURSE. I was wondering when that would happen. These kids are screwed. Lou flips out over the phone and tells everyone that he has a 4-wheel drive Jeep in the barn, but he's not taking them anywhere in it because the snow is too deep. Then why the hell did you bring it up, asshole?!? Stine, you should be deeply ashamed of yourself for creating this character. After some pleading from everyone, Lou finally agrees to at least TRY to get into town with the Jeep. He tells them to pack up and wait for him outside. Before he walks away, he leaves them with this piece of wisdom: "Just remember--don't eat the yellow snow!" Har har har.
They all gather their things and head outside to wait. They spend this time having a snowball fight. Yee-haw. After a bit, Lou comes out and tells them to get in the Jeep. Ariel notices that the license plate is from Alabama instead of Vermont (does that mean Shadyside is also in Vermont?) but Red says plenty of people have out-of-state plates. Besides, Ariel is a paranoid, suspicious freak. Lou gets in the front and Ariel cracks me up with her thoughts: "He was standing close enough for me to smell the beer on his breath. It's not even lunchtime and he's already started to drink." I always feel safe when a drunk is driving. Lou looks at Shannon and says "Why don't you squeeze in next to me, sweetcakes?" Ew. Anyway, Lou turns the key and the engine sputters and dies. It keeps doing that until Lou gets completely pissed off and storms back inside. Everyone else also piles out, disappointed because they're trapped with Lou for another night.
Later that afternoon, everyone is gathered around the fire. Red is out trying to fix the Jeep. There's still no sign of Eva and no-one seems worried about her at all. For all they know, Lou could have chopped her up and buried her in the snow. Speaking of Lou, he enters the room holding a beer and slurring every word he says. Nice. He tells them to make themselves sandwiches for lunch and walks off. Ariel decides to go upstairs and find Eva while everyone eats. She finds her lying on her bed and she's not looking too good. Her cheek is swollen and bruised and her right eye is almost swollen shut. She tells Ariel "You shouldn't be here." and Ariel leaves the room wondering what Eva meant. She goes downstairs and makes herself a sandwich while Lou pulls the phone out of the wall in a drunken rage. Shannon, Doug, and Ariel play cards for a while, eventually growing extremely bored. Suddenly Ariel looks up and sees someone in a ski mask looking into a window at them. I can't take this seriously because people in ski masks make me laugh hysterically. I don't know why. Anyway! Doug and Shannon see him and he disappears soon after. They tell Lou, but he just laughs it off because he's totally shit-faced and EVERYTHING seems funny. Red comes in a second later and no-one assumes for a moment that it could have been him in the ski mask messing with them. Out of the blue, Lou asks Doug if he works out and Doug replies that he's on the wrestling team. Lou also used to wrestle before he got his beer belly and challenges Doug to a match. Oh, this should be good. Doug agrees to it and pulls off his sweater. I pray that Lou leaves his clothes on. The match doesn't last long; Doug ends up winning. He starts to walk away, but Lou grabs his leg and pulls him down. This book just took a turn for the homoerotic. Lou starts slamming Doug's head into the carpet until Red pulls him off. Doug says his leg is killing him and everyone assumes it's sprained because he can still move it ok (this amounts to nothing later on). Lou just walks off for some coffee. I'm speechless.
Doug, Shannon, Red, and Ariel gather in Ariel's room to talk about Lou and figure out a way to get the hell out of this house. Red says he overheard Lou tell Eva that he's going to rob them all and leave them there with no way to escape. That's laughable. What the hell do they have that he could possibly want? Ski sweaters? And they've got no way to escape whether Lou is there or not. Red walks out and comes back with two photos that he found in a drawer in his room. They're of a man and a woman. Ok. I guess that'll be important later? Red says he noticed that pictures used to be on the mantle downstairs: "The house hasn't been dusted in a long time. I could tell. But there was no dust in the spots where those pictures had been. That means they were recently removed and hidden in my dresser." Good going, Scooby Doo. That one deserves a Scooby Snack. They all come to the conclusion that the house belongs to the people in the photos. How do they know? Because Eva doesn't know her way around the kitchen! Lou's jacket doesn't fit! The photos are hidden! All of that can be explained: Eva isn't domestic, Lou drinks too much fucking beer, and everyone has pictures of relatives that they don't feel like looking at sometimes. Anyway, Red says he lied earlier when he said he couldn't get the Jeep working and they just have to figure out a way to get out without Lou noticing. Just do it! They agree to wait until Lou passes out from all the alcohol to sneak out.
Lou finally heads to bed at midnight, but they all wait until 12:30 to go out to the Jeep. They go downstairs and Doug fetches a revolver out of Lou's gun cabinet before they head out into the night. They're all so happy to finally be going home and that makes me sad because this isn't gonna work the way they want it to. They go inside the barn where the Jeep is parked and hear a strange noise in the rafters. They all look up and when their attention turns back to the doorway, they notice a man standing there. They all assume it's Lou and Doug shoots him for the obvious reasons. But when they turn on the light, they realize it's a total stranger that Doug just killed. Ariel is the first to realize that this is the man they saw in the photos. Doug says they need to call the police yet refuses to go anywhere in the Jeep even though the phones in the house don't work. Moron. Suddenly Lou comes running in, alerted by the gunshots. He spots the corpse and surprises them by saying "Jake! What have you done to Eva's brother?" Uh-oh. Lou says that Jake must have come ro rescue them from the storm. He finds a ski mask in Jake's coat pocket and realizes that it was Jake that Ariel spotted in the window. None of this really makes sense. Why didn't Jake just come into the house rather than peeking into the windows and running away? Lou proceeds to freak out: "Whose idea was it to steal my gun? What are you suckers doing out here anyway? You stealing my car, too? Is that the idea? You fixed my car and didn't tell me. Then you take my gun and my car and leave me and Eva here with a corpse? I can't believe I let you murderers into my house!" Uh, does this mean they can't stay for another night? Lou tells Red to help him drag Jake to the cellar. So I guess they are indeed staying another night. Damn.
Inside, they gather and talk while Lou is upstairs breaking the news to Eva. Ariel wants to examine the body so she goes down to the cellar after everyone else has gone to bed. WHY? She looks at the bullet wound and notices that there is hardly any blood at all. She also realizes that Jake is completely frozen and that seems odd considering the fact that he's only been dead for about six hours. But before she can come to a conclusion about this, she hears footsteps. It's Red. He's always lurking around. But that's ok--he's a cute stranger! She runs upstairs with him and they wake up Doug and Shannon so Ariel can inform them of what she found out. Enlighten us. She says that Doug did NOT kill Jake--Jake was already dead! How does she know? "Because Jake didn't bleed. Only a trickle. If he'd been alive, the blood would have gushed. And when I examined him just now, he was stiff. Much too stiff to be dead for such a time." How does April know these things? She wants to be a doctor when she grows up. Yep, if I were shot by a renegade teenager, I too would want someone who MIGHT be a doctor someday to treat me. You're a lucky one, Jake. Ariel goes on to say that Jake must have been propped up inside the barn. She thinks that Lou murdered him and is now trying to frame them. Everyone except Red wants to leave NOW. But Red thinks they should simply confront Lou with their theory. I don't care how handsome you are, Red, you're an idiot. They all run outside and Ariel notices Red trailing behind holding a pistol. She tells him that they don't need it and he replies "I do. Sorry. You're nice guys. But Lou and I worked too hard to set this whole thing up. I can't let you go now." Damn him! Never trust the handsome stranger! He WILL lie to you and you'll believe him because of his cute smile and his stupid red hair and dimples. I think we all learned a lesson here.
Red forces them back to the house where Lou comes outside to greet them. Red tosses him the gun. We quickly find out a few things: it was Red in the ski mask, the phones are now conveniently working, Eva is quite upset about everything even though she was in on it all, and Jake was also Red's brother. My brain hurts. Eva comes out then and tells Lou she can't do this anymore. "I hated Jake for what he did to us. Jake was detestable. Stealing our inheritance over the years, cheating us out of what was rightfully ours. But you didn't have to kill him, Lou." Eva also states that she called the police and Lou is screwed five ways to Sunday. I don't care if that made no sense. Ariel throws a hard snowball at Lou's forehead which stuns him so he drops the gun and Doug grabs it and heaves it far away. Ariel, Shannon, and Doug make a run for the Jeep. They make it, but realize that Red has the keys. NOOO! Damn this book! Damn Stine and his neverending plot twists! Damn the song "Pretty Woman" for taking up residence in my brain! Ok, I'm cool now. Moving on...
Ariel hops on the snowmobile just as Red and Lou bound in the doorway. She plows toward them, but they dive out of the way just in time and run after her. She ends up flying off the snowmobile and landing on the icy surface of a lake. I think we can all see where this is headed. Red and Lou grab Ariel as she slips and falls on the ice. Is it over yet? Of course not. Fortunately for Ariel, the police have arrived. Red and Lou argue over how they should get out of this and Red decides he'll use Ariel as a hostage: "They're not taking me unless they want to see her dead!" So dramatic. Somehow Ariel gets away and Red chases her which leads to his demise. The ice cracks and he falls through. Darn. Can we all go home now? Ariel almost falls through, but Doug saves her ass and Lou surrenders to the cops and it's all back to good.
A tow truck drags Doug's car out of the ravine and it actually works so they can drive themselves home. As he's driving, Doug looks at Ariel and says "I have something for you." He opens the glove compartment, takes out a snowball, and shoves it in her face. The end.
Conclusion? Stine at his predictable best. So very similar to "Truth or Dare". If you like white trash psychos and overly dramatic red haired strangers, this is the book for you.
Next time: "Cheerleaders: The First Evil"