By R. L. Stine.
Brenda has put up with a lot since her cousin, Halley, moved into her house to escape her parents’ messy divorce. She’s been relocated to a smaller bedroom; is forced to share her beloved car, and now Halley is even trying to steal her boyfriend. Her parents and friends are unsympathetic, and no one seems able to see Halley for what she really is, except for Brenda. And when Brenda is made the victim of several cruel and disturbing pranks, she is convinced her evil cousin must be stopped, once and for all. She and her friend Traci develop an elaborate plan to murder Halley at Brenda’s Halloween party – but will Brenda really go through with it, and can she even survive until then?
Halloween Night suffers from the fact that every character is eminently unlikeable. Halley may be mean and annoying in an obvious way, but Brenda is intolerant and selfish, her friends Dina and Traci are bland, the boyfriends are drips… even her parents are tiresomely naive. There is no suggestion that Brenda has ever even tried to make Halley feel welcome, and she is so consumed by her hatred for her cousin that Halley is her only topic of conversation with anyone she speaks to. Yet she repeatedly forgives her unfaithful boyfriend, Ted, who is just as much to blame for cheating on Brenda as Halley is for trying to steal him from her.
There are, however, some good visual scares from the ‘pranks’ perpetrated against Brenda. The headless bird in the pumpkin and the rotten meat in her bed are gruesomely described, effectively conveying the sense of horror. Unfortunately, it is pretty obvious from the start who is behind the pranks, meaning Halloween Night is not much of a ‘whodunit’. And whilst the twisty ending piques our interest, it drags on a bit too long to be properly scary. After the big ‘reveal’ you can’t help but sympathise with the perpetrator. Brenda and Halley might have patched things up by the end, but neither of them has been made a better person by their experiences. Knowing there exists a Halloween Night II, I would have preferred it if at least one of them had met the pointy end of a knife in this first instalment.
The plot is too confusing to build any real tension, and it seems to be a story of two halves, with Halley as antagonist/Brenda as victim in the first act, and Brenda’s bizarre murder plot in the second. The way the action of the Halloween party plays out is engaging and has the makings of a good mystery, but this all comes a little too late. However, the horrible discoveries Brenda makes in her room – the headless bird; bloody writing smeared across the wall, the truly disgusting maggoty mess in her bed – are great Point Horror moments, earning Halloween Night a fear factor rating of…