By R.L. Stine.
The action of Halloween Night is neatly recapped at the start by having Brenda and Traci apprise their new friend Angela, who has recently moved to town, of the goings-on the previous October. We also learn that Brenda’s attacker, Dina, was hospitalised; cousin Halley is still living with Brenda (and still a nuisance) and she’s now dating Brenda’s ex, Ted, whereas Brenda is seeing playboy, Jake.
Then Dina turns up at Brenda’s house out of the blue, released from the hospital into the custody of her parents, claiming to have no memory of what happened last Halloween Night and wanting to be friends again. Brenda is aghast and sends her packing. She is not fully over her ordeal and she is really not looking forward to this Halloween, despite Angela being a big fan of the holiday. Besides, a recent spate of brutal muggings means Halloween might be cancelled this year anyway. But Brenda is soon distracted from all of this when she catches Jake cheating on her with Halley, and, when she confronts her cousin, she is stunned when Halley tells Brenda she’s the one who will be sorry!
It is the beginning of Brenda’s Halloween Night II troubles. First, she ‘accidentally’ gets acid spilt on her hand (by Halley), then she receives a sick, anonymous Halloween card in the mail, and later someone leaves a rotten, maggoty pumpkin in her locker. When Jake ruins Brenda, Halley and Traci’s class project in a fit of temper, they plan a practical joke to humiliate him, by making him think they’re going to kill him. Although essentially a repeat of the original, with Jake the target rather than Halley, it adeptly gathers together all of the suspects at Angela’s weird house for the dramatic finale. The setting is creepy and as the tension begins to build, it has the potential to be very frightening. But the revelation of the perpetrator and the resolution of the danger all happen too quickly, meaning the finale feels rushed and we are given too little time to feel scared.
There are a couple of major issues that are difficult to overlook. Firstly, the bizarre lack of concern about Dina being back at school, supposedly ‘cured’ in less than a year. No one except Brenda seems bothered about this. It is also odd that Brenda’s mum dismisses the threatening card as a joke, given that her daughter was almost killed the previous Halloween. These elements undermine what happens in the first book, defusing the sense of danger, and hindering our ability to feel any genuine concern for Brenda this time around.
Nevertheless, and despite these flaws, Halloween Night II is, for the most part, an entertaining read. Particularly because of Halley’s excellent ‘queen bitch’ character. But it wastes its potential with an unforgivably disappointing ending.
Much of the horror is derived from the ‘pranks’ Brenda is subjected to, but these are too reminiscent of the original. With its creepy setting, and building sense of danger, the final set piece should be much scarier than it is. But as soon as we start to feel scared, the threat is nullified and we are just left wanting more.