By R. L. Stine
In 1956, a creepy guy called Buddy, living in a creepy house on the beach, starts bumping off teenagers who made the mistake of insulting his pride. In the present day (1992) a new set of teens are having their summer ruined by a mystery predator. This time, the stalker’s identity is kept a secret and the action revolves around a girl called Ashley, who is the focus of a lot of male attention. Interestingly, the lads in her life – jealous boyfriend Ross, aggressive Denny, surly Kit and cute-but-humourless Brad – all share at least one characteristic with Buddy…
Beach House is a little longer than the average Point Horror, and it packs in plenty of action. The 1956 and 1992 timelines play out side by side; we get a few chapters of one, until we reach a particularly juicy moment, then we time travel to the other. It’s effective story-telling and makes this entry a real page-turner. Having a few characters from each timeline ‘disappear’ fairly early in the narratives is a welcome move; it makes the task of remembering who’s who a lot more manageable.
The groundwork is deftly laid for a satisfying pay-off, but such high expectations inevitably lead to disappointment. There are lots of ways to go that would offer up a more fun and exciting finale than Beach House’s humdrum ending. Several threads are left hanging, in favour of introducing a lacklustre and slightly confusing twist. I’m glad R. L. Stine made this foray into supernatural PH – it’s a much better offering than his usual whodunit/unhinged teenage girl fare. Though I suspect someone like Caroline B. Cooney could have made a more satisfying, darker-edged horror out of this plot. Still, it’s an entertaining read, and a stand-out entry from Stine.
Whilst reading it, Beach House seems saturated with death, more so than any other PH I’ve encountered so far. But on reflection, this isn’t really the case. We’re only presented with one corpse, and we’re not privy to the actual killing or what led to it. Two characters disappear, but it’s implied they’re still knocking about somewhere. We see a victim tied up and left to drown and are told her boyfriend is ‘gone’, but it’s never actually confirmed either of them died. And the one ‘murder’ we ‘witness’ transpires to have been nonfatal. Still, the perp serves us psycho well, and his bloodlust is pretty terrifying, even though we rarely see him at work. It’s a shame he gets lost in the final section, playing second string to a weaker character, otherwise the finale could have offered up some real scares.