Friday, October 2, 2015

"The Lost Girl" by R.L. Stine

Warning that there will be SPOILERS in this entire post. I say SPOILERS because I'm being very, very generous. It is actually my opinion that everything that transpires in "The Lost Girl" is exceedingly obvious and wouldn't surprise anybody.

We start in Shadyside in 1950. Beth Palmieri is excited at the stable her father is opening, believing it is a turnaround for her family. On her way to the grand opening she is attacked by Aaron Dooley, a guy who fancies her. His attempted rape is averted by what Beth calls her "powers", in which she nearly makes him choke on his own tongue. It should also be mentioned that Aaron is the nephew of Martin Dooley, the main rival of Beth's father. It was his stable in which Beth's father got his start before opening one of his own.

Martin isn't too happy about the new competition, and gets two thugs to kidnap Beth's father. She follows them, and witnesses them murder her father (in a very inventive, gross manner involving starving horses). For some reason, she is unable to use her "powers" to stop this. Because she's too scared or something. "The Lost Girl" isn't big on plausible scenarios, I should mention. Aaron also shows up. Beth is spotted by the thugs and must run for her life to avoid being murdered as well. She winds up in a cave.

We jump to the present day in which Michael Frost becomes captivated by a young girl he sees shoplifting at the shopping centre. When he runs into her at school, he learns that her name is Lizzy Walker. He is totally captivated by her, which is quickly noticed by his girlfriend Pepper Davis. Obviously, she's none too thrilled with it.

Lizzy insinuates her way into Michael's life and manages to get herself invited along to a snowmobile outing with Michael and his friends. The group includes Pepper, his best friend Gabe, and two other friends, Diego and Kathryn. While on his snowmobile, Michael becomes inexplicably frozen, and runs right into a man, seemingly killing him. Lizzy conveniently knows who it is - none of the other kids do - and says that his name is Angel and he's a bad guy who probably deserves to be dead. So they all take off.

However, they realise running off is a stupid thing to do, and return to the scene. Of course, Angel's body is no longer there. It isn't long before Michael receives phone calls from Angel, threatening to harm or kill Michael and his friends. Lizzy gets hit on the head at school, Pepper gets all her hair cut off, Gabe is crushed to death in a car accident, and Diego gets all the skin on his back burnt and ripped off. Despite it being entirely obvious that Lizzy and Angel are in cahoots somehow, Michael is still attracted to Lizzy and agrees to anything she says. She wants him to kill Angel for her, and even has a gun for him to use!

Michael goes with Lizzy to kill Angel, and of course finds out that Lizzy is working with Angel, and they plan to kill him. In fact, they are actually Beth and Aaron from the past. That cave Beth hid in was actually a time-travel cave! Michael is actually Martin Dooley's grandson, which is why Beth wants to kill him. Aaron was horrified by what he saw being done to Beth's father and joined her in her trip to the future. Beth realised that attempted rape actually meant that Aaron loved her (note sarcasm) and let him work with her. They try to shove Michael into the time travel cave, but he turns the tables and they wither away and die.

Or something like that.

"The Lost Girl" is a real clunker, and no better than the quickies that got rushed out in the series' hey-dey in the mid-1990s. It borrows its time travel twist straight out of Stine's own "Beach House", and has absolutely no internal logic in regards to its supernatural element. What are Beth/Lizzy's powers exactly? Where did they come from? What are their strengths and limits? We are given nothing in regards to understanding their place in the plot. Beth/Lizzy can just seem to do stuff when she wants, except for that one time she was scared and she couldn't. Huh?

It was appallingly obvious that Lizzy was Beth. I suppose some people didn't expect time travel as the element that linked them, but come on. If I hadn't read "Beach House" already, I would have felt the explanation was completely pulled out of a hat. It really is ludicrous, whether you can see it coming or not. Same goes for the revelation that Michael is Martin's grandson. There really was no other reason for Beth/Lizzy and Aaron to go after Michael and his friends, so it's hardly a surprise.

The main character of Michael is a putz. Lizzy is clearly a looney-tunes who should be avoided at all costs, but he continues to let her be a part of his life, and can't seem to twig that shit only got weird after Lizzy came into his life and that she was the only person who knew who Angel/Aaron was. The plot argues that Michael was under Beth/Lizzy's spell (more of those mysterious powers), but we all know that Michael was actually a pervy school-boy thinking with his dick.

I had defended "Don't Stay Up Late" against arguments that it was too much in the style of "Goosebumps". The "Fear Street" series was mostly made up of teen murder mysteries, but a few supernatural stories would pop up every now and then. However, we now have 2 out of 3 books in the reboot that are supernatural, and I'm beginning to think R.L. Stine needs a reminder about which series he is actually reviving.

The books of old were typically murder mysteries, written in the third person, with a teenage female as the main character. All 3 new ones have been written in the first person, and now this one gives us a male main character. I understand that 95% of young adult fiction is done in first person these days, but I don't think the kids reading all that dystopian fiction and "Twilight" knock-offs are reading this sort of dumbed-down horror. I think a majority of the audience are actually people like me who devoured the series in the 1990s. I'd like the reboot to actually resemble the series it is rebooting. That's not too much to ask, surely?

I am genuinely befuddled by the idea that anybody who reads this could be legitimately surprised that Lizzy and Beth are the same person and that Beth time-traveled in that cave. Or that Michael was somehow related to Martin Dooley. Or that Angel wasn't dead and was actually Aaron. It shouldn't surprise anybody under the age of 9! Of course, with such gruesome scenes as a man being gnawed to shred by horses, you wouldn't want people under 9 reading this. I've seen quite a few four-and-five star reviews on the Internet - but they all seem to be people who conveniently received an advanced copy for free. I doubt most of them even read it - they refer to Lizzy as Lizzy Palmer, which is her name on the book jacket synopsis, not actually in the story, where she is called Lizzy Walker.

I didn't get an advanced copy for free. I paid $10 for this pile of shit.

The Point Horror relaunch is dead. I suspect "Fear Street" isn't far behind if this is what the reboot has already been reduced to. "Can You Keep A Secret?", due in April next year, sounds depressingly similar to Stine's own "The Rich Girl".

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