Thursday, August 18, 2022

DOUBLE SHOT: Friday the 13th: The Camp Crystal Lake Series by Eric (William Pattison) Morse

Imagine the big three horror-movie slashers, Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees and Freddy Krueger, take a road-trip in some sort of evil-Mystery-Machine and end up on R.L. Stine's Fear Street. Be a fun time for all, I'd bet. But it sorta happened as all three of the gruesome killer got their own series of YA horror novels. These are books I wish I knew about when I was younger, but, hmm, for some reason I don't think they made it to the Scholastic Book Fair. Everything that was once adult became kid-friendly in the 80s and 90s, Toxic Avenger, Tales from the Crypt, even Rambo. I guess it makes sense that Jason, Mike and Freddy did too. Makes me wish that there was a Saturday Morning Cartoon starring Stephen King (as himself) where he tackled all the monsters and evil around his Castle Rock home. Yeah, through in a dog and a van and you got solid gold.

Anyway, the books are hard to get. Like ridiculously hard to get. As I've done a lot of major collecting in the Men's Adeventure/Mystery genres and know I'm really turning my attention to horror, which is proving to be a most welcome challenge to track things down and keep as much money in my wallet as possible. Just got to keep hunting.  

I started with the fourth and final (sorta) book in the series. "Road Trip" finds a group of cheerleaders and football folks trapped on a dark and stormy night at and around Camp Crystal Lake, which sounds like pretty standard stuff, but it's executed (get the pun?) well. This time we mostly follow Summer who's head-over-heels for bad-boy football-player Slick along with a group of dispatchable teenagers, a football coach and one NERD! Since this is a 90's YA horror the Nerd is obviously picked on by everyone, including the Coach and it just gets worse when they blame him for getting their van crashed and stuck on the aforementioned dark and stormy night. So, when the nerd finds the cursed hockey mask of Jason Voorhees, it's pretty easy to see where this is going. 

Along the way there's a detour that seems right out of a Gold Medal paperback or EC comic. A local police officer has kidnapped his wife and her lover with murder on his mind. He drags them out into the woods with a hockey mask, which is a nice little twist at first you might think that the trooper is the latest curse victim/killer. His plan is to kill them both, stage it like a Jason-inspired killing since obviously the whole area is freaked out by Jason, ya know, since everyone keeps getting killed by him. It's a pretty adult story-line for a YA novel and a welcome way to get away from teenage drama for a few pages. Then the novel turns into the slasher picture we wanted as the nerd is transformed by the hockey mask into a hulking Jason-ish killer and starts beating everyone with a tire iron. There's some nice fight scenes, fakes outs and some bits of gore. It's a solid story to go out on, but the series really could have gone on longer...

I read #4 first, just because it was the only one I had, I did have some luck via my good friend Inner-Library Loan and ended up with a copy of #2 "Jason's Curse" which is really a direct sequel to the first book "Mother's Day" (which I haven't read) so there seems to be a thru-line within the series and considering the movies hopped around so much, a little stability is nice. Morse does give you enough dig in with the story without reading the others. AND IT'S AWESOME.

Kelly is out for some Jason-revenge. Bad things happened to her brother in #1 and she's honing her skill to go hunt Jason down for good. Her plan to take her big 'ol hunting knife and pistol out and set traps gets a little muddled when her boyfriend and another couple insist on tagging know because of needing victims. Well, lucky for Kelly a mentally challenged man finds the mask and becomes a hulking killer right before she decides to go so, she has someone to hunt. We bounce back and forth between the conflicted killer trying to grapple with his horrible actions but unable to control himself and slaughtering folks that were mean to him, the normal YA boyfriend/girlfriend drama and Kelly doing a "Home Alone" at Camp Crystal Lake with deadly traps. 

This is a really gnarly book for a YA novel, grisly deaths and a nihilistic tone really set it apart from the regular books from folks like Christopher Pike or Diane Hoh that I read back in the day and well, now still too. Morse actually captures the dark vibe of the films and only waters it down enough to get it published. It's like Splatterpunk for teens. It's a damn shame these are so hard to come by and like have no chance of ever being republished since the "Friday the 13th" rights are so screwed up. I'll be hunting down the rest and probably spending a small fortune on them. Such is life. 

...oh, yeah. There's a fifth unpublished one which is free on the authors website. I guess I'll read that one next. 

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