Tagline: “Enter if you dare…” (Again? Really? Who’s editing these things?)
Premise: Lizzy, her brother Luke, Luke’s best friend Clay, and Lizzy and Luke’s parents get lost on the way to Zoo Gardens Theme Park, ending up at unfamiliar establishment called HorrorLand. Everything about HorrorLand seems just a little bit off, from the No Pinching signs and the crowds of crying children to the fact that the Morris family car blows up as soon as Lizzy’s family crosses the parking lot. Still, Lizzy, Luke, and Clay soldier on, taking in such attractions as the Doom Slide and a barn full of bats before reuniting with Mom and Dad for a ride through a lagoon filled with coffins. Having cheated death a number of times, Lizzy’s parents decide it’s time to leave. That’s when they realize they’re locked in the park and informed by the HorrorLand staff that their adventures are being televised–on The Monster Channel, that is. The eventual escape from HorrorLand via HorrorLand bus is nearly thwarted by a HorrorLand worker clinging to the back of the bus for the duration of the three-hour journey back to the Morris’ home. Fortunately, all this worker wants to do is give the family their passes for next year.
Creepiness factor: Where do I start? This book plays on the most primal of fears, chiefly claustrophobia. Over the course of the book, Lizzy, Luke, and Clay are trapped in individual coffins, stuck in a bat-ridden barn, and nearly crushed by the shrinking walls of a house of mirrors. It’s every bit as scary as anything Stine’s presented before, only taken up a notch.
Signature Stine moment: Because this story is so good–and I mean that, it really is so good–there’s hardly room for Stine-ian similes or sentence truncation. But don’t worry. I found some anyway. And one I found right around the most frightening scene in the book, when Lizzy’s about to be crushed to death in the House of Mirrors:
“It was getting hard to breathe.
The glass panes moved in. Tighter. Tighter.
I gasped for air.
I tried to push with all my might against the glass.
But it was no use.
I was being crushed into a human square.”
Accuracy of title: We’re back to 100% accuracy, folks! This book is about a family who spends–wait for it–one day at HorrorLand. Genius!
Moral of the story: Take the warning signs at amusement parks at face value. Try to do it all the time, if you can. But if you can’t, at least remember what you were told not to do, in case things take a sinister turn and you can violate that rule. What I’m trying to say is go ahead and pinch, because then the monsters deflate and you’re good to go.
Overall rating: 9/10. Forget any sour feelings lingering post-You Can’t Scare Me! This one is gold, pure gold from start to finish. Likable characters, genuinely scary situations, and a richer setting even than Fever Swamp and the underbelly of the pyramids way back in The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, everything about One Day At HorrorLand falls into place just as it should.