Holy crap, time got away from me for a minute there. Did you miss me? It’s been two weeks since Part 1, but since I didn’t remember a huge amount about this book pre-read, it probably doesn’t matter anyway. God, I’m starting to sound like a teenager again. I hate my life and stop telling me what to do.
Enough of that. To the review and beyond!
Naked mannequins are well creepy. There’s no denying that they’re similar to dolls in their power to render even the bravest of us a slobbering mess. But on this cover of Cusick’s suburban teenage horror The Mall (1992), they just look a bit staid and generic. So sorry, Open Road Media, but the original’s neon hysteria wins the round. Again. (I’m beginning to think I might be some kind of throwback: ‘You kids don’t know how good you have it. Back in my day everything was hot pink!’).
It’s been a couple of weeks since I read The Mall, so let’s try to remember the story together, eh? Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young princess named…uh…Trish. No, yeah, it was Trish. She kissed a frog, and then it turned into a serial killer? Hang on, let me check my notes.
Ah, yes, here we are: Young Trish gets a job at the bakery in her local mall’s food court because teenagers like money and those white jean skirts aren’t going to buy themselves. Sounds pretty typical, right?
‘I’m telling you, weird things happen at this mall,’ Nita shook her head. ‘Gives me the creeps.’
That’s on like page four, kids, so we’re getting to the point real quick in this one. (Not that it ever takes long in Point Horror–this isn’t Stephen King we’re talking about.) Our Nita, along with her bookish and therefore instantly likable twin Imogene, are Trish’s best friends. They also work at the mall, in a clothing store called something embarrassingly nineties and a bookstore, respectively. I like Imogene best, for obvious reasons. Trish’s single mother is, of course, as far away from this plane of reality as she can get without actually being dead.
‘She’s still on that stupid business trip flying around Europe somewhere,’ Trish said
ungratefully gloomily. ‘You’re so lucky your parents aren’t divorced. And that you have a normal mother instead of a business executive!’
Right. Moving along.
So Trish is working her first shift at the muffin grinder–grinding muffins–when she catches the eye of a slightly odd gentleman with a penchant for honey muffins. His manner is a little off, but she pays it no mind because at the pizza place across the court she’s just noticed the man of her effing dreams, guys. Get ready for it…
‘I never have trouble remembering his name,’ Nita sighed. ‘Storm Reynolds….’
Because who could possibly forget an improbable name like STORM REYNOLDS. You have truly outdone yourself this time, Ms. Cusick. Truly. And I love you for it.
Storm–may I call you Storm?–Storm is exactly what you’d expect him to be: tall, handsome, high cheekbones, hung like a…. And the ladies can’t keep their eyes off him (except Imogene, who prefers his friend and metal-enthusiast Weird Wyatt, which is also why I like her best.) The girls are just having their day in the mall, you know, when all of sudden Trish gets sort-of called away for a phone call (on a payphone yeah you heard me rite).
‘I’m eating the muffin,’ he said. ‘It tastes just like you.’
Well. Shit just got not funny. I guess Nita was right. Turns out weird things have been happening at the mall (lots of missing girls (some dead), merchandise disappearing, honey muffins all over the goddamn place like Winnie-the-Pooh got perverted, you name it). Trish is the latest in a long line of the Muffin Man’s obsessions, but that’s practically beside the point because Storm and Wyatt (spoiler) are undercover cops.
Now, in Part 1 I said I hoped this would be the book that bleached my brain clean of all traces of Vampire, and I’m happy to report it was. Not only did Cusick have a little fun with her formula, she brought some realistic fear to an otherwise over-the-top (if pretty imaginative) crazy stalker/serial killer character. And with Cusick introducing both the possibility of a dangerous environment (creepy mall) and the Muffin Maniac* within the first ten pages, Trish’s immediate and escalating fear didn’t come across as unfounded and hysterical–just pretty fucking rational under the circumstances. No running from wet leaves like a Southern train for this girl.
A few tiresome cliches still poked through (how many times are the good guys going to have uncharacteristic attacks of outpatient behaviour just so we have weak reason to suspect them?), but all in all, an entertaining read.
The Mall gets four out of five honey muffins for genuine stalker fear and for releasing me from Vampire’s egregious embrace.
*Fun fact: The bakery Trish works at is called Muffin-Mania. MUFFIN-MANIA, y’all!