Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
It’s the spooky season once more, so let us return to the video game horror world of Fazbear Frights. This time, we venture forth in the second book of the series: Fetch. The first volume was good, but flawed. Will this collection of creepy tales for kids surpass it?
The second volume gets off to a fantastic start with its titular tale. Greg and his friends sneak into a boarded up old pizzeria (guess who?) and while searching around, they discover a little toy called Fetch. Fetch is supposed to be able to get anything you want, even hooking up to your phone so you can direct it. However, as Greg soon learns, Fetch will “fetch” whatever it wants, whether or not you want it or even ask for it.
What makes “Fetch” so good is the writing and buildup. Over the course of the story, we read as Fetch’s “helping” starts off reasonably and then gets more and more uncomfortable. It’s a fast progression and escalation, but it works and is spread out throughout the story well, instead of mostly happening towards the end like in past stories. Almost every little plot element plays into the story naturally, even incorporating some fun science and ideas into the narrative that can offer an explanation for what is happening… sort of.
Plus, it’s genuinely a creepy story, one of the more unsettling ones so far. The idea of the tale is familiar: it’s essentially a Monkey’s Paw tale, a figure who can grant your “wishes” in negative, unexpected ways. In this case, it’s through a very crude, rotten toy robot that seems both friendly and malevolent, able to access one’s phone and potentially even their mind to “know” what they want. The way Fetch’s actions are described are nasty and it’s rarely physically present in the story, adding to its eeriness. Then comes the ending where it culminates in something utterly horrific without explicitly saying what it is, letting our minds visualize the image. It’s powerful and heavy.
The only weaknesses in the story lie in the length of it. Due to being only eighty pages long, the story has to move fairly quickly and it feels apparent at times. For instance, Greg just quickly accepts that Fetch is a thing now and helping him out. If this was a longer story, stuff like this could be spread out a bit more evenly to make the buildup better. Even still, it’s still a well-told tale that left me on the edge of my seat.
One of the more iconic tales of the collection, “Lonely Freddy” is an interesting one. Alec’s younger sister, Hazel, has her birthday coming up and everyone is overly excited to celebrate this golden child’s day of birth. However, Alec knows there has to be something up with little Miss Perfect, especially when he sees her suddenly being nice to him. He is determined to figure out what is up and show everyone her true face.
The tale is a real big shake-up to the formula of the series. For the grand majority, there’s really no traditional/nontraditional animatronic or supernatural force at play here. This is just a story about a teenager who feels left behind by his family and is suspicious of his little sister, determined to figure out what the “real” twist is. The real horror isn’t any malevolent force beyond regular understanding, but the tragedy of a kid brought to a certain point due to years of past neglect and a lack of care. Then comes the supernatural element at the very end, which slowly shifts the story into almost a Twilight Zone-esque finale. It’s pretty well-written in that regard, even if it means the story feels very slow and uneventful for a while.
The characterization of Alec is probably the best part of it due to how fully realized it is. He is a teenager who just never seemed to get any respect or understanding from his parents, who always seemed to see him as a problem. They’d rather study a parenting book than actually talk with their own kid. It’s easy to understand how he’s gotten that way, that terrible feeling of inadequacy that has left him suspicious of any attempt to reach out to him. He definitely doesn’t come across as the most likable of protagonists, but you understand him and by the end of the story, he’s nothing but a truly sad case.
As a whole, the story here is pretty good. It’s quieter and slower, especially when compared to the stories it is sandwiched between, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s almost refreshing, giving the series a more grounded, real kind of feeling that could hit home for many others (outside of the ending of course). It may not click with younger readers because of its approach and theming, but it definitely helps elevate this book as a whole.
Out of Stock
The final story of the collection is a nice, almost pleasant breather after the horrifying tales that came before it. Not to say that it isn’t a scary one, but it leaves the readers in a better state finishing the book. It’s about a kid named Oscar and his friends wanting to get a Plushtrap Chaser, the hot new toy that everyone just has to have. In a moment of desperation, Oscar snatches one up that he probably shouldn’t have.
While the other two are probably better in some ways, “Out of Stock” is my personal favorite of the three stories. It’s a tale of a kid who has never really gotten a break in his life, having to grow up a lot sooner than he wanted, making one mistake that would cost him dearly and having to deal with it in a way he couldn’t imagine. It’s also a tale with a layer of commercialism and FOMO, that urge to get in on what others are buying up and avoid missing out on what your peers have. This layer leads to some amusing moments, but it does add extra dimensions to the story early on and to why Oscar does what he does.
It’s also a more energetic and intense story with things going off the rails faster and earlier. Instead of a slow burn/buildup or the horror taking place towards the end, it gets going in the middle. The kids have to take a much more active instead of reactive role in handling the situation, especially when Plushtrap keeps surprising them with what it can do. It makes for a very intense thrill ride that never feels dull. It’s almost like a slasher movie, but all the characters are smart and with a much more upbeat ending. There’s not much to really say about the story in comparison to the other two, but it’s a great story from start to finish.
The second volume of Fazbear Frights is an absolute winner. There’s not a single dud in the bunch; each story is really written well and has some great characters. The horror side is really creepy and the extra theming and depth in some of the stories help elevate them further. Definitely snag a copy from your local library if you can get a chance. This series is starting to get really good.
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