The Tragic Demise of The Point Horror!

Is everyone getting a little sick of Christmas chat? I thought I’d have a  day off, since strictly I can’t really feel in full festive swing until my plane lands safely tonight in Northern Ireland and my two weeks of lie-ins, boardgames, FOOD and family fun starts! And I’m still at work today, poor me.

So; this is just a shameless excuse to talk about my all time favourite thing growing up, and put out a plea to see if there were any fellow obsessives like me.

From the age of 9 to about 12, I was single-mindedly obsessed with one thing and one thing only. Both myself and my sister were in fact, regularly pooling pocket money and Christmas present opportunities and tag-team scouring car boot sales and charity shop shelves. No it wasn’t Sylvanian Families, or cute Care Bears or wholesome Enid Blyton stories. Our lives were consumed with the world of POINT HORROR BOOKS!

  

   

The Point Horror phase of my life (yes it deserves official ‘phase’ status) started when the portable book library came to school. I’m not sure if this was just a Yorkshire, Northern or UK thing but once a year, this glorified shelving unit on wheels would pitch up to your school and you could purchase cheap books from it. I guess it was an initiative to encourage reading, and it was definitely one the most exciting days of the school year for freaky bookworm kids like me.

I was still stuck in the lame old land of Babysitters Club books, but my older and way cooler sister picked up a copy of The Boyfriend. It was a book that basically took a pretty weak storyline and stretched it over an entire 80 pages! I would describe the storyline, but only the amazingly cheesey blurbs (that used to make my heart leap!) can do it justice:

Wealthy, beautiful, spoilt Joanna Collier has it all, including her boyfriend Dex. But then she breaks up with him – the gorgeous Shep seems more her type. When Dex dies in a terrible accident, Joanna’s sorry, of course, but it’s not her fault is it? She never loved him anyway – he was just another toy to be used and thrown away. But now Dex is back – from the dead. And he wants one last date with her…

What is there not to love! The mega-cool American names Dex and Shep (so exotic), the romance, the passion, the TERRORRRRR!!! I remember we passed this book between us until it was literally falling to pieces. And then we discovered that this book was not a glorious once-off, but part of a collection of books in the Point Horror genre.

   

   

Various different authors published under the genre, the most profilic being R.L.Stine, Caroline B Cooney, Diane Hoh, Carol Ellis and Sinclair Smith. I don’t think we were fussy about the author, although the randomness of seemingly anyone being able to write Point Horror books did mean you occasionally got a real STINKER by some newbie, such as The Phantom by Barbara Steiner… run on Babs! You’re no RL Stine!

It is seemingly worrying that at such a young age we were obsessed with books based around sereal killers, death, horror and terror! But the books seemed to mainly focus on a girl with an issue to solve (not pretty enough, not popular enough, no prom date, no boyfriend, too many boyfriends, too popular, too pretty… you get the picture) and I guess alot of the appeal hinged on this more than the spook-factor.

My favourite trilogy of books was The Cheerleader, Vampires Promise and Vampires Return; although they actually were just one storyline rehashed for three seperate books. In them a plain, unpopular, unattractive girl is desperate to be a cheerleader and popular. She moves into a new house and there is a vampire living in the shutters of her bedroom (I know, I know) who offers her the chance to become beautiful; but she has to chose an already beautiful/popular girl to lose their looks and ultimately; life. I mean COME ON! When you are 12 and a pretty uncool, not particular popular girl  (me) of course a book where the character gets to become instantly popular and hot is going to appeal… as you sort of spend 90% of your life fantasising about the exact same thing.

And yes this photo is only half of our collection circa 1997; at that point we owned every single one that had been published up to that point. I kid you not. In each new purchase; we would proudly cross off each one we had from the full list of released titles that they printed on the opening page! We would also write ‘helpful’ marks out of ten and little reviews of each one next to the title; in case we leant them to friends. It got very messy if we both wrote reviews, especially if they weren’t in agreement.

I think my alltime favourite Point Horror was The Babysitter. Hardly the most original plot (OR blatent rip off of the babysitting urban myth about crank calls) but still, a classic!

I’m not sure what happened to Point Horrors. How me and my sister didn’t SOLELY keep them in business I do not know! For a time there were Point Crimes (bit weak), Point Romance (too slushy and WAY racier than Judy Blume – Forever, which is really saying something) and Point Sci Fi (snore). They then began a series called ‘Unleashed’ which was marketed as a slightly darker, edgier genre of Point Horrors. I remember excitedly getting the first one of these books called At Gehenna’s Door and it was so scary I started crying whilst reading it and it had a bit about eating someones brain from a skull and I was like woah woah woah where are all the cheerleaders? And dates? And the pizza parlours? It definitely went over my fear-limit at that age and they never published anymore non-Unleashed Point Horrors so the dream was over.

I have to confess, I still have quite a hefty chunk of the books at my parents house, so often whenever I’m home in my old tiny bedroom, with my single bed, I sneak a few in and re-read my favourites such as: The Invitation (RSVP or DIE!), The Snowman (A cold-blooded killer.), The Funhouse (Hear the fear!), Camp Fear (The past can’t hurt you, it can kill you.) and Dream Date (Sweet dreams and rest in peace…) absolute guilty pleasure.

 

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  1. sarahmia’s avatar

    Oh man. Point Horror. I LOVED Point Horror when I was a kid. I used to stake out my local library waiting for all the new ones to come in and I kid you not I actually unearthed an old one the other day from the loft and was filled with joy. The babysitter was my favourite too – am I right in remembering there were sequels?

    I might see if I can buy them all from Amazon. I’m sure there was one called Fever about a hosital that I properly loved, ha.

    Reply

    1. Bee’s avatar

      Yes Sarah! There was The Babysitter 2 and 3 which was just exactly the same story again – where I think the kid she was babysittings DAD comes back from the dead? I mean really, why hadn’t she learnt from book 1 that babysitting wasn’t really an activity she should attempt again, and again?!

      There are tons of them on Amazon for 1p (!) so go wild!

      Reply

    2. Hannah’s avatar

      I also went through a Point Horror ‘phase’! Just after the Babysitters Club phase, when I felt I’d ‘grown out’ of those. The Babysitter was the first one I bought. I also used to rent the Point Horror audiobooks from the library – I particularly remember ‘The Cemetery’ and its amazingly cheesy sound effects 😀

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      1. Bee’s avatar

        Yes the audio books were amazing! I had an audio book of ‘Halloween Night’ and took it on every family holiday, sitting in the back of the car refusing to interact with anyone (enforced family holidays were mega uncool by this point I guess!) with it on my walkman thinking I was very cool indeed! Ahh x

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      2. colin’s avatar

        ahh i remember writing a book review (pretty sure it involved a lot of ‘cool’ and ‘scary’) of the window in primary school and i drew an exact recreation of that cover. also, look at the 90s brilliance of some of these covers, that beach house one is a dream! for some reason i can’t remember of this phase was before or my hardy boys one – think possibly immediately after and with some overlap. the trilogy i remember most was called the forbidden game and was maybe a bit like the crystal maze and there was a bad dude named julian who i always imagined looking a bit like david bowie

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        1. Bee’s avatar

          Ah yes, the Forbidden Game was one of the more sophisticated trilogys I seem to remember, you were a high-end Point Horror fan clearly! HA about David Bowie, I remember Julian was described as “cyberpunk with gorgeous blue eyes” !!! How dreamy!

          I agree about the 90s covers, so neon and tacky and wonderful. Imagine being one of the cover designers? What a dream job. The best has to be this garish neon sunset on The Hitchhiker.
          http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hitch-hiker-Point-horror-R-L-Stine/dp/0590553232/ref=pd_rhf_shvl_21

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        2. laura’s avatar

          Oh god, I’d forgotten completely about R L Stine! Me and my friends were also addicted to these books at primary school (A lot of the covers look so familiar!) But in the end my parents had a word with me and said they didn’t really approve of me reading these horrors (maybe it had a lot to do with how trashy the covers were hehe) Bah!!

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        3. laura’s avatar

          PS – RL Stine’s the best selling children’s author ever, wowzas!!

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R_L_Stine

          (I am also stuck at work bored ha!)

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          1. Bee’s avatar

            Wow, I always wondered what kind of middle aged man would want to dedicate their life to writing about girls who can’t find prom dates getting murdered!!
            Reading his wiki entry reminded me of the series ‘Fear Street’ which was a bit of a low-rent Point Horror really but written by RL Stine too. There was one book I had from the series called The New Girl about a girl who has some random (called Honey, love the American names!) turn up at her house claiming to be her long lost friend. Her parents and boyfriend and everyone think she is lying when she says she has no idea who Honey is, so they let Honey move in. So realistic!

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          2. Helen’s avatar

            This post has just totally made my day. I lived for Point Horror books when I was younger! Freeze Tag fo’ life.

            Reply

          3. Helen’s avatar

            Also, I’ve just spent 20 minutes searching for my all time favourite teen horror book…. Remember Me by Christopher Pike. If you’ve never read it, you must http://www.amazon.co.uk/Remember-Me-Return-Part-I/dp/1444901265

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            1. Bee’s avatar

              No I have never read it. That’s getting right on my amazon wishlist, although maybe not one to crack out and read on the tube… prob best for private reading time ey! I only read one Christopher Pike called Bury Me Deep. Checking him out on amazon though and there are some even more awesome 90s covers on his books. Look at this one.. ba ha!
              http://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Vampire-Black-Blood-No/dp/0340611707/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_9

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              1. Helen’s avatar

                Oh my God I need that!! Remember Me was the first teen horror book I ever read. In 1990. In Florida on a family holiday. It’s incredible. Or, at least, it was to my 8 year old eyes!!

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              2. Kate’s avatar

                Oh i was obsessed also by point horror! I think i gave them all away, but i still have the memories! Have a great christmas x

                Reply

              3. Amy’s avatar

                The little book van rocking up to your school with cheap books to buy is a memory I also share.

                I never actually read any Point Horror, but they sound so fantastically over the top that I might have to try them even though I’m way out of the age range for them now… I’m sure I can find them somewhere.

                Have a great Christmas!

                Reply

              4. Sara’s avatar

                Loved point horror, another of my american hook series which made me insanely jealous of pizza parlours, frozen yogurt & all these diners which were open super-late an every character went too. Sigh.

                Reply

              5. Blair’s avatar

                omg I LOVED Point Horror. Actually, to be honest, I think I loved all the ‘Point’ series, but I agree that Point Horror was the best/most iconic. The covers were BRILLIANT! My faves were the Nightmare Hall series. This is really making me want to read them again now! x

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              6. Jess’s avatar

                Superb post! Our obsession was so hardcore – remember one holiday with mum where we spent *all* our holiday money on them as we found a book shop with dozens of titles we’d never seen before. Can still remember the utter joy and excitement! First I remember reading was Babysitter but the very start of it was I think me getting ‘Thirteen Tales of Horror’ by Christopher Pike from the Scholastic book fair at Heaton Middle (http://www.amazon.co.uk/13-Tales-Horror-Point/dp/0590550810). Think I still have that one, or it’s in Bradford somewhere. It had some seriously terrifying stories in it, one where a girl goes off a cliff in a car with her boyfriend and he dies and she’s haunted by the song that was playing in the car, and one with the scariest man on a train who gives out evil lollipops that kill children! I adored that book, cover practically hanging off, it began the obsession 🙂

                Reply

              7. Lollypop’s avatar

                “and it had a bit about eating someones brain from a skull and I was like woah woah woah where are all the cheerleaders?”

                Best!!!
                Sinclair Smith was my ultimate fave, Dream Date was lent to a schoolfriend at Buttershaw and was never seen again! I bet you could read a Point Horror book in about 45minutes now! xxx

                Reply

              8. Jen’s avatar

                Your post has now filled me with remorse at giving away my ENTIRE Point Horror collection to the charity shop a few years ago, just as I almost cried the other day for the loss of my Bunty comic collection 🙁 The Perfume was my favourite I think, and I vividly remember that Trick or Treat was the first one I bought. Right, I’m off to eBay…

                Reply

              9. Claire Muncaster’s avatar

                Bee,

                Absolutely loved Point Horror, going on to Horowitz Horror later. Read so many that some people close to me were worried. I literally read nothing but them. I loved them so much I even tried to write my own (complete with spiky writing & lipstick on the covers for “blood”!! Nearly gave me a heart attack when I found one years later !!) None of mine ever got published but when I did a creative writing course years of reading them influenced me.

                I’m nearly 28 now & f I can find one I haven’t read (very difficult) I still love to read them (when no-one’s looking!!). Don’t see the point of re-reading books though; why bother if you know what happens ??.

                I do wonder whether the authors are/were embarrassed about ever putting their name to them.

                Take care,
                Claire Muncaster

                Reply

              10. josh anderson’s avatar

                i am now reading these books. my mum read them so im not stuck in there! very gd!

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              11. Christina Carabini’s avatar

                .Point Horror ..My friends and I were obsessed with proper old Point Horrors in the late-80s. I believe Point Horror have gone a bit more legit these days but I loved these ones!….

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              12. Todd’s avatar

                I remember a book from the 80’s or 90’s along the same lines as Point Horror and Nightmare Hall. The girl was an art student, people started being killed and she ends killing him when he drowns in plaster. Any clue as to the title? Thanks

                Reply

              13. Ryan H’s avatar

                Ah I’m searching the web for Point horror books to read; I had funhouse from my siblings and my mum, being awesome, found a mega box of about 20, for 50p at a boot sale. Favourites included April fools, and the 13 short stories? Can’t remember which exactly, it was green and one story featured what I THINK young me finally realised was the devil after about the 40th read.

                Definitely loved forbidden game but I only had the second so it didn’t make too much sense to me.

                The good old days of rainy days staying home from school and reading this, laughing it off during the day and terrified at night someone would leave a doll or a hankie in your bed.

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              14. Anna’s avatar

                This has brought back so many memories. We had the book seller in Southampton schools too, tho I read most of mine from the library, where they were marked as ‘Young Adult Fiction’ and required parental authorisation to take out. Fortunately my Mum was more concerned about me trying to sneak watch Eastenders and considered all library borrowing intrinsically angelic. Unlike all the Point Horror plots. Brilliant. And RL Stine. Legend!

                Reply

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