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Literature / Point Horror

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Point Horror was a long-running line of horror novels published from 1986 until 2005, similar to the likes of Goosebumps (it was where their author, R. L. Stine, got his start) but aimed at a slightly older teenage/young adult audience. It was an imprint of Scholastic, the American publisher of numerous young adult and children's books as well as educational materials. Authors that published under the Point Horror label include the aforementioned Stine, Diane Hoh, Richie Tankersley Cusick, Christopher Pike, and Caroline B Cooneynote .

The line was briefly relaunched with new titles in 2013, though it turned out to be short-lived.

While there was once a time when Point Horror books could be found on any teen girl's bookshelf, the series died out and was largely forgotten in the Turn of the Millennium. Nowadays, they can only usually be found second-hand, either on Amazon, in car boot sales or in charity shops.

In 2019, it was announced that HBO Max is developing a series based on R.L. Stine's entries, called Point Fear.


This series provides (usually multiple) examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: A common trope throughout the series. Parents are constantly going away on long distance trips or vacations, leaving the teenage protagonists to combat whatever horror is facing them alone.
    • Averted in some of the Unleashed titles.
      • Amy has all the adults in the story heavily involved with trying to solve the mystery of the titular character's disappearance when the protagonist's grandmother sees her run off with her.
      • The Bogle has the witch Jeannie Mac Clure who gives the protagonists everything they need to defeat the monster.
      • Darker has two useful adults in the form of Nick's father (who urges him to give things a chance with Carys and tells him of his brush with Darker's influence in the sixties) and his employer (who uses a spell to banish the evil spirit, saving Nick's life).
  • Afterlife Express: Fright Train. It's really obvious from the blurb where this ride is taking them and who their conductor is.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: At the end of Freeze Tag Meghan rescues Lannie from freezing to death and brings her into the warmth believing, despite all the misery Lannie put her and West through, she doesn't deserve to die.
  • Ambiguously Bi: In Funhouse, Tess's description of her best friend, Gina, gives off shades of this:
    "Gina dated a lot. Because everyone, girls and guys, liked to be around her."
  • Ambiguously Gay: Tristan from Followers. While his sexuality is never confirmed, he is certainly flamboyant enough to fit the role.
  • Anonymous Public Phone Call:
    • Martha is harassed by these calls in "Trick or Treat" by Richie Tankersley Cusick, all threatening her with impending death.
    • In Richie Tankersley Cusick's "The Mall", Trish is followed by a Stalker with a Crush who calls her on the mall payphones to tell her that he's watching her.
  • Betty and Veronica: The Carver from Unleashed has Maddie caught between her ex Alex and newcomer Gareth. Alex is the Betty as he is technically the 'safe' option but he's also a bit of a jerk. Gareth is definitely the Veronica as, despite him being nicer to Maddie and having a sympathetic backstory, he's the titular carver and clearly not the most stable of individuals.
    • Darker, also from Unleashed has the subplot where Nick (Archie) tries to get over his outgoing, flirtatious ex Louise (Veronica) as the more tomboyish but nicer Carys steps into his life (Betty).
  • Bittersweet Ending: Unleashed title Lowlake. Yes, the protagonists get their father back from the ghost children haunting their house and move away as a result... but the ghost children are still left without their father and refuse to move on because they promised to wait for him. If anything, narrator Amanda is more heartbroken for them than angry.
  • Burger Fool: Trish, the protagonist of The Mall, works at a muffin shop version of this, complete with a cruel boss and creepy customers.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy / Yandere: Very often.
  • Creepy Child: Plenty of these show up in Unleashed. There's Eve from Eve's Party, a host of vampire-esque children in The Vanished, Peter from Scissorman and the ghost children from Lowlake are notable examples due to them being creepy while having very sympathetic motives behind their creepiness.
  • Creepy Doll: Thirteen Tales of Horror gives us The Doll. Not only is the titular toy creepy but actively malicious due to causing numerous "accidents" that hurt, maim and eventually kill people the protagonist cares about.
  • Creepy Housekeeper: Mrs Ferdinand in Unleashed's The Bogle. A grouchy and strict old woman with a Scare 'Em Straight philsophy. She creeps out Peter and Morag so much they suspect she murdered her previous employer. On investigation they find his body in one of the many nooks and crannies in the house. Mrs Ferdinand's reaction to this discovery is to burst into tears over and even thank them for solving the mystery. When the Bogle enters the picture she begins to soften, taking pity on the afflicted Johnny and later on Morag when she falls victim. On seeing both of them suffer she realises her philosophy has done more harm than good and morphs into a Kindly Housekeeper, even supporting the local witch in getting rid of the Bogle despite her strong Christian beliefs.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: Unleashed had a number of these where the protagonists think they've overcome or survived the horror pursuing them, only for it to claim them shortly afterwards. Scissorman and The Hanging Tree are arguably the cruellest.
  • Darker and Edgier: The entire series could be seen as an adult version of Goosebumps, given their concurrent dates of publication and often similar themes.
    • Had its own Darker and Edgier series in the form of Point Horror Unleashed, which tended to be set in the UK with supernatural threats such as vampires, werewolves and ghosts being a much more common occurrence.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: All the passengers, save for the protagonists, aboard the titular Fright Train.
    • Maria, the ex-dictator's wife had one of her maids executed when she believed she was having an affair with her husband. To make matters worse, it wasn't an affair. Her husband repeatedly raped the woman.
    • Simon, the yuppie businessman burned down one of his warehouses to cash in on some insurance to save himself from financial ruin but forgot to tell the night working security guard who burned to death in the fire.
    • Mandy, the attractive athlete is really a drug cheat who was banned from competing in sporting events so became a coach instead. She encouraged two upcoming athletes to take some new, experimental drugs meant for cattle that wouldn't be detected, only for the drugs to later kill them.
    • Greg, the heavy set Jerk Jock bullied a co-worker into committing suicide.
    • Evelyn, the retired nurse forced water down an elderly patient's throat, killing her in cold blood. She claims it was a Mercy Kill but Old Scratch will have none of it.
  • Deadly Prank: In ''Trick or Treat', a prankster (Wynn) pulls various tricks on Martha, including nearly setting the house on fire.
  • Deal with the Devil: Happens in some of the more supernatural orientated books.
    • Althea from The Cheerleader offers victims to the vampire in her attic in exchange for popularity.
    • Devnee from the sequel,The Return of the Vampire hands victims over to the same vampire in exchange for beauty and then brains.
    • Mr Vane from House of Bones made one with a druid doctor. In exchange for eternal life, he would move people into houses built upon Britain's ley lines where the newly housed residents would be dragged into the walls of the houses as a sacrifice. However he realises there is a downside to immortality and offers the same deal to the protagonist, who refuses.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In "Bone Meal" from 13 More Tales of Horror, Eunice's father abducts a door to door salesman who insulted his wife and throws him alive into his woodchipper machine in the garden. He also does this to Eunice's ex-boyfriend, when she pretends that he is raping her in order to anger her father enough to do this.
    • In J.R.E. Ponsford in the same book, a boy is being bullied at his boarding school; so he re-animates the corpse of a former star cricket player at the school, who beats the bullies with a cricket bat, killing or severely maiming them (it's not clear which.) Lampshaded when the boy's mother is called into the school and admits it was a tad excessive of her son's "friend" to do this.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: Often.
    • In The Baby-Sitter II, the person who has been terrorising Jenny turns out to be the psychiatrist's receptionist, Miss Gurney. She is jealous of Dr Schindler's attention (as she perceives it) of Jenny. Gurney is able to get details of Jenny's past problems (in The Baby-Sitter) by listening to the tapes recorded of her and the doctor's counselling sessions.
  • Dramatic Irony: The ending of Fright Train from Unleashed. Darren and Vicky wake up in the hospital with no memory of what happened. They read about the crash in the newspaper and feel guilty because they made fun of the passengers who died by giving them silly nicknames. Given these people are now all in Hell due to being responsible for at least one death in their lives, a silly nickname is going to be the least of their problems.
  • Eldritch Abomination: "The House that Jack Built" from 13 More Tales of Horror. At the end, Caleb discovers some horrible creature that is controlling the living house.
    • The Pytha in The Yearbook is a tentacled monstrosity that gives boils and tumours to her targets and kills students to sustain herself. In the end it cannot be defeated, only held back for a few years.
  • Evil Twin: Madrigal from Twins.
  • Fate Worse than Death: In "Something to Read" from 13 More Tales of Horror, Annabel is accidentally drowned by her classmates. Once she gets over the shock, she thinks that it could be great, but then discovers that she cannot touch anything, such as the pages of a book. So she has all the books in the world, but cannot enjoy them.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: Played ridiculously straight in Fright Train, to the point it's a wonder why none of the characters figure out what's happened until they reach their 'final destination.'
  • Freudian Excuse: Lannie from Freeze Tag. Her parents pay their dog more attention than her. When they divorce, Lannie initially lives with her mother and new stepfather, until her mother ditches him. After that she lives with her father and new stepmother- only for him to abandon them both with her stepmother outright stating she doesn't want Lannie around. You can see why she's so resentful of others and desperate for West's love. It's also why Meghan chooses to save her from freezing to death in the end.
  • Halloween Episode: Trick or Treat, and the Halloween Night duology.
    • Unleashed title Amy takes place on Halloween and has a good chunk of the town solve the mystery of what happened to the titular character the previous Halloween.
  • Haunted House: The series uses supernatural creatures like ghosts, vampires and demons as well as serial killers to create fear.
  • Haunted House Historian: Blake and Wynn in Trick or Treat. Justified, since the events only happened fairly recently.
  • Invisible to Normals: Inverted in "The Devil's Footprints" from 13 More Tales of Horror. Everyone at the party can see the mysterious goat costume guy, but Brian the house-controlling computer cannot see him on the camera footage.
  • Ironic Echo: "When you let the Scissorman in, he never goes away again." First said by Stu to terrify Peter after he and Jane convince their friend Dig to dress as the monster. Then said by Fiona at the end when she reveals that she is the Scissorman and serves them their pet rabbits for tea.
  • Ironic Nursery Rhyme: The Vanished has one about finding the town's Seven Steps, with local folklore stating those who find and descend them would die before reaching the seventh. The steps turn out to be real and mark the entrance to the Tunnel Network beneath the town.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Happens a couple of times in Unleashed.
    • Scissorman: In the second half of the book (called "The Haunting"), Stu and Jane's friend Douglas 'Dig' Delaney is absent from school and then reported missing. He turns up seemingly unharmed at the end of the book but cannot remember anything after helping them torment their little brother. He just knows something horrible happened to him and he would be better off not remembering it.
    • Fright Train concludes with Darren and Vicky in hospital, recovering from a horrific train crash that claimed the lives of all the other passengers in the carriage with them. Darren notes their birth certificates were found on scene and have a burned handprint on the back of them. Like Dig, they know something happened (see Dramatic Irony above) but decide they would be better off not remembering what happened.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The back blurb for the combined edition of both Halloween Night books (as well as Halloween Night II itself gives away that Dina is the killer in the first book.
  • Ley Line: Features in House of Bones with the properties of Mr Vane being built on them. The people who live in them become human sacrifices with something dragging them into the walls of their new homes.
  • Living Toys: "Softies" from 13 More Tales of Horror takes place in an Alternate Universe in which each human has a living toy friend called a 'companion'. The problem is, the companions are angry and secretly planning an uprising against their owners.
  • Louis Cypher: In "The Devil's Footprints" from 13 More Tales of Horror, the Devil mixes among a house party in England, though everyone thinks he is simply an ordinary guy in a goat costume.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Although, as a rule, is it nearly always mundane.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: In "The Ring" from 13 More Tales of Horror, Kate acquires a cursed ring that enables her to read the minds of everyone around her and is soon driven insane when she hears the thoughts of friends and family who don't like her. In the ending, the ring returns to The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday where Kate bought it, and is purchased by a woman whose husband is about to kill her to claim on the insurance. So while the ring is cursed, it isn't in itself technically malicious - and we keep our thoughts to ourselves for good reason.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The skoffins are a (theoretically impossible) mixture of a male fox father and a female cat mother in "The Cat-Dogs" from 13 More Tales of Horror. And they're as mean as both put together.
  • Nasty Party: The Invitation starts out with a non-lethal version of the trope as the Alpha Bitch lures in five unpopular students so she can entertain the other guests with a people hunt. Unfortunately one uninvited guest turns it into a straighter example of this trope by moving the unpopular kids to more lethal locations.
    • Eve's Party has this as the backstory. The titular Eve threw a birthday party where she poisoned all of the village's children, save the ones who were too ill to attend. She returns and intends to repeat the process, targeting the survivors and their grandchildren.
  • Noble Demon: Fiona, the titular Scissorman. After she hears of what her new stepchildren and their friend did to her son, she terrorises them in response to Scare 'Em Straight. And she ultimately uses this knowledge to calm her own son's nerves after the prank. Her methods might be extreme but she certainly stopped the bullying.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Blood Sinister from Unleashed plays with this a little bit. The diary entries in the first half of the story paint the picture of such a stereotypical vampire that Ellen, the protagonist reading them makes the connection instantly. In the second half of the book the same vampire reveals he's changed tactics when he's revealed to be a doctor at the hospital Ellen is admitted to. Instead of draining her directly from the neck, he opts for a long distance and more subtle option.
    • The vampire in the trilogy consisting of The Cheerleader, The Return of the Vampire and The Vampire's Promise. He's hideous and feels like a rotting corpse when the protagonists touch him. Similarly he's more of a Deal with the Devil type who offers people their heart's desire in exchange for being given victims.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Moonchildren and In Spirit. In the former, the titular Moonchildren have wolf-like eyes from puberty onwards and shapeshift into wolves at will to satisfy their urges. In the latter, the lobisomen (or wolf-woman) has eyeless sockets and only targets women and girls who belong to the same bloodline to ensure that bloodline is extinguished.
  • Piranha Problem: In The Hitchhiker, James, Christine and Terri are threatened to be thrown into a pond full of piranhas by Art, the son of the old man the two girls killed in a hit-and-run accident. Art himself ends up inside the pond and gets devoured.
  • Pragmatic Hero: Willow from Unleashed title The Hanging Tree due to having a forgetful, New-Age Retro Hippie mother. It's most notable at the end when it's revealed the bulldozers are set to demolish the forest a few days earlier than scheduled. Willow advises against telling the protestors so they all get a good night's sleep instead of getting drunk and high, thus being less effective at protecting the non-harmful trees.
  • The Prankster: Julian from The Boy Next Door, whose pranks get steadily more serious and dangerous.
  • "Rear Window" Homage: The Window is about a girl who sprains her ankle on a ski trip and gets sucked into a murder mystery when she starts spying out her window with binoculars.
  • Revenge Before Reason: The wronged person in any of these books will often go to extraordinary lengths to punish whoever wronged them/their relative or friend.
  • Runic Magic: House of Bones from Unleashed has the properties of Mr Vane beset with this, with rune stones set into the fireplace to make the houses absorb those who live in them. The story ends with the protagonists going to each house to remove them so the homes become harmless again.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: Mrs Ferdinand from The Bogle used the titular monster to scare Morag into being good. She later does the same to Johnny. When both of them are caught by the monster, she rethinks this tactic, realising neither of them deserve such an awful fate.
    • Fiona from Scissorman uses this tactic at the end when she reveals she is the titular monster and serves the protagonists' pet rabbits for dinner, even echoing the very same words they used against her son earlier in the book.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Frequently. As a general observation, many of the stories where murders/injuries are believed to be the work of a ghost or other paranormal entity turn out to be caused by jealous/crazy living people.
  • Short Story: A few anthologies of them, most of them surprisingly good and original with regard to the full novels. They are:
    • Thirteen: 13 Tales of Horror (1991)
    • 13 More Tales of Horror (1994)
    • 13 Again (1995)
  • Sinister Subway: In "The Station with No Name" from 13 More Tales of Horror, the eponymous station, which is abandoned and full of ghosts from World War II.
  • Spinoff: The series had a couple, such as the aforementioned Point Horror Unleashed or the Nightmare Hall series, about a cursed college dormitory.
  • The Spook: Julian from The Boy Next Door. He simply appears in the seemingly abandoned house next door to Randy and she knows very little about him.
  • Stalker with a Crush: The motivation behind Athan's actions in The Mall.
  • Strictly Formula: A typical book will follow a teenage female character, who falls in love with another teenager boy, set amidst seemingly paranormal occurrences. As mentioned above, the spooky happenings usually turn out to be perfectly explainable.
    • Unleashed has its own formula. The book opens with a scene relating to the horror the book deals with, has the main characters research the background and lore of said horror while having occasional brushes with it to keep them on their toes. The lead, or someone they are close to, falls into danger at the hands of the horror and hopefully overcomes it.
  • Teens Are Monsters: The Invitation has the Alpha Bitch invite five relatively unpopular students to her annual party, only for it be revealed they are the subject of a 'people hunt' that quickly turns lethal when an uninvited guest hijacks the game to off each of the characters out of a misguided revenge. And that's not going into all the teenaged characters who turn out to be the killer due to revenge, jealousy or wanting to eliminate a love rival.
    • Unleashed has Stu and Jane, the teenaged co-protagonists in Scissorman. They bully their little stepbrother and rope their friend into dressing as the titular monster to terrify him. Then there are all the teens and kids who go off the rails in Darker (although that's due to them being temporarily Brainwashed and Crazy).
  • Tomato Surprise: Many throughout the series.
    • In The Hitchhiker, we are led to believe that James, the boy that Christine and Terri pick up, is a dangerous criminal who beat up (or possibly worse) his girlfriend before he left Florida and that he may have something to do with the news on the radio about a hit-and-run accident. In the last few chapters, we discover that James himself is completely innocent and his girlfriend in Florida is alive and fine (albeit upset); it is Christine and Terri that are responsible for the accident.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Several throughout the book series.
  • Tunnel Network: The titular mall of The Mall is loaded with these. This is due to the mall being so old that it's been renovated constantly over the years, leading to it being filled with many hidden tunnels, passages, and hallways. Athan takes advantage of them to get around the huge building secretly.
    • There is one under the town in The Vanished where a host of vampiric children live. The protagonists discover it when they find the Seven Steps (seven stones jutting out of a hillside that lead into the cave).
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: "The Devil's Footprints" from 13 More Tales of Horror takes place in 2004 (the short story collection was published in 1994). Apparently, by that point, everyone should have had house-controlling supercomputers.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Laura's stepmother Sally in "The Piano" from 13 More Tales of Horror. She pushes her stepdaughter to practice the piano constantly. Laura is not too saddened when her piano causes Sally's death, thereby freeing her from oppression.
    • Fiona from Scissorman is seen as this by Stu and Jane. Initially it's because she forces them to eat healthy food and demands good behaviour from them so their bias is clearly on show. It's later played terrifyingly straight as she's revealed to be the titular monster, and serves them their pet rabbits for dinner.