The final installment of the Cheerleaders trilogy brought some new elements but fell flat in other areas. The shift in perspective was a welcome one, and it helped The Third Evil distinguish itself from the rest. Although I saw the twist coming, I still liked it. The visions Corky keeps having of Bobbi were a nice creepy touch. The Evil is still really bad at planning. You would think that an ancient evil spirit who liked killing people would be better at carrying out its murders. The backstory on The Evil and Sarah Fear left me with more questions than it answered. The climax and ending also left me a bit disappointed. I’m curious to see how The New Evil will hold up.
ERMAHGERD Special Edition: Evil Cheerleader #3. Photo by Dierre Taylor.
Observations & Spoilers
I enjoyed the twist of The Evil being in Corky this time. It gave a much needed new perspective on the evil spirit. Throughout the book, Corky is haunted by Bobbi’s ghost. This provided the best gruesome horror element, as Bobbi kept tearing open her own head to show Corky her insect-infested brain. It takes Corky awhile to figure out what her dead sister is trying to tell her. She finally pieces it together at Cheerleading Camp.
Well, cheerleading camp sounds AWFUL. Cheerleaders get docked points for not being aggressively positive at all times. I can’t fathom why anyone would voluntarily subject themselves to such an environment. The Shadyside Cheer Squad also got a new member, a freshman named Hannah. Hannah is very spoiled and extremely hateable. From Day One, she throws her unchecked privilege around with a complete lack of self-awareness. I can totally understand why The Evil makes her its first target. I would too if I were a demonic entity stuck at cheer camp.
Unfortunately, The Evil seems to have lost its edge in The Third Evil. The first two books gave us a bus crash in a graveyard, a cheerleader scalded to death in the locker room showers, a football star drowned in his own blood after his hand was severed with a shop saw, and the attempted strangulation of our protagonist by a science class skeleton. In this installment, The Evil superheated Hannah’s bathwater and burned her, then cut off her hair while she was sleeping. It also phantom-tripped a rival cheerleader at Cheer camp in front of everyone. Don’t get me wrong – all of those were very satisfying. Both characters were all incredibly annoying. But there were no deaths this time around; it was all pranks and failed murder attempts.
My biggest issue with this book was the mechanics of demon possession. Corky and Sarah Fear both seemed to come and go in terms of being in control, but Kimmy had absolutely no recollection of being possessed. This was an inconsistency that could have been easily remedied with Kimmy having some memories of book two. Then there are The Evil’s abilities. It has crazy telekinetic powers, but in this last book, it chose to only use them for tripping people and heating up bathwater. It can move from body to body (including freshly dead bodies), but if you kill yourself with the evil in you it gets trapped in your dead body. Those are some very inconsistent demon rules. I also wish it had been given a name aside from “The Evil Spirit.”
Getting The Evil’s perspective did confirm what I was beginning to think at the end of book two: The Evil is not the smartest demonic entity in Shadyside. You would think that an ancient evil spirit who liked killing people would be better at it, but you would be wrong. Corky tried to kill Debra by running her over in a public parking lot, and then again by pushing her off the top of an old windmill. Corky’s plan in the climactic scene was to kill Kimmy by pushing her into a river from a cliff, which wasn’t high enough to kill either Kimmy or Corky on impact.
The Third Evil did give us one gruesome scene: we finally get is the full story of what happened to Sarah Fear and her family one hundred years earlier. We already knew it ended with Sarah and her family boiled alive in Fear Lake, but Corky is able to see The Evil’s memory of the incident. From this, Corky learns that the only way to kill The Evil is to die with it. This revelation leads to the climactic scene where Corky attempted to kill Kimmy by pushing her off a cliff into a river. She then catches The Evil off guard and jumps in after her. The impact kills neither of the girls. Corky allows herself to drown and the Evil flees her body when it thinks she’s going to die. Kimmy rescues her and pulls her ashore. This is where it supposedly ends, but we all know it’ll be back in a year or so for the Super Chiller sequel: The New Evil.
For the scoring of each book, I decided to rate them based on five criteria worth 2 points each. I then split that in two to give it a rating out of 5 stars. Those criteria are Concept (the overall idea), Execution (the mechanics of storytelling), Character (the protagonists, antagonists, and villains), Scare Factor (from a childhood standpoint), and Originality (subversion and reliance on genre tropes). Based on GoodReads aggregate ratings, The Third Evil is ranked 22nd of 79 in the overall Fear Street series and the Cheerleaders trilogy is ranked 5th of 6 among the Fear Street Trilogies, placing the book itself in the middle-high tier overall. The trilogy, as a whole, lands in the bottom tier when compared to other trilogies. It should be noted that the series ranking for the Fear Street books is a bit skewed in favor of the later books in the series, most likely due to the drop in popularity in the late ’90s. The books in the latter half of the series have a significantly lower number of ratings, which (I’m hypothesizing) is due to super-fans being unchecked by more critical voices.
We finally got some explainers in this one, some were more satisfying than others. Its strength was in finally giving us The Evil’s perspective as it possessed Corky. Its weakness was in the lack of really defining The Evil beyond Sarah Fear’s experience.
Corky goes back and forth from moments of being herself and when the Evil takes over, where Kimmy just straight up had no memory of when The Evil possessed her. No reason is given for why these two experiences are different. I also didn’t quite buy the way that Corky was able to get rid of The Evil if she didn’t actually die. More was needed to make that convincing.
Evil Corky was fun. I also liked the new addition of cheerleaders Hannah and Blair, both of whom were very easy to hate. The Evil here is probably the weakest character because it fails to ever become more than generic evil that likes being evil for evil’s sake. It never has the depth of an ancient being with motives that aren’t human.
Scare Factor: 1/2
Corky tries to run Debra over with her car and then tries to push her off the roof of an old mill. At Cheerleading camp she cuts another girl’s hair off and trips a rival Cheerleader during a routine. It’s definitely a step down from the first two books in terms of legit scares. The only thing I’m giving it one point for is the scare factor of Corky being aware that she was possessed but not being able to stop herself from trying to kill her friends.
One point here for the way The Third Evil was made distinct from the other two books by giving us the perspective of the possessed, even if the execution of it was sloppy.
Don’t miss the next post in the Fear Street blog series:
Fear Street #6 The Sleepwalker