The Haunted Mask II
© 1995 by Parachute Press. Cover Art by Tim Jacobus.
Sequel to: The Haunted Mask
The Haunted Mask II managed to give a unique spin on its predecessor. It ultimately fell short, but I appreciated that it had its own charm. I like that the original cast of characters is all here but still gave us a different protagonist. Instead of Carly Beth, we got to go inside the head of her friend and occasional bully, Steve. Steve is determined to get his hands on a mask like the one Carly Beth had worn last Halloween, but instead of trying to prove himself he just wants to scare the first-grade soccer team he’s stuck coaching. Instead of the scary, claustrophobic themes of the first book, The Haunted Mask II is more comedic in nature. Steve is a bro dude though and through, which often makes him difficult to empathize with. I definitely got the sense that I was laughing at him and not with him. My biggest gripe is that it took way too long to get to the mask itself, and then the ending felt like a bit of a cop-out. I also would have liked to get a deeper understanding of the Unloved, but maybe that was hoping for too much. So far as Goosebumps sequels go, The Haunted Mask II holds up fine alongside others like Return of the Mummy and Night of the Living Dummy II. It also blows every Monster Blood book out of the water, but that’s a very low bar.
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Observations & Spoilers
If you read The Haunted Mask, then you might remember Steve and Chuck. They were Carly Beth’s “friends” who relentlessly pranked her and then had her scare the daylight out of them on Halloween. It’s been almost a year since that happened, and Steve is more or less the same. He’s stuck coaching the first-grade soccer team, which was his punishment for setting a squirrel loose in the girl’s locker room. The first graders make his afternoons hell. Their team name is the Hogs, which is a solid name if you ask me. Steve decides that his best revenge against these six-year-olds will be to really scare them on Halloween. To do that, he will need to find a horrific mask like Carly Beth’s.
Steve does what Steve does and essentially bullies the information out of Carly Beth, even though she tries to warn him away. Steve and Chuck find the Halloween store and question but it has gone out of business. Not willing to let any legality deter him, Steve sneaks in through an unlocked basement door. They find a box of masks but get caught. Chuck runs but Steve gets stuck behind. The shopkeeper from the first book chastises Steve for breaking in and is going to call his parents. He tells Steve the masks are not meant for Halloween costumes. Steve sees an opening and escapes. He tells Chuck he didn’t find anything but he secretly snuck one of the masks under his shirt. Now he plans to scare Chuck on Halloween, too. I mean, Chuck did run off without him. That seems worthy of a scare to me.
The next day, Steve tells his soccer team to meet him outside the old Carpenter Mansion and he will take them trick or treating. Seems a tad far-fetched that the parents of first graders would let their kids go out on Halloween under the supervision of a delinquent middle schooler, but I’ll bite. Steve finally tries on the mask after school and immediately feels it tighten around him. He immediately starts to feel like an old man. His voice changes to that of an old man with a creepy laugh. He even starts craving oatmeal. This was my favorite detail that Stine included. He tries to take the mask off but has no luck. Steve tries to call Carly Beth, but her dad picks up and thinks it’s some creep doing a prank call and hangs up on him. I genuinely appreciated the humor in this scene, and it definitely felt like we were laughing at Steve instead of with him. I mean, he kinda had it coming.
Steve’s mom knocks on his door because she bought him his favorite cookies, but he won’t let her in. He tells her he isn’t feeling well. He ends up falling asleep and they never once come in and check on him. In the morning he decides he needs to tell them the truth and get help, but they aren’t home. They left a note telling him they went to visit his aunt. His parent’s behavior strikes me as fairly preposterous. Their kid was sick and they didn’t even peek in the room to make sure he was OK? A lot of these books rely on oblivious parenting, but Steve’s parents really take the cake in this one. Ultimately, Steve decides he needs to stick with his plans to scare the first graders. In the end, it’s the small and petty things in life that really matter.
Halloween night rolls around. Steve has to use a cane to get around. His dad thinks the schtick is hilarious. Mom thinks it’s gross. Both are correct. He sets out to the Carpenter Mansion to scare some six-year-olds, but to his horror, they just pity him and ask if he needs help. Then end up helping him get to Carly Beth’s house. Once Carly Beth recognizes Steve she tries to help. She tells him that what helped her remove her mask was a symbol of love. For her, that symbol had been the plaster sculpture of her head that her mother had made her. Steve thinks maybe the cookies his mom bought him could do the trick. They head back to his house but find out his dog at all of them. Steve tries hugging his dog, thinking that could be his symbol of love, but it doesn’t work. Carly Beth theorizes that maybe each mask is different. It’s also possible that Steve is just unlovable. I think it’s too early to dismiss that possibility.
Steve and Carly Beth find their way back to the shop in hopes that the shopkeeper can help Steve out of his bind. They can’t find the man anywhere, but he apparently has still not figured out how to lock his basement. They break in and start looking for anything that might help. Carly Beth pulls out a suit covered in spiders that seems to go with Steve’s mask. At the sight of the suit, Steve’s mask lifts off his head and runs off to be a complete costume or something. If you’re looking for logic it’s not really there. This ending reeked of: “well it needs to end somehow, so let’s just go with this.” It would have made more sense if it at least tied into being an old man somehow. They could have made it listen to loud rap music or something. It could have been funny. On their way home, the kids run into Chuck who is wearing one of the “unloved” masks. Chuck reveals he also stole a mask that night, but he’s having trouble getting it off. The End.
First, I want to make a special shout-out to my girl Carly Beth. Not only has she proven to be one of the most dynamic Goosebumps characters ever in her journey to becoming fearless, but she also stuck around to help Steve even after she warned him very explicitly not to seek out one of the masks. Like, she had every right to say “I told you so, idiot. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a party that I’m hosting in a duck costume.” Her patience with the stupidity of these boys is the epitome of how women are expected to put up with boys being boys and then having to help clean up their messes. Carly Beth deserves better and I feel that it’s important for us as readers to acknowledge that.
I think the comedy aspects of The Haunted Mask II were strong. I liked that Steve never got his revenge on the hogs and that Carly Beth was once again the hero of the story. The ending itself just felt like a bit of a cop-out. It also took us way too long to get to the mask itself. Almost half of the book was wasted on soccer practice. We were deprived of more old-man jokes. All in all, it was a good enough sequel that managed to be its own thing instead of a tired rehash. That counts as a win for me.
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 strength of the overall idea
Execution: the mechanics of storytelling
Character: the protagonists, antagonists, and villains
Intent: does it succeed in being the kind of book it wants to be?
Originality: subversion and reliance on genre tropes
The overall concept was solid and a lot of fun without being a tired rehash of the first book. I also liked the way it followed supporting characters from the first book.
It took way too long to get to the mask itself; nearly half the book. The ending also felt a bit like a cop-out. That said, it never felt tedious or boring.
Carly Beth was only a supporting character this time around but still managed to be the best character in the book. Steve was a bit too one-dimensional to carry the weight of the book on his own.
There’s some carryover of the claustrophobia from the first book, and there was an element of body horror I appreciated in Steve’s predicament. That being said, this book was more comical than scary.
I’ll give partial credit because I think it gave the sequel a unique spin. I think it could have gone father in terms of deepening the lore around the Unloved.
Based on GoodReads aggregate ratings, The Haunted Mask II is:
Ranked 33rd of 62 books in the original Goosebumps series.
TV Adaptation – Bullet Review
• Made some pretty significant changes to the beginning. Looks like they got the full original cast back together.
• Glad the iconic mask from the first one came back but I’m not sure I like how they did it.
• Steve has a Courtney Love poster in his room.
• Carly Beth got a much bigger role in this version.
• I enjoyed the shopkeeper creeping around in the original mask. I wanted more of that.
• Eliminating the first-grade soccer team storyline was a good call. It didn’t really add anything of substantial value.
• The original haunted mask is a real mouth breather. Also, that cloak has serious Sith Lord vibes.
• Drop your candy and sprint through the graveyard! That’s your only choice!
• “I was released by the power of Halloween!”
• The Haunted Mask was ultimately thwarted by a simple dodge to the right.
• My parents would never let us stay out past midnight on Halloween.
• Those masks must have smelled terrible burning.
• The two-part episodes are so much better-paced than the regular-length episodes.
Don’t miss the next post in my Goosebumps blog series:
Goosebumps #37: The Headless Ghost
Also, be sure to check out the latest from the Pulp Horror blog series:
Christopher Pike’s The Last Vampire