Finley, Helen, Abelene, Cora and Vivian are driving to a place out in the sticks, a place chosen by Helen this year as their annual 'daring' and 'exciting' place to hang out and basically have a bit of an adventure. When they arrive it's clearly been deserted for some time, about 12 years in fact, so Helen tells us. Helen is the chubby, not-so-popular one that has a downer on herself. Finley has brought her camera along and spends pretty much the entire time filming everything and everyone for posterity. We're snapped back to the past in some of the chapters(subtitled 'Belmore Girls') alternating at first with the present day chapters. This changes as the book goes on and at the 47% point that I've reached so far it's become irregular, sometimes a few chapters of the present day, and then a couple in a row of 'Belmore Girls' chapters. I think on the whole these flashbacks work quite well, giving us a good insight into what makes the girls tick and why they have certain hang-ups and so on. In Finley the camera-girl's case we're shown the part of her life where she met the other girls. It all takes place in the girls showers(hooray...), the girls are doing their thing, getting all soaped up and slippery in the showers having a rare ol' time of it and a good ol' chin-wag when in runs a girl wearing a gorilla mask and filming them in the nod with her camera. After a bit of a scuffle and such, the girls manage to grab Finley and take her back to their room where she's interrogated. As it turns out she's been blackmailed into taping the hot one of the five, Vivian, for a guy called Darryl Rathbone, who's a 'sig' apparently. I'm not entirely sure what a 'sig' is but I'm going to guess it means he's a senior or something. Anyway he grabs Finley's camera and makes as if to smash it, forcing her to agree to his nefarious scheme, telling her he'll put a bounty on her if she betrays him. She's not sure what that bounty will be but isn't looking forward to finding out. As things progress we're shown in another flashback what happens to Darryl and his fellow 'sigs' when the girls take their revenge. All good fun so far.
Anyway, back to the present and the girls have found a pool underneath an archway at the Lodge and have stripped off to take a dip. It's dark so they bring a lantern and torches and it's all nice spooky fun until one of the girls spots a young man just standing there watching them. As you can imagine, this doesn't go down too well with the girls who make a swift exit from the pool area and head back upstairs to explore the rest of the lodge. The girls, in various states of undress or sodden, clinging clothing try various rooms only to find them all locked and after another flashback where the girls get their revenge on Meredith Hardin, the Dean of Women at Belmore by basically trashing her office they decide it'd be safer to sleep outside away from the lodge for the night. Helen regales them with a story about the Lodge and how a group of hunters shot a young girl by accident before deciding to make the most of the situation and rape her before she dies. The locals, who we've been told are deformed and insular people take matters into their own hands and shoot all twenty eight of them staying at the Lodge. Nice bedtime story there Helen. Sleep well everyone. Things are taken up a notch again here when they wake to find Helen missing, and after a bit of panicking they go looking for her. There's a nice bit here now where we're treated to a wonderful descriptive passage describing Cora as she walks along a path ahead of the girls in her wet red gym shorts. HOORRRAAAAYYYY!!!!
Cora’s head kept swiveling. Her short hair, the color of dry hay on top, was dark around her ears and neck where it clung to her skin in wet points and curls. Her tank top was sodden. Her tanned shoulders looked greasy with sweat. The seat of her red shorts looked molded to her buttocks.
I've bolded and underlined the relevant part here to make absolutely sure you don't miss it. You're welcome!
As the girls head off into the woods on their quest for Helen, they follow a little trodden pathway that eventually leads them to some sort of inlet that crosses their path and are forced to wade through it in order to continue their search. I almost expected some jaw-gnashing piranha or something to assail them here but it all passes without incident and they continue their journey by heading off to the North. It's at this point that they come across an old log cabin fronted by a porch housing a rocking chair. They enter and begin to have a look around, discovering various jars of yellowing fluid containing, amongst other things, heads of chickens, and also some eyeballs. A gunshot sounds as they're inside and everyone freezes.
Enter old Batty....
There's some debate here amongst the girls as to whether old Batty is actually a man or a woman, but I saw her as a woman myself(I don't know why really) so I'll refer to her as her. So old Batty it turns out is a bit of a witchy type, or at least a bit psychic and performs a nice little spooky bit of stuff here involving the blood of the girls, a makeshift pendulum, and a good bit of blood-quaffing to boot. As the little pendulum swings around a map of the area a little droplet of blood drips onto it right where the Lodge is. It turns out Helen never left the lodge, and so the girls head back off to see what they can find. Incidentally, old Batty doesn't perform this little service for free and demands Vivian's lovely white Reeboks as payment.
The girls are searching the Lodge again now, for the second time and are wandering around downstairs when they hear a cat 'meooowwwing'. They follow the sound and trace it back to a locked door which they open with a crow-bar, or tire-tool(?) as it is here. It leads them down to the pool where they turn into the Men's locker rooms, and finding nothing, they venture on into the actual shower rooms. It's at this point that I had to smile a little, since we've been told before a couple of times I believe that Helen is not at all keen on using the showers on her own since that time when a stray hand grabbed her breast as she was showering. This of course would make anyone a little nervous I'm guessing, but it must be a real bugger actually being 'afraid' of shower rooms. I shouldn't laugh really but, well this was just priceless,
Showers. Oh God, Abilene thought. Helen can't be in there. Can't be! She's terrified of shower rooms.
Oh my God, I love that bit. I'm brought back to earth swiftly now though when the girls enter the shower room to discover,
Helen on the floor. Sprawled on her back, arms at her sides, legs spread, swimsuit gone, the handle of a knife standing upright from the gory mound of her belly, her head turned, her open eyes greeting her friends with a blank stare. The white cat, near her hip, lapped at the lake of blood.
Helen's death hit me harder than it should have I think. I liked Helen, and I really didn't expect to find her dead. I was sure she was going to be found alive, and probably not in the best of condition, but 'alive' for sure. Oh well, it was a good scene that. I enjoyed it even though we've lost Helen.
Cover artwork for the Headline 1992 edition. I always think of Blood Games as Laymon's attempt at/ on chick lit. There seemed far less horror content than his previous novels (although it's still there - Old Batty is a formidable psycho for sure, and I think there may even be a supernatural episode).
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.
After the sad death of Helen, the girls decide the best course of action would be to arm themselves and deal with the murderer themselves, so they head back to Batty's place in order to steal his shotgun. This strikes me as either a) very brave, courageous and girl-powery, or b) very, very stupid, or possibly c) some combination of the two. In the end they do manage to snag the shotgun, and inflict a jolly good wound or two on Batty himself who's now left with a broken and limp arm. The girls head off again across the lake, and as they do they watch as Batty prances about on the lakeside waving a bone around like a crazy person. It serves it's purpose though since a great storm rises on the lake and sinks their little boat, although not before they reach the diving platform and some semblance of safety.
The girls walk back to the lodge, poor Cora limping along as best she can after putting her foot through the deck of the diving platform. More of Batty's magic, or just coincidence? Cue spooky music. When they reach the lodge, Cora and Abilene wait at the edge of the woods while the others go get some supplies from the car when they notice they're being watched. Abilene chases him down and there's a bit of a struggle ending with a knife at her throat, and the boy, Jim, pleading his innocence. There's a reference to Great Billy Goat Hank here, which I'm sure I remember from Funland don't I? Great Big Billy Goat Gruff?
Jim is claiming his brother, Hank, killed Helen. The girls tie him up and listen as he explains how Hank only comes out at night due to his lack of eyelids, the sun pretty much making him blind. There's a great YUCK! moment as he tells them that Hank makes him lick his eyeballs too.
More flashbacks, Cora's choice this time, and they're in an RV and meet Rick who Finley and Helen promptly jump, strip and shag, and for apparently no other reason than they feel like it. I don't know about some of these flashbacks. I suppose they add a little character development of a kind, but I'm not entirely sure they're absolutely necessary. I'm not sure that I'd have missed any of them really except the one's that relate the girls originally meeting and so on. The later one's... yeah, not so much.
Moving on then, and the girls get set up in the lodge ready to ambush Hank. Jim agrees to act as bait and so gets tied to one of the wooden pillars while the girls lay low upstairs on the landing waiting their chance with the shotgun. Soon, someone turns up. It's dark and at first they assume it must be Hank. A shot rings out, but it's clear that it's actually Batty that's come, naked, painted red(with bat's blood no less) and with his long white bone in his one good hand. It's surprising really how easily he went down given his proven track record with magic.
Jim shows his true colours now, escaping his bonds and grabbing Vivian, the especially pretty one we're told, adorned with white nit shorts etc. Jim now makes us all very happy as he orders her to strip for his(and our) pleasure. I think this may very well be worthy of a quote actually,
She pulled her shirt up, drew it over her head, slipped her arms out of it and tossed it aside. 'Yeah,' Jim said. 'Yeah. Yer the best a the lot. Nice. That other, she was a pig.' You're the pig,' Abilene said.
and so he is, and continues to prove it here,
'Who told ya t'stop?' She unfastened her white shorts. She bent over, pulling them down. She stepped out of them.
'Ya ain't done yet.' 'Why are you doing this?' she asked. 'The fun of it. I been achin' t'do you. Just achin'. Get 'em off.' Vivian slipped her panties down to her ankles. The light roamed slowly down her body. 'Yeah. Yer a real beauty. Never had me a gal the likes a you.'
So after our little intermission Abilene runs from Jim, throwing herself through a window and knocking herself silly as she falls a story or two. It's at this point that the ghost of Helen appears to her and points out that there's a jolly handy knife just waiting for someone to claim it. Namely, the one stuck in her corpse back at the shower room. I like to think at this juncture that she's not just hallucinating but is actually having a real, live ghostly, supernatural-type experience. I really loved this bit. Helen seems surprisingly cheery too given that she's dead.
She somehow manages to drag herself up onto her feet as well as staying one step ahead of Jim and makes for the shower room where she guides herself in through the darkness over to Helen's dead body. There's another struggle as Jim arrives, only to be on the receiving end of said knife. Abilene makes the most of it too and only stops stabbing at his cold, lifeless body when the blade breaks in him. The girls turn up(albeit a little after time) and seem quite impressed with her handiwork.
As the girls retrieve the long-lost car keys and finally drive off, Abilene wonders if Helen is with them. She had, after all mentioned that it was a gorgeous night. Nice ending I thought.
This is up there with the best of Mr Laymon I think, the one's I've read of course. It helped I think that all the characters being of the female persuasion just led Mr Laymon to have a bit of field day, and I'm pleased to say, I think he outdid himself with some of the girly descriptions and passages. I really liked the one describing Cora's backside complete with red shorts(of course) as she strolled along the path.
Great stuff Mr Laymon. I take my hat off to you sir.