Sunday, February 5, 2023

Return to Kettle Springs: Clown in a Cornfield 2: Frendo Lives (2022)

Clown In A Cornfield 2: Frendo Lives
Author: Adam Cesare
Publication Year: 2022
Chapters: 30 (Epilogue included)
Rating: ***1/2

Quinn Maybrook, Cole Hill and Rust Vance. The Baypen Three. It's been some time after they survived the Kettle Spring Massacre, the orchestrated attack at a small Missouri town committed by its radicalized adults who made it their mission to cleanse their community of its "blighted youths", and all our survivors wanted to do now is move on from that nightmare, figuratively and literally. But as word of the massacre spreads all over media and the truth becomes lost the further it goes, it made way not only to unexpected (and for some, unwanted) fame for Quinn, Cole and Rust, but also to internet conspiracy theorists attempting to twist the narrative to their own version of events wherein the three are painted as the masterminds behind the massacre.

Now heroes to some and villains to others, the Baypen Three see themselves getting praises and disgust from wherever they go and whoever they meet, but things are about to become deadly as they and their loved ones are suddenly targeted by what looks like coordinated attacks by goons wearing familiar looking clown masks. Knowing that the threat is far from over, Quinn, Cole and Rust must go back to Kettle Springs, Missouri, where there awaits something far more sinister than what they could've ever imagined.

In true horror sequel fashion, Clown in a Cornfield 2: Frendo Lives aims to outdo its predecessor and it does so by shaking the very foundation it itself built in order to widen its world and explore it further. Much like the first book, this sequel novel took its time establishing the lives of our main casts after surviving such a horrendous event. It is here we see notable angles being approached such as PTSD, the pros and cons of media attention and criticisms on violent extremism and mob mentality through out the internet and social media, a whole baggage of heavy ideas that's ripe exploited in a slasher plot, though done here in a much more creative swing. 

In fact, Frendo Lives is more of a up and up slasher hybrid rather than a straight-up slasher story; while we do get a couple of slasher flick style stalkings, attacks and murders, these mostly taking place within the first half of the novel and with great effect, they would eventually play second bananas to what will gradually become something of a melting pot of chases and sieges ala Purge sequel as the town of Kettle Springs devolves into a warzone invaded by radical types with a warped sense of "justice". It's mostly braindead fun, graphic descriptions of violence and murders coinciding with a lot of the wit and snark young adult horrors tend to have, though at times it paints a serious picture showing how media, especially social media, often trivialized true crime and many people would suck it dry for clout or blindly follow radicalized ideas surrounding it if it meant comfort or self-righteousness rather than face the facts. 

It's a tough dose of satire, one that holds a lot of weight in this day and age of vlogs, internet forums and online communities, but writer Adam Cesare thankfully knew how to balance it out with horror fiction filled with clown masked maniacs, unsettling imagery of shootouts and descriptive splatter, topped with flawed yet likeable characters, both old and new, brewing up good ole drama in the midst of it all. My only qualm here is that the conclusion felt lacking; without spoiling a lot, the whole town being sieged thing simply just ended once the tide started to turn against them. With all the damage they dealt, I expected something equally as grandeur, but we're instead given an epilogue where one of the survivors tell us what happened afterwards before concluding with a very cliched sequel bait. An underwhelming finish in my mind, but it could have been worse.

While the first Clown in a Cornfield is an easily favorable slasher fiction that one can enjoy as a standalone novel, Frendo Lives serves as a welcome follow-up should you ever see yourself wanting more of the Baypen Three's as horror survivors. Fast paced and savagely thrilling, another fantastic read for literary horror fans!

Bodycount: 11(?*
Notable Kill: A very graphic razor wire murder. Like, the book didn't stint on the excruciating detail of flesh and bone being sawed away. Had me wincing the way I did during that scene from Audition (1999)
(*Have to leave out a few survivable attacks, like that one guy who got a baseball bat to the face. The book never specified if any of these victims were straight-out killed, so I'm not counting them.)

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