Vampire Beach Vacation: R.L. Stine’s Goodnight Kiss Books

The beach seems like the last place you would expect to find a vampire. Fun in the sun isn’t really their scene. But when the sun goes down, there are lots of shadows on the shore, beach bonfires, and moonlight strollers, often in singles or intimate pairs, which make for easy pickings. If the beach in question is a vacation spot, there’s also a transient, seasonal population of tourists coming and going, with fresh blood regularly rolling into town. These tourists often don’t know the area well or have ties to the local community, and while on vacation, they might be more likely to cut loose and make some risky decisions, so if one of them disappears or turns up dead every now and then, who’s going to make a fuss? In R.L. Stine’s Fear Street Super Chiller duo, Goodnight Kiss (1992) and Goodnight Kiss 2 (1996), the beach community of Sandy Hollow turns out to be the perfect place for vampires. 

The vampires of Sandy Hollow refer to themselves as the Eternal Ones, and most of them have been vampires for generations, though they have no memory of their pre-vampire lives. This could explain why these particular vampires look, think, and act like teenagers, with little of the awareness or self-control that one might expect from decades of experience and survival–but it does help them more effectively blend in and connect with the teens upon whom they prey. When the young men and women vacationing in Sandy Hollow head out for a night on the town in the hope of meeting other kids (and maybe even making a love connection), the vampires are there to welcome them with open arms and sharpened fangs. 

Stine definitely puts his own spin on the established vampire mythos and expectations. The vampires of Sandy Hollow are fanged monsters who sustain themselves by drinking the blood of humans, though they call blood “the nectar” (Goodnight Kiss 13). They can turn into bats, but they have to spin rapidly in place in order to do so. As Stine describes this transformation in Goodnight Kiss, the vampires “were spinning together, whirling with the wind beneath the smooth, steep rock cliff, whirling together—and then rising apart, rising into the dark sky, soaring high, then diving low over the beach, still dotted with groups of young people” (25). They sleep in coffins, with soil from their native land. A stake through the heart will kill them and so will the sun, usually, though they can move safely through a heavily overcast or rainy day. If a vampire feeds on a human three times, the human is transformed into an Eternal One. Given the amount of time the vampires spend with individual humans, there should reasonably be a significantly larger vampire population in Sandy Hollow, but Stine doesn’t tell us much about the hierarchy of the local vampire community, so it’s possible they fight for territory, that vampires move on to other locations once the summer is over, or that not all the vacationers-turned-vampires survive. Some of the vacationers who become vampires also head home with their families when the summer fun is done, carrying their curse back with them. The Sandy Hollow vampires are also really competitive, with a “who can turn one of those teenagers into a vampire first?” wager at the center of both Goodnight Kiss and Goodnight Kiss 2

In Goodnight Kiss, the trio of human friends spending their summer in Sandy Hollow are April Blair, her boyfriend Matt, and their friend Todd, who have come from Shadyside. April and Matt have spent summers with their families in Sandy Hollow before, but it’s Todd’s first year there and they’re excited to show him around. Vampires Jessica and Gabri (short for Gabriel) are thrilled to make the teens’ acquaintance as well, with Jessica setting her sights on Todd and Gabri zeroing in on April. Goodnight Kiss 2 features three guy friends: Billy, Jay, and Nate. Like the first book, two of the guys (Billy and Nate) have spent summers in Sandy Hollow with their families in previous years and know their way around, while Jay’s there for the first time. Without internal romantic distractions among their friend group, this frees the fellas up to meet three beautiful vampire girls: Kylie, Irene, and April (the same April from Goodnight Kiss, who didn’t get a happy ending). The teens are all traveling with their families, staying in beach houses or condos, but aside from some younger sibling drama—April’s twin younger sisters are a handful and Nate’s mom makes him take his little sister along when the guys go out—they pretty much have free reign. They don’t seem to have curfews and stay out half the night. Their parents have their own lives: Billy’s parents only come to Sandy Hollow at the weekends, so he’s there on his own all week, and when Nate’s little sister starts (unsurprisingly) having nightmares about vampires, his parents take her home and leave Nate at the beach to keep partying unsupervised. 

In each book, one of the main characters has his suspicions about what’s going on and tries to warn the others: in Goodnight Kiss, Matt’s a horror movie buff and knows the signs of vampire predation when he sees them, while in Goodnight Kiss 2, Billy has come back to Sandy Hollow this summer specifically to destroy the vampires, who killed his girlfriend Joelle the summer before. Like the prophetess Cassandra, however, their warnings fall on deaf ears and cost them friends: April breaks up with Matt and starts dating Gabri instead, dismissing Matt’s warnings as simple jealousy, while Billy’s friends tell him he’s crazy and Nate punches him in the face after Billy scares his little sister. Interestingly, people in Sandy Hollow talk about vampires plenty: there’s an abnormally large and aggressive population of bats in the beach community, who all live on an abandoned offshore island referred to as Vampire Island, and the community theatre’s summer production is about vampires. But no one actually believes in vampires, despite these connections (and the troubling number of mysterious deaths with bodies bearing neck puncture wounds), Vampires are make-believe, as everyone tells Matt and Billy, including the vampires themselves. 

Goodnight Kiss and Goodnight Kiss 2 follow a similar trajectory, as Matt and Billy desperately try to convince their friends of the danger of the vampires before it’s too late, even as Todd and Jay grow weaker by the day, with every night bringing them closer to becoming Eternal Ones. Some of their attempts at proving the existence of vampires are clandestine, like when Matt follows April and Gabri to the local carnival and takes pictures of them, in the hopes of proving that Gabri’s a vampire when he doesn’t show up in the pictures (which works just as he anticipated, though Matt lurking in the shadows to take pictures of them is still creepy). Others are a bit more aggressive (and maybe even slightly unhinged), like when Billy, Jay, and April seek shelter from a storm in the theatre’s basement, then Billy lies about what time it is to trick April into staying after sunrise so he can open the door and shove her outside to see if she bursts into flames (which fails miserably because April is just pretending to be a vampire to trick and then destroy the real vampires. She’s also not actually April, but April’s cousin Diana, still devastated over her vampire cousin’s suicide by sunlight after being turned into a vampire last summer). 

Matt and Billy both have to make the trip to Vampire Island for their final confrontation with the monsters, pushing through wild undergrowth to the burned out, abandoned houses the vampires have claimed as their own and dodging swarms of bats (who aren’t all vampires, though it’s hard to tell which ones are real bats and which are vampires in disguise, so best to be wary). Matt has to make his final stand alone, using a rowboat oar as a makeshift stake to kill Gabri in memorable fashion. As Stine writes in Goodnight Kiss, Gabri “opened his mouth to cry out, and a gray moth fluttered out … And as Matt stared in horror, Garbri’s body collapsed to the floor, folding like an accordion. His eyes stared lifelessly up at Matt, and Gabri’s face began to crumble, the skin drying and peeling, flaking to powder until the entire skull was revealed … And then the skull too disintegrated. Fell apart and crumbled” (206). Jessica is killed by fire, when Matt sets her ablaze and “Her wild cry faded only when her face began to melt, rivulets of skin dripping down like a burning wax candle” (212). In Goodnight Kiss 2, Billy and Diana head to Vampire Island together, a united front. Billy stakes Irene, who crumbles much as Gabri did, but Kylie is killed by the sunlight. When the light hit Kylie, “her skin began to shrivel and peel off … [she was] bending in pain, howling, howling … Until her head rolled off her body. Her body tumbled to the floor, across the square of orange light, melting, flaking, shriveling” (209). At the end of each book, the heroes are finally believed, emerging victorious, as the main vampire antagonists have been destroyed. 

But the larger vampire threat persists. Goodnight Kiss and Goodnight Kiss 2 feature some of Stine’s most fatalistic endings, with success achieved only to be snatched away moments later. In Goodnight Kiss, Matt has defeated the vampires and won April back, only to have her turn on him, as she “reached up and grabbed his shoulders with surprising strength, and bared her fangs, slender and pale in the light of the half moon” (215) as she attacks him. In Goodnight Kiss 2, Billy and Diana are united in their hatred for and desire to get vengeance on the vampires who killed people they loved, but it turns out Billy is a vampire too, attacking Diana in the book’s final pages, in the bright, public space of the local pizzeria in front of dozens of witnesses, so it at least seems likely that the Sandy Hollow residents will have to acknowledge the existence of vampires now (not that does Diana much good). 

Goodnight Kiss and Goodnight Kiss 2 present an interesting riff on the traditional vampire narrative, upholding several expected components like bloodsucking, the ability to transform into a bat, and death by staking, while re-situating these monsters within an idyllic beach setting. While the world through which they move and the teens with whom they share it may deviate from the usual story, the vampires of Sandy Hollow are just as dangerous as the more conventional versions of these monsters, as they prey upon this seaside community and leave a trail of dead teens in their wake. The even greater horror, however, is for those who survive as Eternal Ones, the teens who have been transformed into vampires and will now take their turn hunting, whether in the streets of Sandy Hollow or in their own hometowns. icon-paragraph-end

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