Front Tagline: Open wide and say...mouthwash!
Back Tagline: He's a dentist's nightmare...
Official Book Description:
Tough. That's Freddy Martinez and his friend, Cara. They're not aftaid of anything. But that was before they went exploring in Freddy's basement. Before they found the secret room. Before they found the bottle of Vampire Breath.
Poor Freddy and Cara. They should have never opened that bottle of Vampire Breath. Because now there's a vampire in Freddy's basement. And he's very, very thirsty....
I'm not sure why by this point I thought it wouldn't, but this book about vampires begins with werewolves. Freddy is babysitting his neighbor Tyler and telling him a spooky story about how werewolves will come up behind you and breathe down your neck. Oh I get the subtext. Freddy climaxes his horrifying story by ruthlessly tickling the poor kid, which is weird enough if it wasn't for him following that action by turning to tickle his female best friend, Cara, who came over to keep Freddy company. The two wrestle around and then Freddy talks some more about how creepy werewolves are-- needless to say, he does not recap the events of the Werewolf of Fever Swamp to achieve this. As Freddy talks about the soft thud of the werewolf's feet, the kids hear a soft thud of footsteps from within the house. Is it a werewolf?!? Yes! The End.
But the Twist is:
It's not really a werewolf at all, but Tyler's parents, who narrowly miss their son's molestation at the hands of the babysitter.
Back at Freddy's house, he and Cara pass the time by playing some air hockey in the basement. Air hockey is not usually considered a full-contact sport, but someone forgot to tell these two and the game quickly devolves into an actual hockey match as the two kids punch and shove each other around the small room. Freddy pushes Cara into the wall and the two playfully wrestle each other for more pages than I was really comfortable reading. Eventually Cara accidently knocks over the large china cabinet, revealing a hidden door. Behind the door the two kids discover a dark tunnel. Reasoning that if you find a secret door leading to a secret tunnel in your basement, you're required to investigate where it leads, the two kids grab some flashlights and make their way down the damp stone tunnel.
At the end of the tunnel they find a small room holding an empty coffin. The coffin is lined in purple velvet and the kids figure they've found Prince's clubhouse. Freddy picks up a small glass bottle inside the coffin and the two kids struggle to read the label on the bottle: "Vampire Breath." The two kids fight over opening the glass bottle, leading them to drop the container. The bottle spills open, spewing out noxious smoke. Oh man, they busted Prince's bong!
As the smoke clears, the two kids spy a form inside the coffin: an old man! The bald ghoul blinks his eyes awake and slowly climbs out of the coffin. He announces that he's Count Nightwing, a prominent vampire, and he very thirsty. Oh man, Prince has resorted to roofie-ing old men now? How the mighty have fallen. The vampire chases the two kids down the tunnel, trapping them at the end when the entry door swings shut. Freddy figures ladies first and lets Count Nightwing attack his friend first, but Nightwing quickly recoils from Cara's neck after he realizes he doesn't have his fangs. Cara tells him not to worry, it happens to a lot of guys, but Count Nightwing gets furious and makes the kids help him look for the bottle of Vampire Breath they opened.
The Vampire Breath is a magical potion that brought Count Nightwing into the future from his own time, and if the kids help him find the bottle, he'll go back to his time and leave them alone. Yes, trusting the evil vampire, that's the right course of action kids. Eventually they find and open the bottle, but the two kids are more than a little miffed to discover that they've been brought back in time with Count Nightwing. Once the fumes fade away, Cara and Freddy find themselves in a large room inside what appears to be a castle. At the top of the high ceiling, yellow moonlight pours in, revealing dozens of coffins. Freddy and Cara hide in the shadows as dozens of vampires emerge from their coffins, turn into bats, and then fly out through the open windows.
The two kids try to escape, only to run into Count Nightwing, who is awfully sorry about transporting them back to his time. He tells the kids he'd be happy to help them by turning them into vampires. Freddy and Cara decline the generous offer, but Count Nightwing is insistent that the two help him find his bottle of Vampire Breath. See, the empty bottle was empty in 1996, but in 1896, it's full of Vampire Breath. Stephen Hawking, don't read this book.
Count Nightwing explains that every vampire must supplement their diet of blood with daily doses of Vampire Breath. A vampire's private dose of Vampire Breath is highly guarded and kept hidden from the other vampires, only Count Nightwing can't remember where he hid his bottle or his fangs. The count forces the kids to help him look around the castle for the potion. Freddy and Cara split from the count and reason that if they find his bottle of Vampire Breath first, they can use it to zap themselves Back To the Future-- hey, that reminds me of a certain 80's movie classic!
Cara has an even better idea: get the hell out of the vampire castle. Unfortunately, all of the windows are either too high or outfitted with black bars to prevent burglars from stealing valuable vampires. As the two kids walk through a vast dining room covered in dust, Cara gets an idea, and in what might be a first, it's actually fairly clever. Cara figures that since the vampires don't eat, they'd have no need for the kitchen, so they can hide out there and figure out their next move. Cara is quite insistent on not becoming a vampire:
"I'm only twelve," Cara moaned. "I'm not ready to die and then live forever!"
Which is also pretty clever-- this book's actually a lot better than it probably sounds in this summary.
Inside the kitchen, they spot a window without bars! Freddy jumps up on the ledge and prepares to jump out when he notices his feet are not making contact with the ground. He looks down and sees that the castle is built high atop a cliff. I know children have been taught to look both ways before crossing the street and not to take candy from strangers, but I think that we as a society have failed if our children need to be taught to look before jumping out of a window. Freddy is saved from falling to his death by a giant bat, who swoops him up back into the kitchen. The goddamn man bat transforms back into Count Nightwing, who chides the children on trying to escape and tells them to get back to work looking for his bottle. I'm sure all the kids of alcoholic parents got more scares out of this book than usual.
The kids keep checking room after room in the cavernous castle. Finally they come across another mausoleum lined with empty coffins-- except for one with its lid clamped firmly shut. Inside a hidden pocket in the coffin they find the bottle of Vampire Breath. A quick question here: Why are these magical glass bottles labeled at all?
Before they can make their escape, the two are stopped by a twelve-year-old girl with curly blonde hair. She introduces herself as Gwendolyn and explains that Count Nightwing and the other vampires keep her prisoner in the castle, forcing her to clean their coffins under the threat of turning her into a vampire. Gwendolyn leads the kids down a secret passageway in the castle so they can escape and be spared her ordeal. Once she gets the kids deep within the castle walls, the blonde girl reveals her fangs and attempts to feast on the two friends. Oh, she's like Kirsten Dunst in that movie, Marie Antoinette.
Before Gwendolyn can sink her teeth into Freddy's neck, Count Nightwing, the master of convenient timing, shows up and in one of the best scenes to ever happen in one of these books, the 12-year-old vampire girl and the old man vampire duke it out. Freddy and Cara quietly slink out of the passageway and find themselves in a supply closet loaded with empty bottles of Vampire Breath. Count Nightwing shows up (see?) and thanks the kids for reminding him where he hid his full bottle: among the empties in the closet. As Nightwing furiously searches for his bottle among the spent vessels, the two kids prove 2 fast 2 furious and find it first. But then Count Nightwing swipes it. But then Cara swipes it back and the two kids play Monkey in the Middle with the vampire. Their game goes back and forth over the vampire's head until Count Nightwing simply floats up in the air and grabs the bottle. Only that bottle too is empty, as Freddy made a switch.
Freddy opens the bottle of Vampire Breath and is relieved to see his air hockey table through the thinning smoke. He and Cara are however not relieved to see Count Nightwing came back with them. Nightwing pouts around the basement and complains that he still doesn't have his fangs and he'll starve to death without them. Just then, Freddy's parents barge down the basement stairs. Freddy tells them the old man is a real-life vampire. Before they can alert Pitchfork that they've indeed had quite the Vampire Weekend, Freddy's mom tells him to go upstairs to make a sandwich for himself and Cara, because
But the Twist is:
The vampire Count Nightwing is Freddy's grandfather, who was taking a nap. Freddy's mom tells the old man that his fangs are safe, floating in a glass in the secret basement bathroom-- how many secret rooms can one basement hide? Freddy is surprised that not only does he have a grandfather he never knew about, he has a vampire grandfather that his parents kept buried in a secret passageway behind the china cabinet.
But Apparently That Twist Wasn't Enough, Because the Next Twist is:
Freddy and Cara sneak off to the hidden basement bathroom and lock themselves inside. Before the reader is treated to more long, uncomfortable passages of the two wrestling and tickling each other, Cara discovers a bottle marked "Werewolf Sweat"-- Oh Lord, you just knew one werewolf passage wasn't going to be enough. Cara spills the bottle over the both of them and they begin to loudly growl, not unlike the sound I made after having what was a surprisingly good book spoiled by a completely ridiculous finale.
the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Cara and Freddy, who disappears out a window halfway through the novel.
I don't know what's worse: Hiding a vampire grandparent in a hidden chamber, or keeping the knowledge of another bathroom a secret in a crowded family house.
Our main characters are named Freddy Martinez and Cara Simonetti... the book's both well-written and features minorities? And to think people still question whether some of these titles were ghostwritten!
Alert the Authorities Alert:
"I'm a very good babysitter. I always know when to stop tickling."
Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Nothing came out of the bottle. All together now: Something came out of the bottle.
Great Prose Alert:
"Give me a break," the werewolf said.
Vampire Breath is without question the best-written book in this series in terms of prose, and the story itself isn't half bad either. I am convinced of two things: RL Stine didn't write this, and whoever did write this had their original ending replaced with the astonishingly inept finale recounted above. The ending to this book is almost obscenely at odds with what came before it. I feel sorry for whoever the poor writer was who had this taken away from them, but they can rest easy knowing that at least their name isn't associated with it. What are RL Stine's thoughts on the matter? He's very sorry but he can't come to the phone right now, he's too busy drinking orange juice on the deck of his yacht.