Red Rain, R.L. Stine's latest attempt to scare adults the way he scared children with Goosebumps, Fear Street, and other iconic series, opens with a hurricane. A travel blogger named Lea Sutter goes to Cape Le Chat Noir, a French-speaking island off the coast of South Carolina. During her visit, Lea learns that the island "is the only place on earth where the living share the space with the living dead." She witnesses a ceremony in which the dead are brought back to life, a scene that recalls tales of Haitian voodoo and the origins of the zombie. After a hurricane hits the island, Lea encounters orphaned 12-year-old twin boys, who she who brings home with her to Long Island.
Surprise: the twins don't fit in. They dislike Lea's husband Mark and obsess over a desire to rule their middle school. When gruesome murders begin to rock the town, no one suspects the young newcomers and their supernatural abilities. The twins have blond hair and glowing eyes, a la the children in Village of the Damned, a connection Stine acknowledges. The evil twins routine is also nothing new, bringing to mind the horrifying Grady sisters in The Shining. When Lea and Mark realize that something is terribly wrong with the twins, it's up to them to save the town.
The R.L. Stine brand is so closely tied to his children's series that many readers will be skeptical of his stabs at adult fiction. While Red Rain employs too many basic generic tropes to be truly scary, Stine masterfully builds suspense and I found myself aching to know what would happen next. Unfortunately, the prose is a little clunky; the dialogue and backstories feel like they might fit in a children's book, but they needed more complexity to work entirely for an adult audience. Still, the cheap gags early on become genuine thrills later, and the twists keep coming until the very last page.
Red Rain is ultimately about generational differences between parents and children — except instead of identifying with the kids, as we did in his previous work, we identify with the adults. This makes sense, as Stine attempts to reengage his aging Goosebumps generation. While the supernatural and gory elements build off of our most basic, childlike fears, the panic of growing up and raising a family may be the scariest thing of all.