Series number: 49
Number of pages: 114
Release date: November 1996
Tagline: Open wide and say… mouthwash!
Did I Read It as a Child?: Yes
The Story On the Back
Tough. That’s Freddy Martinez and his friend, Cara. They’re not afraid 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…
The Story On the Pages
This story opens with the aforementioned Freddy and his best friend/fellow toughie Cara. They two are babysitting a child and scaring him with werewolf stories. Wait, werewolf stories in a vampire story? Nah, it’s okay. I’m into it. It’s a pretty gruesome story they’re telling to a six year old. Really sets the mood for how tough these two are.
Because they’re tough you know. SO TOUGH. Don’t forget that. It’s super important. And because they’re so tough, they constantly wrestle. And yes, it’s just as sexual as you’d imagine. And just as uncomfortable to read because Freddy and Cara are twelve. This constant wrestling is what leads them to discover the vampire because they knock over a china hutch and reveal a secret door.
Now, there’s not an actual twelve year old on Earth that would go through that door to explore a dark, cold tunnel that ends in a single room containing a coffin. But because this is R.L. Stine, explore these kids do! And when they find a coffin with a strange bottle in it, they have no trouble opening them both and releasing a vampire.
All this right here? This is actually very little of what happens in Vampire Breath. Finding the bottle of Vampire Breath and releasing a vampire is all that happens in Freddy’s basement. From there… well… they time travel.
Yeah. Time travel. A vampire story, not only with werewolf stories, but with time travel.
Here’s where the story takes a turn from being a slightly weird vampire tale to just being plain weird. Travelling back in time takes Freddy, Cara, and the vampire (named Count Nightwing because subtlety) to a castle filled to the brim with vampires.
The only thing that saves Freddy and Cara is that Nightwing has forgotten where he’s put his fangs and needs to find a full bottle of Vampire Breath to help with his memory. Well, some wacky things happen while on the search for that Vampire Breath but our non-vampire POVs find it and then end up back in Freddy’s basement.
They also brought the vampire back with them. Just as Nightwing goes in for the kill though, it’s revealed that he’s Freddy’s grandfather, as Freddy’s mother is Nightwing’s daughter.
Like me, you probably have two huge, looming questions: why can these vampires sexually reproduce? And what in the hell is Vampire Breath?
Honestly, I don’t know what to tell you. Vampire Breath is a thick, stinky fog that can make you time travel, make you invisible, help you sleep and remember, give you nice skin and freshen your breath. Vampires need it because they can’t live on blood alone. Who would have thought at the end of this I would have found a vampire story with weirder vamp continuity than Twilight!
I mean, I guess it’s kind of interesting having vamps need something more than blood, but stinky fog kept in a bottle that’s also used for time travel? That’s just too much for me folks. I mean, did R.L. Stine have so little to say about vampires that time travel had to come into it?
The main characters of Vampire Breath are Count Nightwing as the antagonist, and Freddy and Cara as the toughies that never stop talking about how they’re toughies. Oh, I’m sorry, I mean protagonists.
I don’t think I have much to say for Freddy and Cara. Nothing besides how uncomfortable I was while reading about how they’re always wrestling. Is it just me, or is it just too overtly sexual? I know they’re twelve, and of the prime age for horseplay, but between a boy and girl best friend duo? Seems like this “wrestling” will become something else as soon as puberty kicks in.
As for Count Nightwing? This guy is a goddamn mess! A vampire that has, not only taken his fangs out, but then can’t remember where he put them! Should vampires be able to take their teeth out? As far as I’m concerned, no, they shouldn’t be able to.
My headcanon for the perfect vamp? I think Buffy has it pretty perfect. Vampires are made when a demon steals a human body and pushes out their soul for its own. The biggest perk of this being that the human meat suit is strong and completely unaging. Teeth shouldn’t rot or loosen to the point where a vampire needs dentures! A proper vamp shouldn’t even get crow’s feet!
How do I feel about the characters after learning about the twist at the end? I guess I do feel bad for Freddy and Cara. Cara because she’s no doubt going to die from the discovery of this secret, and Freddy because he’s going to age as badly as his grandfather.
Spooks and Scares
Vampire Breath is not a scary book. Perhaps tense when Freddy and Cara first explore the secret tunnel, but it’s never scary. Count Nightwing, who is a vampire that’s literally threatening to suck these kids’ blood and turn them into vampires, is a joke despite this.
How am I supposed to be scared of a vampire that doesn’t have any fangs? Has bad memory? Is named Nightwing? This doesn’t feel like a story that Stine was particularly into. It’s just a farce. The characters, the narrative, the villain. Stine just isn’t into vampires.
I don’t blame the man. Vampires are hard to turn into child friendly content. Consider them for a moment compared to all other classic monsters. Are any that you can bring to mind as steeped in sexuality as a vampire? Are any as disturbing to watch feast? I mean, think about it! Here’s a monster that looks absolutely human until it sinks it’s fangs into someone’s neck and gorges itself on hot, thick blood!
Werewolves do it as an animal, mummy’s are long dead, dried out husks. These things make their monstrous acts seem more detached. But a vampire? You could say humanity is still in them because it looks like it’s still there. Looks are deceiving though and that makes it all the more distressing when you find out there isn’t a shred of compassion left in them.
I think a better twist ending for Vampire Breath would have been if Nightwing learned Freddy was his grandson but sucked his blood anyways. He’s a vampire, what should he care?