November 1, 2016

SVT Super Chiller #5, The Curse of the Ruby Necklace: Ghosts on Film

Posted in books tagged , , at 5:12 pm by Jenn

I kind of like this cover

I kind of like this cover

Summary: Jessica finds the ruby necklace of the book’s title on the beach and quickly forms an attachment to it. She doesn’t even want to let Elizabeth hold it. The girls get distracted when they pass the old Keller mansion and see that a movie’s going to be filmed there. It’s called Dead Little Rich Girl, and somehow it’s not a trashy Lifetime movie. It stars a preteen actress named Shawn Brockaway and is being directed by a woman named Becka Silver. Take that, 21st century and your lack of female directors! The movie needs extras, and Becka wants the twins, since you can use them for longer amounts of time than regular child actors. Jessica’s thrilled, and Elizabeth’s just along for the ride.

Jessica drops the necklace in the water on the way home and dives in to get it, even though a storm has formed and the water’s become dangerous. She can’t explain what compelled her to risk her life for a necklace. She soon becomes even more Gollum-like with it, cleaning it and refusing to let anyone else touch it. That night, she has a dream about being in the Keller mansion and seeing someone dig around in a jewelry box. She falls off a balcony onto rocks on the beach, waking up just before she would have died in the dream.

Jess takes the necklace to school with her, losing track of time while she’s cleaning it off in the bathroom. That afternoon, the twins and a bunch of their classmates go to the Keller mansion so the movie crew can pick extras. The twins are shoo-ins, and Maria and Mandy are chosen as well. Lila gets rejected because her face is too modern for a movie that takes place in the 1930s. Only then to the girl learn what the movie’s actually about. It’s the true story of the murder of a 12-year-old girl…by another 12-year-old girl.

Even with the excitement of the movie and the fact that spring break is coming, Elizabeth notices that Jessica’s been a little off lately. It gets worse when she falls asleep in class and wakes up screaming from a nightmare. Jess is sent to the nurse, so Liz grabs her backpack, unknowingly taking possession of the necklace. She does some research on the Keller mansion, learning that Lillian Keller died there on her 12th birthday in the ’30s. How did she die? She fell from a balcony onto some rocks.

Since the twins only got one page of the movie script (the only scene where they have lines), they don’t know much about the plot. I was going to say that I can’t believe their parents let them accept a movie role without knowing anything about the movie, but…it’s Ned and Alice. They probably don’t even think the movie’s real. Liz wonders if Lillian’s death is what the movie’s about. Gee, Liz, you think? How many murders do you think occurred in that house?

Elizabeth tries to give the necklace back to Jessica, but Jess is suddenly uninterested in it. That’s fine with Liz, since she’s now pretty attached to it. That night, she has the same nightmare Jess did, with an additional detail: She can see that the man reaching into the jewelry box only has four fingers on that hand. Elizabeth’s new obsession with the necklace leads her to ask a science teacher about cleaning it, then borrow some chemicals to get the barnacles off of it. She accidentally loosens one of the stones, which was covering an engraving of the initials J.K.T.

It’s super-convenient that the movie starts filming just as the twins are out of school for spring break. Their cousin Robin comes to visit and get involved in their shenanigans. The girls get a crash course in filmmaking, partly from a lighting tech named Harold Brooks. Later, they learn that both twins had the same dream, though Liz doesn’t think it’s a big deal. She’s much more interested in writing an article on the movie and the history of the Kellers, which involves interviewing Becka. Becka sure has a lot of time to sit and chat with a 12-year-old.

Anyway, here’s the story of Lillian’s death: During her 12th birthday party, she got in a fight with a girl named Hilda Tomlinson, an orphaned cousin who lived with the Kellers. Lillian ran up to her parents’ bedroom, Hilda followed, and moments later, Lillian fell from the balcony. Hilda was immediately branded a killer and sent to an institution. No one knows what happened to her after that.

The scene where the twins have lines (well, really just Jessica, since Elizabeth doesn’t care much about acting and is going to let Jess play their role as much as possible) is the scene where Lillian and Hilda fight at the party. Shawn is playing Lillian, and she’s the biggest diva anyone has ever encountered. By the way, there are no parents or guardians on the set to look after all these child actors, so no one has any control over Shawn’s behavior. She’s nasty to everyone but nails every take, so I guess her amazing acting skills make people ignore her brattiness.

That night, Elizabeth dreams about Lillian and Hilda fighting, then running upstairs. Lillian says she’s going to put something in her mother’s jewelry box. When she gets to the room, the four-fingered man is there. Lillian seems to slip and fall over the balcony while the man tries to grab her ruby necklace. So Liz puts some pieces together – the girls were fighting over a necklace Lillian got for her birthday, which Hilda thought belonged to her mother. The twins decide that the necklace is so important that it’s caused them to try to protect it. They think the necklace is causing the nightmares, and Lillian’s ghost is trying to tell them something.

To make sure they’re right about the connection between the necklace and the dreams, the twins convince Robin to wear it to bed the next night. She reluctantly agrees. I think they should have given it to someone who didn’t know what was going on, since Robin knows the details of the dreams and could have them herself unrelated to the necklace, but this isn’t a formal psych experiment, so whatever. (It would have been funny if they’d snuck the necklace under Steven’s pillow to see what happened, though.)

At the mansion the next day, Elizabeth goes up to the Kellers’ bedroom, which looks just like it did in her dream. She runs into Mr. Brooks, who claims he came there to smoke because the other crew members don’t want to smell his cigarettes downstairs. But right after Elizabeth leaves, she runs into other crew members, including Becka, smoking. Hmmm, do you think there might be something suspicious about Mr. Brooks?

Robin does, indeed, have a nightmare that night, and is suddenly attached to the necklace. She fills in another blank in the dream, saying that the four-fingered man grabbed the necklace from Lillian as she fell, but he dropped it. Lillian was able to grab onto the edge of the balcony instead of falling right onto the rocks, and Hilda was there but doesn’t seem to have had anything to do with Lillian’s fall.

Becka lets the girls watch footage from their scenes the day before, and the three of them see a girl in the scene who wasn’t actually on set. She touches the actress playing Hilda, then points to a picture over the fireplace of Lillian’s mother at her wedding. They think they’re seeing Lillian’s ghost. After some brainstorming, they decide that Lillian was trying to tell them that Hilda got married and changed her last name, which is why no one can track her down. They manage to find her wedding announcement, which gives them her married name. After they look her up in the phone book (aw, a phone book), they decide to go see her. Well, the twins decide this. Robin thinks they’re nuts, since Hilda could very well be a murderer.

Hilda isn’t too thrilled to talk to girls who think she might have killed someone, but when she learns that they have the ruby necklace, she opens up. She confirms that she thought the necklace belonged to her mother, and she got upset when her aunt gave it to Lillian. Elizabeth remembers the initials J.K.T., which were Hilda’s mother’s initials, and agrees with Hilda. Hilda claims that Lillian had already gone over the balcony when she followed her (to apologize, not to fight more or, you know, kill her). She tried to pull Lillian up but wasn’t strong enough, and Lillian fell.

The Kellers’ chauffeur, Harry, was the next to arrive, and he told everyone he saw Hilda push Lillian. Hilda thinks he just thought he saw that when she was really trying to help Lillian. There are some details in Hilda’s story that don’t match the girls’ dreams, but they don’t really have a reason not to believe it. Hilda mentions that Harry always had one hand in his pocket (and the other was playing the piano…no, wait), which Liz finds odd. Hilda explains that he was self-conscious about only having four fingers on that hand.

No dummies (well, this time, at least), the girls figure that Harry the chauffeur is now Harold Brooks the lighting tech (who also tends to keep one hand in his pocket). It’s easy enough to confirm that Mr. Brooks only has four fingers on that hand, so the girls’ next step is to find out if Hilda’s story about trying to reach Lillian on the ledge makes sense. It does. So the theory the girls are going with is that Lillian caught Mr. Brooks trying to steal jewelry, and he pushed her off the balcony to keep her quiet. Becka tells the girls that Mr. Brooks retired from movies years ago, but he begged to work on this one when he heard about it. The girls think he wanted to make sure nothing about his crimes came out.

With help from Becka and a security guard named Tony, the girls come up with a plan to confront Mr. Brooks. Jessica dresses up as Lillian, putting on the ruby necklace, and reenacts the party, getting Mr. Brooks to follow her up to the bedroom. He’s smart enough to know he’s not actually dealing with a ghost, but he’s dumb enough to tell Jess that he’s going to kill her like he killed Lillian. People will just think she was playing in the room and fell off the balcony. He goes for the necklace, which is worth a ton of money, and Jessica gets backed up to the edge of the balcony and falls. Fortunately, there’s an air mattress already set up below for the stunt in the scene where Hilda kills Lillian.

Mr. Brooks ends up with the necklace, but Lillian’s ghost comes to him and shames him into feeling back about killing a 12-year-old and trying to kill another one. He’s arrested and confesses to all his crimes. This means the plot of the movie has to change, which makes Shawn mad – she’s not really the star anymore. Jessica silences her by throwing cake at her and starting a massive food fight. And I’m sure Shawn was never mean to anyone ever again. The girls then give Hilda the necklace and show her footage from an empty set so Lillian’s ghost can have one last conversation with her. TOTALLY NOT WEIRD AT ALL.

Thoughts: This was another of my favorites as a kid. I’m glad it came up right around Halloween.

Becka casts the twins, then asks if they can actually act. Good job, Becka.

“Excuse me, but catching killers is a job for the police, not for sixth-graders.” Robin’s too good for this series.

“What’s a stunt coordinator?” It’s the guy who does the catering, Elizabeth. What does it sound like?

Mandy, while the girls are talking about how they can’t stand Shawn: “Where’s Elizabeth? She should be here to not stand Shawn too.” Mandy is also too good for this series.

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