Try Not to Die at Grandma's House by Mark Tullius and Anthony Szpak
After an evening meal at a diner, David's mom tries to get him to drive home, dangling the minivan keys in his face, but David can't decide if he wants to get behind the wheel. David is very indecisive, his dad says so, and then like a massive jerk, he drives home instead. While David thinks of his older brother who had his face eaten off while visiting his grandparents, David's little sister Sam climbs in the back with her pet ants that she obviously took to dinner which is not weird at all and mom gets in the front. She has trouble buckling her seatbelt foretelling disturbing things to come. She cranks the heat which makes Dad, and probably the ants, sweaty. Dad takes off his coat whilst driving 100 miles per hour on a wet bridge and then they crash because of course they do. Everything's fine until they're hit by a semi and plunge into the icy water below. Jerk dad didn't make it and neither did the ants, but David and Sam, shaken, are able to free themselves from their seatbelts. Mom though... She is stuck. Should David help her or abandon her?
Abandoning mom, dad and the ants, David and Sam swim to the surface. After an indeterminate amount of time in the ER, some neighbors come and temporarily care for the children until after the funeral for the parents, not the ants, when they must go and live with the grandparents who make everyone uncomfortable with their tight tight arm squeezes and the whole dead brother missing face thing. Sam tries to escape out the window and tries to convince David to do it too. But does he?
No, he semi-willingly goes along with his grandparents. Sam is lured into the car with candy ((strike through)) a knife and they set off. Grandpa creepily whistles along with the radio while Grandma offers them the best road trip food: tuna fish sandwiches. They stop at a gas station to potty and then David sees a chance to escape. There's a cop! Does David tell the cop they've been kidnapped by whistling knife-giving tuna eaters or does he get back in the car?
He gets back in of course because there's nothing he could say to the cops that wouldn't make him sound crazy. Just say it out loud. Whistling knife-giving tuna eaters. Weird. Soon David falls asleep and wakes up again when they arrive at Grandma's House in West Virginia. David and Sam ask if they can explore a little before breakfast in an hour and after threatening them with snakes and bears, Grandpa says they can go, but if they get to the fence to get their butts back. David doesn't really want to go, but Sam does and takes off. Does David follow, try to drag Sam back or get his grandpa for help?
Since David doesn't want to get lost in the woods, he tries to get Sam to come back to the house with him so they can have breakfast, but Sam whips out her pocket knife and they instead head into the woods in search of the place where their older brother's body was found even though they literally have no idea where that is. They get turned around and end up at the fence and can hear something on the other side. As Sam starts to throw a rock at whatever it is, a dirty, shirtless, toothless boy says she shouldn't do it. Sam's not afraid but the boy says her brother weren't scared of nothing either and then takes off running. What should they do? Go back home? Follow the boy? Look over the fence?
Grandpa will probably kill David and Sam if they don't make it home in time for breakfast, so they head back. Grandpa is overly aggressive and gives lots of too hard arm squeezes but they make it through breakfast. They ask about the creature on the other side of the fence and about the dirty boy and about what killed Tim but they don't get many answers. In his room, Grandma tells David that there's a sad parentless bear on the other side of the fence but it wasn't what killed his brother. After this, David has to go stack firewood in the middle of a sweltering summer until it's time to eat, build fires and go to bed. Sam and David share a bed that night after being threatened to not open any windows and wake up to a weird giant scorpion beetle creature on Sam's lap. Should David kick the creature off the bed, go for Sam's knife or shield Sam from the attack?
David kicks the creature off and Grandpa Joe comes in and sets it on fire, telling them to never cut one open (spoiler alert, it's full of burrowing brain-eating slugs). Apparently, despite being told not to open the window they opened the window and this mutant came inside. They're all over the place out there but only come out at night. The flimsy explanation of what they are is an exotic pet that mated with something in the woods. The next morning, Grandpa Joe is out running errands and Sam takes off into the trees. Does David follow her or stay inside with Grandma?
He follows because who wants to stay inside with an eerily creepy grandma who would definitely force you to drink poisoned tea? David and Sam run into the woods and find Charlie, the dirty yokel boy and talk about the sad bear. Sam climbs a tree to stare at him even though he's not what killed their brother. David wants to see too, but he's not a good climber... Should he climb up anyway, ask Sam what's going on or find another way to watch the bear take a bath?
David climbs the tree. It's a good thing because every other option leads to Sam falling to her gruesome death with eye gouges or skull crackings. David watches the sad bear and realizes it's not a sad bear but some other sort of sad creature and it's carrying a squirrel to eat ((which he did not cook according to the recipe found in The Joy of Cooking)). The creature gets startled when they all hear grandpa driving back from his errands and runs off into a cave that reminds David of the zoo whilst David and Sam run back to the house and Charlie causes a distraction by walking on his hands in the middle of the road. David and Sam make it back to the house and pretend to have been chopping firewood which makes grandpa angry because he didn't give anyone permission to use the axe, but then he goes inside. Sam tells David that they have to leave and suggests they steal Grandpa's car. Does David cause a distraction so Sam can get the keys? Does he steal them himself? Or do they just make a run for it?
David decides to man up and get the keys himself, but we all know David is a wienerbag and that this doesn't go as planned. Better than the moonshine-fueled deaths at Charlie's place and the violent log and axe deaths if they cause a distraction. He goes to his room pretending to be sick and passes Grandpa coming up from the locked basement after carrying a giant clanking black duffel bag down there. David anxiously paces back and forth in his room, thinking about his brother, when he realizes a floorboard is loose. He pulls it up to find drawings made by Tim when he lived here, probably before his face was mauled off, of the mutants and also of buttholes. David hears someone coming, so he hides the butthole drawings, also there’s one of Grandpa, but the buttholes are probably nicer than Grandpa is, and then jumps in the bed. Grandma comes in with some cheap knockoff ginger ale that is actually poisoned and hugs David while he cries and drinks the poison. She leaves the room as he passes out.
David wakes up to Sam dumping a mug of water on his face. She tells him that Grandma drugged them both, but she saw her mixing something into her cup so when Grandma wasn't looking, she poured hers out and pretended to be sleepy when Grandma kept asking. But now she's here and they need to get the hell out. Grandma and Grandpa left for the woods with a gun and who knows when they'll be back. David shambles around while Sam looks for keys but they can't find any. Then they decide that maybe they should check the basement that Grandpa keeps locked. Do they go downstairs or run away and try to find Charlie's house?
They go down the stairs. Heading to Charlie's again leads to a moonshine car accident, so they'd better not do that. The basement isn't a basement, but more like a research facility. There are creatures in jars and gleaming instruments. One of the mutants is trapped in there and there's a table and surgical tools. This is not a good place to be. Just as David and Sam decide they need to get out, a storm door opens and Grandpa and Grandma drive in on a truck with a beast chained to the bed. They unload it and sedate it, then Grandpa suggests that Grandma check on the kids while he drives the truck out. Oh no. What are they going to do now? Get out the same way Grandpa left, get to the stairs before Grandma, or stay and investigate?
Investigating leads to a violent laser death and racing Grandma leads to knocking over everything in the lab and dying by monster attack, so they'd better just try to go out the same way Grandpa did. It doesn't work very well but they do eventually work their way through the dark lab and find the doors, but they're made of steel and shut tight. David tries to pry them open with a tire iron, but it's really no use. Then the beast that Grandpa and Grandma chained up starts breaking free. The storm door is open a little, so they might be able to squeeze through, or David can fight the monster with the crowbar or they can try to get around it. Which one will it be?
They make a run for it around the monster, which is way better than Sam's ears ripping and the top of her head popping off or David getting crowbarred in the lungs. As they plan to split up and run, Sam ruins everything by yelling at the beast and it lunges for her. David hits it but gets flung away and loses a shoe which the monster enjoys sniffing. Then Grandma shoots him with a tranq gun and locks the kids in a closet. Is this better? Hard to say. Sam wants to break out of the closet but David wants to sit and think.
They manage to break out, but even though they escape the closet in both scenarios, Sam is still alive, for now, in this one. Sitting and waiting leads to them all falling down the stairs, but breaking out leads to Grandpa carrying Sam down into the basement, presumably for testing or some sort of experiment. Grandma says they need her and not David, but that he should lock up the house and start a fire. Too bad he's dumb and can't get the fire started because that leads to him getting eaten by mutants that crawl down the chimney. Trying to get into the basement to help Sam is a better option. Or is it?
David runs out to the truck and is able to open the storm door from earlier and get down to the basement. Grandma shuts the door and beckons David into the lab. Sam is strapped down and so is the beast. Grandpa seems to be doing some Frankensteining. David wants to fight them to rescue Sam, but apparently Grandpa is transfusing her blood into the monster that is supposedly their brother Tim. David sees a scalpel though and thinks about using it to cut Sam free and cut up their grandparents or cut up the beast. Or he could just stand around for a little bit.
Stabbing everyone does no good. It causes Sam to turn into a monster and/or get laser burned in half by the weird electric circle in the middle of the room. Waiting is the best option. We finally learn that the beast is really Tim and Grandpa is an army mad scientist. He created the mutant creatures, called torpions, and now he's trying to save Tim. But the torpions are burrowing in under the door and are probably infesting the house since David didn't lock up, so they have no choice but to go through a secret passage. Well, they do have a choice, but it involves fighting off torpions and everyone dying, so the passageway it is. Grandma gives David an electric torch made from the blue laser thing and Grandpa gives him his keys while he and Grandma fight off the mutants.
They make it through the tunnel and then are faced with another choice: run to the car or wait and watch for more torpions to go inside the house. Surprisingly, waiting is the best option again. Timbeast gets overwhelmed with mutants and they all die if they rush for the car. They wait until they see the house explode in a ball of fire, something Grandpa must have rigged to happen as a failsafe. The torpions come for them and there's another option: fight with the torch or throw it as a distraction. Fighting leads to a swarm and death and the distraction causes a fire and they're able to make it to the car. After swerving around and almost flying off a cliff, David, Sam and Timbeast drive safely away.