Halloween is the most popular holiday of the year in small-town Hallowsville. While most are looking forward to the festivities, costumes, and treats, frenemies Joy and Ava are focused solely on winning the annual spookiest yard décor competition.
Joy has won the contest five years in a row, so she’s convinced her Zombieland graveyard theme will undoubtedly earn her first place yet again. Then word spreads that Ava—determined to ditch her never-ending second place status—has a spectacular plan up her sleeve that’s bound to secure the big trophy. This news throws Joy into a tizzy, and she creates a new outrageously gory concept that’s bound to turn heads and stomachs.
Tensions amongst the competing neighbors intensify when Kevin, a handsome divorcé, moves to town and joins the competition’s panel of judges. The stress to impress runs high between Joy and Ava as they do whatever it takes to win both the contest and Kevin’s heart.
Joy peeked through her blinds, watching as her next-door neighbor, Ava, pulled several shopping bags from the All Hallows Eve Galore store out the trunk of her car.
“You’re late,” Joy muttered, brushing her jet black bangs away from her face. “I bought my Halloween decorations weeks ago. You probably got stuck with the lame, picked over—”
“Who are you talking to, Mom?” Joy’s son, PJ, asked as he charged through the kitchen and over to the refrigerator.
“Oh, no one, sweetie. I was just…checking the sky for rain clouds. Looks like the coast is clear.”
PJ grabbed a handful of grapes and followed her gaze. “Yeah, right. You’re spying on Miss Jacobson again, aren’t you?”
“Absolutely not!” Joy’s mouth fell open in feigned shock. She scurried away from the window and over to the stove. “Why would you say something like that?”
PJ rolled his eyes. “Come on. You don’t have to put up a front for me. We both know that you two have been competing with each other for years over who’s gonna have the best Halloween decorations.”
Joy snorted while stirring a pot of spaghetti more rigorously than necessary. “Can you really even call it a competition? I mean, seriously, our house has won first place in Hallowsville’s spookiest yard décor contest five years in a row now.”
“Well, according to Chaz, his mother is planning on going all out this year. He hasn’t given me any details, but rumor has it they might even create some sort of spectacular haunted house for everyone to walk through.”
Joy dropped her spoon and turned to PJ. “I’m sorry, but a haunted house? That completely goes against the rules and regulations! It’s supposed to be yard decorations only. What is Ava thinking?”
“Calm down, Mom. Like I said, it’s just a rumor, but I don’t know. If you ask me, it sounds like the Jacobsons just might outdo us this year,” PJ said before shoving several grapes inside his mouth.
“That’s why no one asked you, ya little traitor,” Joy said jokingly. “Now stop filling up on grapes and go wash your hands. Dinner is almost ready.”
“After we eat, can I go over to Chaz’s? We’re on the planning committee for our freshman class Halloween dance, and he and I are in charge of creating the music playlist.”
“Sure.” Joy paused, then smiled slyly. “Hey, while you’re there, why don’t you try and find out exactly what Ava has up her sleeve for the contest? Maybe even get a little peek inside all those bags she just—”
“Mother!” PJ gasped, interrupting her while dramatically gripping his chest. “Are you suggesting that I spy on my best friend’s mom? You raised me better than that, young lady.”
Joy let out a loud laugh. “How on earth did I end up with such a theatrical child? We need to pack up that act of yours and take it to Hollywood. I could make a fortune off of you, kid.”
“I’d be down with that. As for my theatrics, I guess I get it from Dad. He did try his hand at stand-up comedy back in the day, didn’t he?”
“He did,” Joy replied, struggling to refrain from bad-mouthing her ex-husband. “Let’s just say he did the right thing by hanging up the microphone for a more suitable career in finance.”
“Don’t be a hater,” PJ said on his way upstairs. “It’s not a good look.”
“I am no hater. I’m just telling it like it is.”
The minute PJ was gone, Joy hurried back over to the window and discreetly opened the blinds. She watched Ava and Chaz pull a humongous cardboard box out of the backseat of her truck and dragged it inside the garage.
“What are you up to this year, woman?” Joy muttered to herself.
Her stomach rumbled as she began to second guess her Zombieland graveyard theme. She wondered whether she should scrap the idea altogether and come up with something more provocative.
Do not let Ava throw you off your game, Joy thought, swallowing the lump in her throat as a terrifying vision of losing the competition crossed her mind.