Given that I did a re-read of R.L. Stine’s original “Fear Street” series, as well as a few “Super Chillers” and a couple special Trilogies within the Universe, when I saw that Netflix was going to make some “Fear Street” movies I knew I was game. And because that re-read series was chronicled on this blog, I figured that I ought to give my thoughts on these new movies as well, as nostalgia bombs and a new way for people to connect with a classic series in YA horror literature! So let’s see what the Netflix “Fear Street” Trilogy does for the series when introducing it to a new generation!
I sat down to watch “Fear Street Part One: 1994” at the end of the July 4th long weekend. The kid was asleep, the husband was out for the night, I had some mac and cheese and the TV all to myself. And almost immediately it was clear that this was not going to be the “Fear Street” of my youth, given that right in the first few minutes we had some pretty heavy swears and a blow up sex doll. But after I got over the fact that this movie, based on a series that had mostly off page violence and very LIGHT implications of teenage sexuality, was going to be balls to the wall slasher gore, I bought in but fast!
A quick description: In the town of Shadyside in 1994, a massacre at the local mall has upended the town, once again making people talk about how it feels cursed. It seems that ever couple of decades or so, something terrible happens and a slasher killer of some sort commits some kind of terrible murder spree. When a group of teens from Shadyside and the neighboring (and rival) town Sunnyvale unexpectedly awaken an ancient evil that has been pulling the strings, they have to figure out how to stop it, before it takes them all out.
The first thing that struck me about “Fear Street Part One: 1994” is the oozing nostalgia that it presents right off the bat. Our first scene takes place at a B. Daltons book store (RIP, B. Daltons), in which someone is buying “The Wrong Number”, one of the earlier “Fear Street” books. The soundtrack throughout the movie transported me back to my grade school years, ranging from the obvious like “Creep” by Radiohead to the more salacious “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails (I may have nearly spit out my beverage at this moment). It’s a nod to the time that these books were being written and were popular, but it also means that our characters can be put in perilous situations like in the books where a cell phone can’t come in handy to help save the day. Oh, and the fashions! I loved seeing the fashions! These kinds of nostalgia moments were highlighted in each of my “Fear Street” recaps, so seeing the movie makers really lean in was a lot of fun.
I also really liked the characters, as while they are definitely a bit more foul mouthed and prone to more sex and gory endings (all of this is fine by me), they all feel like “Fear Street” teens. Our main character Deena (that’s gotta be another nod to “The Wrong Number”, right? Deena Martinson?) is a bit of a loner with a geeky younger sibling named Josh. She runs with a couple of rebels, Simon and Kate, who peddle drugs on the side, Simon to support his family and Kate to make enough money to get out of Shadyside as fast as she can. And Deena is also pining for her ex, Sam, but unlike in the books of the past, Sam is a girl. LOVE the sapphic romance in this movie, just as I loved how diverse the cast is in many other ways. In the original books it was a lot of heteronormative white kids, but this “Fear Street” has had some much needed updating and it is for the better to be sure. They all have great chemistry with each other, and unlike in the books when you probably don’t have much attachment because of how cardboard they are, I really loved all of them, which made a few of the outcomes more weighted, even if they were splattery fun at the same time.
And how about the “Fear Street” connections and feel? Honestly, it does a good job of both paying homage and lifting from the source material, as well as creating new mythos and backgrounds for Shadyside and the people who live there. In terms of nods to the classic tales, we have characters who are named after those from the books, as well as references to Sarah Fear, and the Goode family as well. And next movie mostly takes place at Camp Nightwing, the summer camp in the original series! There is also the origins of the curse that Shadyside has upon it, with a teenage girl being executed for Witchcraft, though it’s changed a bit as of now. But that said, there are hints that the third movie in this trilogy, with the year 1666 as the time period, will probably take a lot of origin from the “Fear Street Saga”. After all, the Goode Family is popping up here and there. But a lot of the new stuff works really well, and makes the Shadyside lore (albeit original to the movie) come to life and all converge into a really fun horror movie. I’m thinking that we are going to see more backstories for the various baddies that pop up in this movie, as well as why Shadyside and Sunnyvale have a deep seated rivalry, as the series goes on, and I am absolutely stoked to see how this all came to be.
All in all, “Fear Street Part One: 1994” is a really fun slasher movie with a lot of love for the source material. Given that the “Fear Street” series was one of my personal horror building blocks, it was wonderful seeing it get an R-rated slasher treatment!
In two weeks I will review the next film in the series, “Fear Street Part Two: 1978”.