I couldn’t think of a good headline for this one. It’s a weird title, it doesn’t lend itself well to puns.
I was born in 1991, and therefore my main touchstone for R. L. Stine is Goosebumps. I was vaguely aware that Fear Street was a thing, but I didn’t really get into horror until I was almost out of high school, so I skipped right over the series. That said, I love a good period piece horror movie, so when Netflix announced it was making a trilogy of them–and releasing the whole series over the course of three weeks–I was immediately interested.
If you’re in the same boat as me, don’t worry–you don’t need to know anything about the books to enjoy Fear Street 1994. In fact, based on what I’ve read about the original novels, the film plays pretty fast and loose with the franchise; the films don’t seem to be direct adaptations of any particular Fear Street books, instead using the ideas and setting details of Stine’s series as a jumping off point.
Oh, and these films are most definitely R-rated, which I wasn’t expecting given the target audience of the books.
I’m just going to get right to it: Fear Street 1994 kind of kicks ass.
I’m not going to say it’s one of my new favorite horror movies or anything, but it certainly blew my expectations out of the water with a likeable cast, solid performances, and some excellent kills (while I’m not a gore hound, the film is a love letter to slasher flicks, so it kind of needed some of the brutal kills it delivered).
Speaking of kills, the film opens with a great one–and extended homage to the classic ’90s teen slasher Scream, which is a personal favorite of mine (and one of the first horror movies that really drew me into the genre). As someone who watches Scream every October, I thought it was the perfect way to start the show.
I’ll admit that after this great intro, the film stumbled a bit. We’ve got to meet our main characters, and in a teen slasher, that means dealing with a bunch of Typical High School Bullshit. Our hero is Deena (Kiana Madeira), a young woman still hurting after a breakup with Sam (Olivia Scott Welch), who recently moved from the town of Shadyside–yes, really–to its much more prosperous neighbor, Sunnyvale–also yes, really.
I kind of dug the Deena/Sam relationship. The reasons behind their breakup were interesting and nuanced, with the ’90s setting putting extra pressure on them as a lesbian couple on top of an economic disparity that was already straining their relationship. It’s not something simple like, “one of them cheated” or “there was some weird misunderstanding that will get cleared up late in Act 2 so they can get back together.”
We also meet Deena’s brother, Josh (Benjamin Flores, Jr.), who is A Nerd with a crush on Deena’s friend Kate (Julia Rehwald), a cheerleader and straight-A student who is also selling pills to make cash and get out of their hellhole town. Rounding out the cast is Simon (Fred Hechinger), Kate’s goofy friend and fellow drug peddler.
I didn’t like Kate and Simon at first, which contributed to my dislike for this portion of the film. They’re introduced cavalierly joking about the intro murder and justifying their sale of drugs even after Simon’s brother overdosed (non-fatally). However, both characters grew on me over the course of the movie, and I’m fairly certain that was the point–by the end, other characters are lambasted specifically for characterizing the pair as drug dealers while ignoring all the good aspects of their personalities.
At any rate, the Typical High School Bullshit climaxes in a car crash, after which things start to get good again. A masked figure starts stalking our characters in a very Halloween way, Sam’s new boyfriend–who I was expecting to stick around and create an annoying love triangle for most of the runtime–gets offed pretty much immediately, and things get supernatural. I’d say that once the boyfriend dies, things are pretty much back on track.
From there, we have an enjoyable slasher film with some great supernatural twists. Characters are developed pretty well (except Simon, I guess, who is just kind of a doofus throughout) and there’s a fair amount of bloody action.
I don’t want to get too spoiler-y, because you should just go watch it! It’s fun! It does a great job of setting up a sequel, too, and I’m really excited to check out Fear Street 1978 this Friday.
Oh, one more thing–the music is wild. Like, there’s a new classic ’90s song playing every minute or so in the High School Bullshit section–another reason I don’t care for that part of the movie. After the third one it’s like, come on, we get it. It’s the ’90s. You guys are really gilding the lily here.