Review: Slasher throwback 'Fear Street: 1994' kicks off trilogy with blood soaked glee
Courtesy of Netflix
The first entry in a month-long event, the “Fear Street” trilogy from director Leigh Janiak is taking an interesting distribution model not far removed from how we binge television. Inherited during the 20th Century Studios/Disney merger, “Fear Street” will unspool three different films each week starting July 2nd. Originally intended as a theatrical experiment with the movies released each month, “Fear Street” now finds its home at Netflix where audiences (especially of the horror kind) will get satisfaction out of the gimmickry and find enjoyment in this R-rated trilogy based on R.L. Stine's popular novels.
“Goosebumps” this is not, “Fear Street Part One: 1994” gets the series off to a fun, blood soaked start, paying homage to the slasher films of the nineties (“Scream,” “Urban Legend,” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer”) and curating a solid foundation for the sprawling world-building set to take place in subsequent installments. (The ending includes a cool stinger in the vein of “Back to the Future Part II” setting up the July 9th release of “Fear Street Part Two: 1978”). Janiak’s decision in adapting “Fear Street” for the adult crowd proves effective considering Stine’s style never went beyond silly, kid friendly jump scares. If a young child who read the original books stumbled upon “Fear Street: 1994,” they might not sleep for a week.
“Fear Street: 1994” still works in the corny sense and the practical makeup effects and CGI solidify exactly the tone this series is aiming for. Set in the fictional town of Shadyside, “1994” follows a group of unsuspecting high-schoolers caught in the middle of an ancient curse unleashed centuries ago that turns normal folk into mad slashers. The brigade is made up of the usual suspects including final girl, Deena (Kiana Maderia); her ex-girlfriend from the town over, Samantha (Olivia Scott Welch); brainiac, Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr); popular head cheerleader, Kate (Julia Rehwald); and comedic wiseass, Simon (Fred Hechinger). All the performers nicely gel and fit into their roles respectively as they band together to destroy a pissed ancestor ready to make Shadyside pay for their sins.
It paves the way for a slew of gnarly slashings that tastefully earn the film its R rating (including the textbook opening kill). Nothing is watered down or off limits for Kyle Killen’s screenplay, moving “Fear Street: 1994” beyond cliches and excelling in pulpy B-movie craftsmanship. Recent successes like “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” walked so “Fear Street” could run and a menagerie of well placed needle drops (Sophie B Hawkins, Radiohead, and Bush all make the cut) soak up the nostalgia. Perhaps “1994” will encourage today’s youth to seek out the expansive catalog of slasher hits, but they should rightfully take ownership of this title because it deserves to be in the conversation among the greats. Here’s hoping the next installment in the “Fear Street” trilogy can keep the momentum going. Next stop, 1978.
FEAR STREET PART ONE: 1994 debuts on Netflix Friday, July 2nd