James Jay Edwards

Fear Street Part 1: 1994 Kicks Off The Fear Street Trilogy With Style

(Fear Street Part 1: 1994, courtesy Netflix)

James Jay Edwards reviews Fear Street Part 1: 1994, a teen horror film based on the R.L. Stine Fear Street book series and directed by Leigh Janiak. (Netflix

 

For decades, writer R.L. Stine has enjoyed a fruitful career crafting spooky stories for young people. In 2015, his most famous book series, Goosebumps, was adapted into a feature film, and it was successful enough to spawn a sequel, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween. Now, his other big series, Fear Street, gets its chance with a three-part Netflix event. First up—Fear Street Part 1: 1994.

Just as the title suggests, Fear Street Part 1: 1994 takes place in the mid-nineties. The town of Shadyside has been rocked by a vicious multiple murder that occurred at the local mall. While the police claim that they have solved the crime, a group of high school kids aren’t so sure. They believe that the killer is still loose and, worse, that the culprit is possessed by the spirit of a 17th century witch. After researching a similar crime from fifteen years earlier, the friends concoct a plan to stop the carnage.

 

(Fear Street Part 1: 1994, theatrical release poster, courtesy Netflix)

From the opening credits, it is clear that Fear Street is playing the long game. There is no doubt that Fear Street Part 1: 1994 is the first part of a trilogy. All of the entries are directed by Leigh Janiak and written by Phil Graziadei (the duo behind 2014’s Honeymoon), along with other writers (this one is co-written by The Beaver’s Kyle Killen), all of course inspired by Stine’s young adult books. Fear Street is more than just a miniseries, it’s a motion picture event.

Fear Street Part 1: 1994 feels like a tribute to nineties horror. It particularly has a fun Scream vibe (right down to the epic pre-credits kill scene). But it also has the tone of a kids’ adventure movie along the lines of Goonies or The Monster Squad. Although, it is not for young children; between the gore and groping, it earns its R rating.

 

(Fear Street Part 1: 1994, courtesy Netflix)

While Goosebumps was always geared for grammar school kids, Fear Street aimed for the teenagers, so it’s no surprise that these movies are graphic. But Fear Street Part 1: 1994 is also pretty scary. It is, at its root, a slasher movie, so the fact that it has a body count goes without saying. But, without spoiling too much, there are three killers, each more horrifying than the last. Any of them could inspire nightmares in more sensitive viewers.

Predictably, Fear Street Part 1: 1994 leans hard into its nineties style. Not only do all the fashions and hairstyles fit the period, but the filmmaking aesthetic hits the mark, too. And, of course, the soundtrack is packed with classic needle drops from the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Garbage, White Zombie, and The Cardigans. It gives the audience just enough of each song to make its point, sort of like it’s dialing its way through a 90’s radio. It’s a time capsule of the nineties, only made twenty years later.

 

(Fear Street Part 1: 1994, courtesy Netflix)

On its own, Fear Street Part 1: 1994 is a disposable slice of nostalgia, a glimpse back to the second wave of hip teenage slashers that populated the era of its setting. But one gets the feeling that Janiak and Graziadei are building something bigger. And with Fear Street Part 2: 1978 releasing just a week later (and Fear Street Part 3: 1666 a week after that), we thankfully won’t have to wait long to see how it all plays out.

Fear Street Part 1: 1994 is streaming now on Netflix.

 

 

Check out the podcast Eye On Horror for more with James Jay Edwards, and also features Jonathan Correia and Jacob Davison.

 

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