Fear Street Part One: 1994 is the first in a trilogy of films released on Netflix, based on the supernatural book series by R.L Stine. Packed full of film references and 90s nostalgia, the first part of this trilogy is a fairly entertaining watch.
The film opens on a young woman, Heather (Maya Hawke), working late in the Shadyside mall bookstore. While closing up, Heather is chased and brutally attacked by an assailant in a skull mask Halloween costume. In her dying moments, the killer is revealed as a friend and fellow mall employee, before he’s shot dead by the local Sheriff Goode (Ashley Zuckerman). Clips over the opening credits reveal Shadyside’s horrific past, where violent murder sprees are a common occurrence dating back over a hundred years. The murder at Shadyside mall is yet another unexplained mass murder in the town, which many have attributed to a witch that was executed by the town back in the 1600s. While their neighbouring town Sunnyvale enjoys an idyllic crime-free existence.
We meet Deena (Kiana Madeira), a teenager moping over her breakup with ex Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) much to the chagrin of her friends Kate (Julia Rehwald) and Simon (Fred Hechinger). At a vigil prior to a local football game between the two rival towns, Deena meets with Sam to hand over her belongings while the vigil descends into a brawl between rival players. On the bus home, Sam and her Sunnyvale friends chase down the Shadyside students, who retaliate and cause Sam and her friends to lose control and veer off the road. Injured, albeit not seriously, Sam crawls out of the vehicle into the woods where she sees visions of the witch. After lying to the Sheriff about the accident, Deena, Sam and their friends go their separate ways. However, they’re soon stalked and hunted down by a relentless masked killer and must come together, along with Deena’s brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr), to figure out who or what is trying to kill them before it’s too late.
Fear Street starts off fairly promisingly. With a creepy mall setting and a killer 90s soundtrack, the initial opening scenes are pretty scary and incredibly reminiscent of the early slasher films we know and love. No doubt the Stranger Things vibes that this film gives off is why Netflix took it on in the first place, and that’s not a bad thing. While it gets off to a slow start after the credits, by the final act the blood and gore have been ramped up and there are some satisfying and surprising kills.
While I enjoyed the homages and references, I did wonder at times if homage had crossed the line into plagiarism. There are at least a few scenes including one notable death scene that feel like they’ve been ripped right out of a Scream film, and I’m not sure if they quite pulled this off as a homage. There are also some fairly stereotypical and clichéd horror tropes on offer here, but for a slasher film set in the 90s, this isn’t unusual. And while it had the Stranger Things feel, it definitely didn’t have quite the heart and friendship values between the group of teenagers and as lead characters, I found myself caring very little about any of them.
Despite the clichés and overused references, Fear Street Part One is a fairly enjoyable slasher film and what it lacks in scares, it makes up for in gore and general entertainment value. While it wasn’t brilliant enough to make me drop everything and watch Part 2 (1978) immediately, I am intrigued enough to see how the rest of the trilogy turns out – especially as Part 2 appears to be a take on the classic summer camp slasher.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!