Film Review – Fear Street Part 1: 1994

DIRECTED BY

Leigh Janiak

STARRING

Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Julia Rehwald, Fred Hechinger, Ashley Zukerman, Maya Hawke, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Jordana Spiro, Jordyn DiNatale, Jeremy Ford and David W. Thompson

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SYNOPSIS

A circle of teenage friends accidentally encounter the ancient evil responsible for a series of brutal murders that have plagued their town for over 300 years. Welcome to Shadyside.

In 1994, a group of teenagers discover the terrifying events that have haunted their town for generations may all be connected — and they may be the next targets.

Coming out this weekend on Netflix is the first part of a film event trilogy of Fear Street, based on the R.L Stine’s bestselling book series. Fear Street Part 1: 1994 is written by Phil Graziadei and Leigh Janiak, with Janiak also helming the film. We follow Deena, a High School student at Shadyside who is trying to come to terms with the breakup of her relationship with Sam. When certain actions after a vigil leads to a car accident, strange things begin to occur in Shadyside and Deena, Sam and the rest of the group (Josh, Kate and Simon) have to figure out what is going on and why they’re being targeted by some killers.

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Fear Street has been on my radar for a few months now, what with Netflix confirming that they’ll be releasing the film trilogy once a week…and with the way that Part 1: 1994 plays out, it is absolutely designed for conversational trends online and also have views geared to tune in the following week for part two. With the opening credits, the film gives the audience a brief history into the dark history of Shadyside and the killers that came from it, whilst also highlighting how their next door neighbours, the town of Sunnyvale, is all sunshine and roses in comparison. There’s an interesting mythology that’s touched upon here that will obviously be explored in the next two films. The history of Shadyside acts as a burden to those that grow up in it, that no matter what you do, how smart you are and how many plans you have of getting out of town, a mysterious force that lurks in the town, believed to be cursed by a witch, a horror story told to scare children. What makes the film work so well for me however is the characters and, even though the film is self-aware in how it treats the story, it also makes you genuinely care for the characters.

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Kiana Madeira gives a really good performance as Deena, the Shadysider coming to terms with the breakup with her ex-Sam, who recently moved to Sunnyvale, and their complicated relationship is touched upon well here in the themes of queer romance that I wasn’t particularly expecting for this film, but it’s very much welcome and nice to see. Olivia Scott Welch is also really good as Sam, someone who is appears to struggle to embrace her sexuality due to what’s expected of her (there’s brief scenes involving her mother). Benjamin Flores Jr. was the highlight for me with his performance as Josh, Deena’s younger brother, who spends his spare time on AOL chatrooms, as well as studying the history of the town’s murders and killers, and what common thread they all may have. Julia Rehwald and Fred Hechinger are also very good as Deena’s friends Kate and Simon. The film feels very nostalgic in how it’s presented. Obvious comparisons will be made to Scream, especially with its homage in the opening sequence. It also features so many needle drops in the twenty minutes of Fear Street that it absolutely feels like I’m watching a late 90’s/early 2000’s horror film, but some might consider how they’re implemented here are slight overkill. While it may feel young-adult in how it narrates the story, and feeling Goosebumps-esque, make no mistake about it, it’s earned an R-rating for a reason, so while some deaths may be quick and stabby, just be prepared for some horrific deaths.

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VERDICT

Pleasantly surprised with Fear Street Part 1: 1994, in terms of its supernatural mythology, elements of self-awareness and horror, and the chemistry amongst the ensemble is so good. The first film within the trilogy is a hell of a lot of fun and I’m excited for the next two parts.

★★★★