I'm a lover of all things film & I do my best to be as objective as possible when reviewing/analyzing the medium I hold so dear.
Little to None
To be nice and sparkling clear, I have very limited knowledge of the Fear Street book series written by R.L. Stine that this movie is based on. As a kid I do vaguely remember reading the books on occasion, but I was probably more interested in Goosebumps honestly. So I truthfully have little to no recollection from my time reading the Fear Street series. Please keep that in mind as I won’t be critiquing this film on whether it is a faithful adaptation or not. My review will be solely based on the movie’s merits alone. I apologize to any reader who might be upset by my lack of literary knowledge pertaining to the beloved Fear Street titles… I’m not a big reader. Sorry!
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. Now they must break the witch’s curse before they succumb to her murderous minions hunting them down. Welcome to Shadyside.
A Unique Horror Event
Before getting into the review officially, I want to mention an element that I admire about this concept being developed by Fear Street, which is the exciting manner they’re debuting these movies as an epic horror event spanning across three installments in a three-week span. I can’t explain why, but I find this to be a pretty cool idea to release an entire slasher trilogy in this clever way Netflix has concocted. Similar to when a television movie or miniseries used to premiere during the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s as it would be this big craze amongst the community. We don’t get an event like that too often anymore, so it’s refreshing to rekindle this long forgotten spark in horror. Especially under the slasher genre, which is already a dwindling subgenre of horror for the last decade or so.
Right off the bat, I want to say that I did thoroughly enjoy my time watching Fear Street: 1994. It’s a fun callback to ‘90s slashers like Scream or I Know What You Did Last Summer, only without the awful meta-humor or obnoxious characters. Full transparency, I don’t like Scream or any of its sequels or the onslaught of knockoffs that followed suit. Even though I typically haven’t enjoyed this particular type of slasher flick, I still dug this ‘90s horror throwback. Hell, it’s even composed by Scream’s Marco Beltrami; only emphasizing more on how much the film wants to channel that same energy.
That being said, this movie isn’t perfect with one of my biggest issues being that of the recycled story I’ve noticed a slight bump in popularity lately; a group of youths stumbling across a witch’s curse that has been bestowed on a sleepy little town for hundreds of years, now they must overcome the curse before paranormal monsters catch and kill them one by one. This was a plot recently rehashed in 2019’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark when it heavily borrowed the exact same premise from 2012’s ParaNorman, which was already a partial update to the familiar formula to Scooby-Doo and Goosebumps. So by the time Fear Street ’94 has now adopted the same concepts, it’s already far from being anything unique and needs another update to become fresh again. Unfortunately the first part of Fear Street fails to do anything new with this premise, but hopefully the sequels will rectify this problem in the coming weeks.
Investigating the Witch's Curse
Keep in mind that if this story’s structure is an adaptation of any specific title from the original book series and is simply being a faithful adaptation then I have no real knowledge of this source material. All I can go off of is what I personally experienced while watching the movie and what I felt was a standard retread providing little to keep it feeling fresh. Regardless of the movie treading on familiar territory, I still found myself plenty engaged by what was going on because the characters managed to charm me just enough to keep myself invested.
Our ‘90s Angst Ridden Characters
Where the film likely shines brightest is with its lovable cast of characters. Yes, they all fit neatly into their respective archetypes; the angsty teenaged hero, the love interest, the brain, the goofball, and the sassy best friend. We’ve seen this stereotypical lineup time and time again, they’re nothing new. What makes them work without feeling stale are the actors providing enough infectious chemistry and heart to make me care. It’d be easy to slap the Scooby gang altogether yet again without even trying, but these actors really do their damndest to round out their characters to not be strictly the same old key players we’ve seen a million instances already. Out of the whole group, my favorites would have to be that of Kate and Simon played by Juila Rehwald and Fred Hechinger respectively; they’re the ones that had some of the best jokes and one-liners. Also, I honestly related to their characters most and could easily see myself somewhat in their shoes.
The Best of Kate
Seeing how much the filmmakers clearly wanted to channel movies like Scream, the movie could have made the same mistake by writing its characters to be extremely self-aware, which in turn would cause them to be terribly annoying as well as give less of a reason to invest any emotion into them. If the characters treat their environment and circumstances like a joke, then why should I ever take it seriously or fear for them when they clearly don’t? Thankfully the creators were careful enough to not let anything like that happen, allowing their characters to be fun and interesting without trying too hard at being so tongue-in-cheek chuckling about their dire predicaments. They could be funny and even reference other horror movies in a natural way without being a total tool about it.
Occasionally the dialog would be a smidge too on-the-nose for my tastes, for instance one of the characters quotes Jaws for seemingly no reason really. Then there would be some pretty idiotic choices our leads would make that obviously should never in a million years be made. Examples being when the heroes are initially stalked by a shadowy figure in a mask holding a knife and breaking into the house they’re currently occupying, for whatever reason they don’t find it necessarily to arm themselves or maybe call the cops; instead they choose to verbally berate the potentially violent and mentally unhinged individual, then proceed to visit who they assume is their girlfriend who’s in the hospital so she can yell at the guy for “being a creep.” That’s… beyond f*cking stupid.
Or another instance of our heroes’ brains gone missing is when immediately after being chased away by a psychopath trying to kill them, one of the group thinks it’s a smart idea to take a piss on the sidewalk literally a mere few feet away from the local police station and venture off down the road by himself as this creepy girl in the middle of the street sings to herself like a blitzed out junkie. I just… I don’t even know what to say to this. Was the educational system in the mid-90s truly this horrid? What the actual hell?! One of the biggest and dumbest of their choices though definitely arrives in the third act when they decide for whatever reason that the best way to go about defending themselves against the killers coming after them is by splitting up while completely unarmed and totally defenseless... My brain… it hurts! Stupid. Absolutely f*cking stupid!!
Simon in Trouble
That all being said, I still really liked these characters and was rooting for them the entire way through. I wanted to see them all make it out okay and in one piece. Although sadly that turns out to not be the case for a select few. I won’t spoil who dies or how, but I do respect the film for having the balls to kill off characters we genuinely grow to like. Most horror flicks for the last couple decades will either write in an onslaught of contrivances in order to keep characters alive or they’ll make those characters so detestable that the audience won’t care when they get the axe. Fear Street was bold enough to make us care while accepting when a character’s fate has come. And it is unapologetic with how these characters die too because they are brutal.
The Lesbian Twist?
For whatever reason the script tried portraying the sexuality of our lead character, Deena (Kiana Madeira), as some sort of first act twist? Keeping the gender identity of her ex-lover Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) a secret, yet the more they shied away from those specific details while tossing in blatant diversions, the more obvious it became from the not-so-subtle telegraphing to build up that reveal.
Maybe if this movie was literally released in 1994 this would have been more shocking, in 2021 though I sat here wondering, “Why are you doing this, movie? Why? Sam’s a chick. I get it. Stop pretending like we don’t know this already. Sam is a girl. Deena is a lesbian. Cool. Can you catch up with us now? Nope. We gotta wait another seven minutes or so? Super. I guess I’ll chill in the ‘morons section’ since that’s what you apparently think I am!” Truth be told, this is a nitpick.
*Minor Spoiler Alert* Although I have to mention that I thought it was funny how the relationship Sam had made with another guy clearly meant absolutely nothing to her as we see in the very same night that he’s been murdered, Sam has completely forgotten all about him and is ready to hop back on the ‘Deena train.’ Seriously, as soon as her boyfriend is killed off it is as though he never existed. I know that’s somewhat of a spoiler, but frankly it’s nothing that couldn’t have been predicted instantly when the characters are introduced.
One element I was slightly surprised by was the editing, mainly within the transition of scenes while maintaining a flow of dialog. To explain what I mean, a character would be starting a sentence only for the scene to cut into the next while the line of dialog is never broken yet the context is being shifted to fit the narrative. It’s a strange little detail that I appreciated because it added to a solidly steady pace. Granted, this was a tactic only utilized a few times, but affective nonetheless.
Personally I’m excited to see a small boost in Slashers making a comeback again. For the last twenty years now it seems that the Slashers had steadily declined in popularity as the horror genre was being overrun by mainly the supernatural and paranormal; haunted houses, demonic possessions, and cursed objects being largely the go-to. Oh, can’t forget about the found-footage craze that went on for far too long! Don’t get me wrong, I do dig a good creepy haunted house flick or exorcism, but we’ve been lacking variety for the last couple decades. As though the horror community had forgotten that there were other options besides making yet another Paranormal Activity bore fest or chapter to Insidious.
Then in the last few years we found a slight revival to Slashers that may have strangely started with the 2017 PG-13 Happy Death Day becoming a big sleeper hit. Following suit from there, Blumhouse seemingly took it upon themselves to breathe life back into the subgenre with the 2018 Halloween reboot. Or what I fondly call it, Halloween: H40. Along with that came a few other titles such as The Strangers: Prey At Night, Hell Fest, the 2019 Black Christmas remake, and 2020’s Freaky. It’s been progress at a snail’s pace, regardless I just love they’re coming back slowly but surely.
What’s one of the best parts of having Slasher flicks back? The gruesome and bloody kills of course! Fear Street supplies a few nice and gnarly gore effects to admire scattered about. Unfortunately not a lot though as the noteworthy kills are fairly sparing. Whether we’re talking the special effects accomplished practically or digitally, all blend seamlessly. I’m trying to mentally recap the movie to recall if there was ever a time where I thought the effects looked bad or unconvincing. There really wasn’t except for one instance involving a fiery explosion which didn’t look too great. Other than that, the effects department did some superb work here. My personal favorite kill goes to one involving an electric bread slicer. WOW! That was darkly sweet. My only negative is that the film could have used more ambition in some of the other kills that were a smidge too standard to be considered all that memorable.
Setting Up Sequels
There have been more than a handful of examples where movies bite off more than they can chew by promising sequels that never came to fruition; The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Divergent Series: Allegiant, Super Mario Bros., John Carter, Fan4stic, Green Lantern, ’98 Godzilla, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, the list goes on. Rarely are we guaranteed a sequel to anything on the very first installment of any franchise unless it’s a title under Marvel Studios. So to have a movie like this come out where it creatively sets up an ongoing story to be sprawled across multiple sequels that are actually already guaranteed to come out basically within the very next two weeks is quite refreshing. We’re not getting teased by studios trying to be too cocky for their own good by cynically shoehorning teaser trailers into their movie, instead we’re getting a taste of what is to come with absolute certainty practically hand delivered to our very own homes. Now that’s pretty frikkin’ nice!
Fear Street Trilogy Trailer
I am split right down the middle on how I felt about this soundtrack because part of me was relishing in the pure early ‘90s soundtrack incorporating grunge and heavy rock that I would hear all the time on the radio as a kid; “Machinehead” by Bush, “More Human Than Human” by White Zombie, “Only Happy When It Rains” by Garbage, “The Day I Tried To Live” by Soundgarden, and the movie even opens with the song “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails. There’s a bunch in there that I easily tap my foot to on a daily basis. Yet that is also part of the problem as the movie attempts to cram in a few too many songs that it started to legitimately become grating to listen to, continuously taking me out of movie.
In a single scene of a girl riding the school bus the soundtrack would be blaring “Insane In the Brain” by Cypress Hill only to be interrupted by this girl putting on headphones listening to “Creep” by Radiohead, which then would be faded out and replaced by this epically sweeping yet somber musical score composed by Beltrami. It was giving me tonal whiplash as I hadn’t a clue what the hell the movie wanted to convey other than we are waist deep in the 1990s. It grew to be a frustrating experience to hear one song play for about 10 seconds only to have another play right after and then right after that another, it felt as though the music wouldn’t let any singular mood settle before moving onto the next mood.
As the film went on the music settled down somewhat, although there were times where Beltrami was pulling all the stops by making sure his music was not missed by a single set of ears as there would be a couple scenes where characters are simply talking yet the score was under the impression that a chase sequence was already taking place. It was a tad much and I think the filmmakers need to practice the saying, “a little goes a long way.” So I enjoyed the music, except when I didn’t.
Fear Street 1994 Soundtrack
As many shots as I took at Fear Street: 1994, I still had a pretty damn decent time with it. It’s not a perfect sit as the story has been retold one too many times, plus there are a number of clumsy moments in the character writing and the soundtrack. Despite the flaws, I’m just happy to have a Slasher movie with a solid R rating where the characters aren’t total douchebags! My fingers are crossed that the next two chapters aren’t going to follow the narrative I’m already figuring out in my head. Please develop something a little more original. Regardless, I’m still looking forward to next week’s sequel feature [Fear Street Part 2: 1978] which seems to be harkening back to the late ‘70s while injecting a Friday the 13th vibe. Friday the 13th so happens to be my favorite Slasher franchise of all time so I guess we’ll see how it goes!
Fear Street Part 2: 1978 Trailer
Best Fear Street Movie
That’s All Folks!
Fear Street Part 1: 1994… It’s good to have a new hard R Slasher again! What do you think though? Do you like or dislike this first chapter? Agree or disagree with my opinion? Wondering who the hell R.L. Stine is? A goddamn ‘90s legend, that’s who! Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happen to have enjoyed my review then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a killer day!
© 2021 John Plocar
John Plocar (author) from Weatherford on July 07, 2021:
Thank you, much appreciated!
hira from faisalabad on July 07, 2021: