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"Fear Street" Trilogy Review

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The Fear Street Trilogy is an American horror film series directed by Leigh Janiak from scripts and stories she co-wrote with other contributors. The films are based on R. L. Stine's book series of the same name. Produced and developed by 20th Century Studios and Chernin Entertainment, the films were released by Netflix in weekly intervals and stars Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Julia Rehwald, Fred Hechinger, Ashley Zukerman, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Maya Hawke, Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, Ryan Simpkins, McCabe Slye, Ted Sutherland, Gillian Jacobs, Kiana Madeira, Benjamin Flores Jr. and Olivia Scott Welch.

Told in three parts, the story follows a group of teenagers who, after a series of brutal slayings, take on an evil force that's plagued their notorious town for centuries.

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The Fear Street trilogy was a film event, and I loved everything surrounding it. I loved that the films were released in weekly intervals, I loved that the timeline was going back in time (something you don't see too often), and I loved that the trilogy felt like a long story as well as separate films.

There's a lot to love about this trilogy. I love that it was an event; we don't really get those anymore outside of the MCU and Star Wars. They brought back the thriller genre in a way that younger audiences will actually care about. As for the films, I'm pretty mixed on them. There's a lot of good, but there's a fair amount of things they could've done better.

The first film I thought was the worst in the trilogy. Part One: 1994 started off the series to a rough start. I thought it was the most by the numbers, standard, unoriginal, and average film in the trilogy. But the biggest problem I had with it was the characters. There are five main ones and I didn't really love any of them. Our introduction to two is with them joking about the recent death of their classmate. Then they have kids handling drugs. They're not very good people. The comedy works at times, but even then the main guy character feels like he's doing his best Stu impression. There are scenes in this film that feel like a Scream parody.

The next characters were the main girl and her girlfriend, but the first half of the film is just them arguing. Conflict is good, but it needs something to build on. I wasn't invested in their relationship or in their characters, not to mention the main girl commits attempted murder. It's one of those things where you know what'll happen but they do it anyway and act surprised when something bad happens, making it even more frustrating.

The only character I kind of liked was the little brother, but even he feels more like an exposition guide. Now what the film does well is the mystery surrounding the curse of Sarah Fier.

The entire trilogy handled it so well with each film giving you a handful of puzzle pieces. It was so satisfying to see these pieces slowly come together to paint a picture vastly different from the one you originally imagined. The first film set up the curse and witch really well. Although it is exposition heavy with most of it being heavily explained. To best explain the first film, it was a foundation. It wasn't the prettiest, but it held up the rest of the skyscraper.

For everything part one did good, I thought part two did better. I thought Part Two: 1978 was the best overall film in the trilogy. It fixed many of the problems, including the characters. I actually really liked a handful of them even if main characters like Sadie Sink still fall near that "mean" category. They did a solid job with the arcs. By the end of the film I ended up caring for a lot of them.

Secondly is the exposition. There's enough backstory for there to be an understandable film, but this film is the curse in action, and that's why I loved it the most. It was a throwback Friday the 13th film, but it managed to be its own thing. This is how you pay homage to something.

This film was just really fun. It had some good kills and actually felt like a slasher. There was also enough story and character for me to feel genuine emotions at the end. Considering the first film, this one really surprised me.

Part Three: 1666 was broken up into two sections. I thought the first section was the best in the trilogy, but the second one not so much. I loved that the first section was set in such a different setting than the others but still managed to keep the tone of the trilogy intact. It felt unique without being an outlier.

This film had the best characters and I actually felt connected to the main character and her relationship. This did, however, feel less like a slasher and more like a supernatural period piece. I liked that, but it did slow the trilogy down a little bit.

This is the set up to everything, and it's really satisfying to see how the past films change due to this one. I would also say this was the most emotionally invested film in the trilogy. There was a scene towards the end that was extremely powerful.

Overall the trilogy had its ups and downs. I thought it was fun despite its flaws, and as a whole I did enjoy the Fear Street trilogy.

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The acting was solid, especially for the amount of experience the cast had. Outside of Sadie Sink, Maya Hawke, and Benjamin Flores Jr, I haven't seen these actors in anything else. I have to say they made quite the first impression. You had some awkward deliveries here and there, and at times it delved into a genre trope or two, but as a whole I thought the acting was very strong, especially for this genre.

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Spoilers

So the big reveal is the truth behind the curse. A Goode family member writes a name on a stone slab and then that person gets possessed and is forced to carry out multiple murders. There's also a second part to it where, if you disturb Sarah Fier's grave, the spirits of past killers reanimate to kill you. So that's pretty much the basis of this film. I get it and it makes sense but there is a huge logical error.

The zombie spirits are only after the person who distributed the grave and anything with their blood on it. The characters use this to stay alive the entire first film and use it to end the last film, but the logic is inconsistent because these killers kill characters without any blood on them. It's something that's so obvious that I have to be wrong.

In the first film the main character we're supposed to care about decides to throw a cooler of Gatorade out a bus and onto a moving car while the worst bus driver ever doesn't notice a thing. This obviously causes the car to crash and that's when the girlfriend character disturbs the bones of Sarah Fier and unleashes the curse.

Her bones are just on the side of the road covered by half a foot of dirty but whatever. A little before that they pull a Scream and get a known actress, in this case Maya Hawke, to open the film up and immediately die. I thought this was really effective and fit in the story. I wish the other references worked as well.

From then on the curse takes full effect and the characters are chased for the rest of the film by slashers of the past. Aside from the logical errors, the first film was stained with just feeling safe. They never pushed the film past a basic point, almost to the point where it felt as if the film lacked a third act. The midpoint and climax are pretty much the same thing from a plot standpoint. The midpoint is the character's attempting to defeat the killers and the climax is the exact same thing. It drags the film down both from a pacing and quality standpoint.

But the biggest problem is everything in between. I didn't care about the characters or anything they did. When they weren't fighting or running away from killers the film pretty much stopped working for me. I wasn't invested in the main relationship which is the biggest emotional anchor of the film. I didn't think either character was interesting on their own and together they yelled at each other and didn't properly build up a relationship. The two friends simply aren't the best people, and they tried to build a relationship between her and the main character's little brother, but I found it to be mostly awkward.

As I said, the film was safe. Most of the kills happen off screen or to characters that have no importance to the story. However, there is a great kill towards the end of this film that I think will become a classic in the genre. The female friend gets her head slid through a bread slicer and it was as gory as it was awesome.

Part Two is where things really start to heat up. We open at a camp where kids are actively trying to kill a fellow camper. It starts off with some cliches. You have the bullied outsider, the rebel, the stoner, and the good girl. But it's all for fun because the film expands on it almost to the point where it's completely contained to the first act. But the best thing about this film is everything in between.

You have the main character and her older sister who completely hate each other and constantly fight similar to the main characters in the first film. However, this film lets us connect with each character individually so there's much more to the characters and conflict when they do fight, this is what the first film was missing.

The side characters also get arcs and proper development. I actually ended up liking most of them, so when the killing starts to happen there's a lot more tension. Like I said before this is an in the moment film. You get to see the killer possessed real time and you get to see the characters investigating the curse. It makes me question why the first film was included. I think the series would've been much better with just Part One and Part Two.

At the end of the film the main character and her sister get brutally stabbed to death in a really effective scene were I felt genuine emotion.

Part Three goes back to 1666 for the first half and it tells a really good story of forbidden love and grounded horror. This part feels the less like a traditional slasher, but I think it's for the best. This film focuses on the cause of the curse, her love and eventual betrayal. This film feels the most like an actual story. I liked the second film, but story wise it is weak. This one feels like it actually has something to say.

Her friend betrays her in a really effective scene. I bought their relationship, so when it happened I was actually shocked. The ending also was pretty hard hitting. After being accused of being a witch she decides to take the blame and be hanged, sacrificing herself for the person she loved. It's a real tearjerker that added a ton of emotion to the trilogy.

As a whole the last two films both explain and explore the curse in full. I think the first film unfortunately drags them down especially from an emotional standpoint.

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Overall I thought this trilogy was solid. It wasn't anything special, but I've seen far worse especially in this genre. The second film excelled as a fun slasher with pretty good character, the first half of Part Three excelled at story, but the first film is an outlier that didn't live up to the others.

As a whole this was a fun set of films that I think many people will enjoy despite its flaws.

© 2021 Royce Proctor Jr

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