Revitalising and honouring the slasher genre of the 80s and 90s, Fear Street follows a group of friends who find themselves being hunted by an evil force that has plagued their town for over 300 years. Based on R.L. Stine’s popular book series of the same name, Fear Street Part One: 1994 is the first instalment in a horror trilogy event unfolding on Netflix over three consecutive weeks.
The slasher genre hasn’t been at the forefront of horror for well over a decade, however that hasn’t stopped filmmakers from exploring the genre in new, creative ways in recent years. Fear Street rides this very fine line between creating something fresh and paying homage to the classics. There are a number of homages and references to countless classic horror slashers, such as Scream and Halloween, spread throughout the movie. Some are as minor as recreating an iconic shot and some are entire scenes or concepts that take inspiration from what has come before. Either way, none of these nostalgic moments feel forced or as if the film is just recycling old content. It really does feel like it is honouring these films, while moving forward in its own direction.
The story is relatively simple in its structure, setup and how it progresses, but it does leave room for certain pockets of mystery and uncertainty that keep you invested through to the end. It’s as if you know roughly where the main narrative will end up, but the smaller arcs and events along the way are where it injects those little bits of creativity that shock and surprise. For these reasons I quite enjoyed myself through the entirety of the film. It never felt like it was stumbling along and maintained a pretty consistent pace right through to the end.
The fact that this is part one of a three-film trilogy could have been a negative if it got too caught up in setting things up for the future films that it didn’t craft a narrative for itself. However, the execution of how it sets up the trilogy while also telling its own self-contained story is brilliant. It got me to care about the characters and the terror they were being put through here, but also had me thinking about all of the wider mysteries, hints and questions that they drop throughout. It’s a surprisingly effective display of world building in a slasher film… something I never thought I’d see.
When it comes to the horror elements, Fear Street brings A-grade creepiness and slasher vibes. There are plenty of tense moments throughout that get the blood pumping and enough chase sequences to keep things moving. Speaking of getting the blood pumping… what makes the horror so effective here is one thing – the blood. The kills are bloody and brutal, but that’s really what makes it work so damn well. The slasher elements are heightened by the graphic nature, adding an extra dose of shock value to many scenes. Writer/director Leigh Janiak understood the assignment and delivered! She’s shown a great understanding of what makes the slasher genre work, and potentially set herself up to do more in the world of horror.
I also need to mention how she managed to effectively capture the tone of the Goosebumps and Fear Street books so accurately. There’s so many points throughout the film where I was transported back to when I was a kid reading Goosebumps books because of how well she translates that unique creepy tone from page to screen.
For such a young cast, this ensemble is great to watch. I adored Kiana Madeira and Benjamin Flores Jr. as the brother and sister who lead much of the film. Both of them bring plenty of life and character to every scene they’re in, elevating the overall fun of watching the movie. Kiana specifically sells the terror her character is experiencing in an impressively convincing manner. Julia Rehwald also has some great scenes that get you to care deeply about her character. Olivia Scott Welsh also has a large role with a lot to do, yet I wasn’t a fan of her performance in the beginning. Her line delivery felt sometimes dry and sometimes overcooked, leading me to not care as much about her character. Although, she grew with the film and ended up delivering a pretty solid performance through the third act.
In the end, Fear Street Part One: 1994 has all the qualities of a well-executed slasher flick. It successfully pays homage to the slashers of old while crafting a path of its own, creatively setting up the events of three films in under two hours. It’s creepy, thrilling, fun and very entertaining – resulting in one of my favourite films of the year to date! The narrative is solid, performances are good and the use of blood is a very welcome choice. For slasher fans, and horror fans in general, there’s a lot to love about Fear Street – which is why you should check it out on Netflix in anticipation for part two… which is right around the corner!