Fear Street Part One: 1994 establishes a promising road ahead for Netflix’s trilogy event. Based on R.L. Stines’s popular teen horror book series, it delivers a fun first venture into the town of Shadyside and its dark history. The film is anchored by its heart for ’90s horror and manages to bring its freshness to the table. Unlike the live-action Goosebumps films, Fear Street Part One: 1994 balances a good mix of heart with gory goodness for horror fans.
Stine’s teen horror series is loved by many and Netflix’s trilogy of films based on his work might be the next hit for the streaming platform. Teen horror is alive and well with series like Stranger Things, another Netflix original, which is credited for the wave of retro horror content that has come since its release back in 2016. Fear Street Part One: 1994 joins the fray and captures the magic of films like Scream, The Cabin in the Woods, and IT. Directed by Leigh Janiak and co-written by Janiak and Phil Graziadei, the film stars Kiana Madeira, Olivia Welch, Benjamin Flores, Julia Rehwald, Fred Hechinger, Maya Hawke, and David W. Thompson. Fear Street Part One: 1994 follows Deena (Madeira) and her friends, as they discover that the horrific events in their town of Shadyside, Ohio, may be connected as theorized, and they could be joining the body count.
Horror tropes are in abundance here when it comes to character types, we have Josh (Flores), the geek who can’t get the girl he’s crushing on. His sister, Deena, who’s trying to cope with a recent event in her life. Kate (Rehwald), the cheerleader Josh is too shy to talk to. The typical horror characters you’d meet in the ’90s, a jock no one likes, the cop that won’t listen, and many more. Shadyside’s history is rooted in the death of a witch, Sarah Fier, whose curse will be explored as the trilogy plays out. Deena is the character leading this story and her recent breakup is a subplot used to provide heart to this story.
The LGBTQ representation here is amazing, but a certain sex montage seems ill-timed given the circumstances. Fear Street Part One: 1994 includes an opening kill that Scream fans will have fun with. Not because it outdoes Drew Barrymore’s iconic death sequence, but because of the way it plays out. Madeira’s performance as Deena is impressive and makes Deena very likable as a result. She is scared she’ll end up like her father, drunk and alone, but also struggles to get over her ex-girlfriend, Sam (Welch). Those two events allow viewers to feel sympathy for the character and the way her heartbreak is used to make her stronger is handled wonderfully. Nothing like a Skull masked person going on a killing spree allowing two hearts back together.
Fear Street Part One: 1994 does include some over-the-top performances at times, but the relatability of the characters saves it. Janiak’s energetic direction accompanied by Marco Beltrami’s hyper score makes Fear Street Part One: 1994 an exhilarating experience. Its runtime seems to pass in the blink of an eye due to its solid pacing throughout. The neon lighting in this film only enhances the throwback vibes it oozes from scene to scene. Some of the best cinematography this year will be found in this surprisingly well-handled slasher film. It does seem like it’s holding back at times with its narrative, but that’s only because two more films are waiting to be released.
Slasher films of the ’90s are shown respect in the best way here, so hopefully, this strong enough start to this trilogy doesn’t fizzle out with the next two entries. Fear Street Part One: 1994 is the love child to ’90s horror no one saw coming, but it’s also a competent enough adaptation of Stine’s classic series of novels, which are featured in the film. May the curse of Sara Fier continue to maintain its grasp as we await the followups to Fear Street Part One: 1994.