For anyone who grew up in the ’90s, the name R.L Stine brings out the innermost nostalgia that we sometimes were unaware laid beneath the surface. The memories come back of lying awake at night with only the soft glow of the streetlights outside washing into your room. At the same time, you shiver in anticipation of finishing up the newest Goosebumps book. As the Goosebumps audience aged, Stine supplied some more age-appropriate stories in his Fear Street series. Although not nearly as influential on audiences, Fear Street still brought some fantastic stories to life. So when Netflix announced that there would be a three-part film series based on the books, fans worldwide (skeptically) rejoiced. It would be easy for this run of films to be a quick flop, so hesitantly upon the release, I turned on the show to see if it would live up to the legacy.
WARNING: HEAVY SPOILERS AHEAD
Fear Street is set to be released as a three-chapter series, with each chapter being released within only a few weeks of each other. A decision that was almost forced with Covid-19 still dictating a lot of the release and shooting dates of films that have been in production. Luckily, it seems that this will be beneficial to the studio and the horror fans as well. It is easier to stay hyped about a series when the first one is still fresh on your mind. This is a system that I am hoping continues.
Part one, I have to say, has HEAVY Scream vibes, and I am so on board for that. However, I have seen many fans have issues with this, and I think I must state that although the film borrows heavily from Scream, it does so correctly.
One of the main reasons I feel this way is that the first character we are introduced to is Heather, played by Maya Hawke. You may recognize Hawke from their roles in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Little Women, or most likely, Stranger Things. So here is a character played by someone we know a bit about and really like. Hawke’s role in Stranger Things really stood out to me, so I was excited to see them in this film. However, only minutes after being introduced to Heather, she is killed by a villain wearing a mask and black robe. So yeah, it has a HEAVY Scream influence in just the first few minutes of the film. It is no surprise that the tone of Scream comes through in this film since its director, Leigh Janiak, also worked on the television series Scream.
However, the trippy thing about this is that we get to see who the killer is just as fast. Not only do we get to see who the killer is, but we watch them die as well! This threw me for a little bit of a loop. Traditionally, in horror films, when the killer is wearing a mask, the audience can play detective as the movie unfolds and discover who the killer is before it’s revealed. Due to this twist, I was instantly invested just out of curiosity about how the rest of the show will play out.
With the (seemingly) leading killer already on ice, I was glued to the tv, waiting to see what happens next. It didn’t take long to learn that there is, in fact, someone else pulling strings in the small town of Shadyside, where every few years, a totally ordinary citizen snaps and starts killing people. The stings can all be followed back to a witch burned at the stake years before (back in 1666, we later learn).
The witch, Sarah Fier (yeah, its pronounced fear), has become an urban legend in the town, so much so that the mascot at the local high school is none other than a witch.
The morning after Heather’s murder, we are introduced to the real main character of the film, Deena (Kiana Madeira). Deena is currently going through heartbreak, so the murder does nothing more than irritate her and fuel the hatred she has for her little town of Shadyside. However, Deena is forced to look at that heartbreak head-on as an accident involving her ex. Sam (Olivia Welch) brings them back together in an unlikely way. Unfortunately, the accident is caused by some jocks at the rival school in the neighboring town of Sunnyvale, the city that Sam recently moved to, causing the breakup with Deena. There’s no time to hash out old love, however as the two, along with Deena’s younger brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) and her two best friends, Kate (Julia Rehwald) and Simon (Fred Hechinger), are flung into an epic battle with supernatural forces none of them truly understand. Luckily for the group, however, Josh is somewhat of a Sarah Fier nerd and has learned a lot about the witch.
The film does an exquisite job of returning audiences to the beloved slasher genre in a new way while keeping the cornerstones of the style intact. Each actor brings their own unique voice to their roles to give the viewers a delicious mixture of comedy, horror, and drama. The suspense built throughout the story is something the writers (Kyle Killen, Phil Graziadei, Leigh Janiak, and of course, R.L Stine) should be proud of. There are jump scares and deaths that happen along the way that even a seasoned horror fan will be surprised.
I had a great time watching this first installment of the trilogy and am looking forward to seeing how/if it can keep the momentum going with parts two and three. Part two takes place at a summer camp in the 70s where a masked man is murdering kids with an ax, sounds familiar, and I am on board for it!
Written exclusively for TheLastPicture.Show by Jacob Ruble
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