Fear Street Part 1: 1994 – Review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The first part of a Netflix original trilogy based on the young adult horror book series by R. L. Stine. Fear Street Part 1: 1994 channels the classic slasher horror of the era in which it’s set. Films like Scream (1996) and I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) are clear inspirations for the first part of this exciting series. Also with dashing’s of Stranger Things with its teen angle and constant mystery.

It starts with a brutal murder in the small town of Shadyside, Ohio. Dubbed the “Killer Capital of USA” as this isn’t the first occurrence of a seemingly bizarre murder, but in fact a series of brutal killings that have plagued the suburban town for decades. So much so that it has caused a rift between this town and their neighbours of Sunnyvale. A thriving, murder-less community that seems worlds apart despite only being miles apart. So what is it that haunts the residents of Shadyside? What is the real reason behind these bizarre murders?

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That is what a group of ‘Shadysiders’ are trying to work out when they become fearful that they are the next victims. After a vigil for the recently deceased high schooler is disrupted by the two towns clashing, a pursuit between the rival schools ensues, causing an accident that will later result in dire consequences. Deena (Kiana Madeira) takes things a little too far and the accident winds up putting her closeted ex-girlfriend Samantha (Olivia Scott Welch) in hospital. Soon after, they find themselves being hunted by murderers of Shadyside’s past.

The girls with the help of Deena’s brother, Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.), who believes Shadyside’s murderous misfortunes come from an ancient witches curse, and her two best friends Kate (Julia Rehwald) and Simon (Fred Hechinger), will have to fight for their lives and hope to end the curse and to not succumb to the same fate as many other residents of Shadyside.

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It has that Stranger Things adventure element to it. Albeit much darker and certainly aimed more towards adults. But the sensation of these teens bonding through an extreme and life-threatening scenario feels rather familiar as of recent. Its played off very well here though and doesn’t feel like it’s underplaying its adult themes or suffer from any tonal inconsistences.

There’s nothing ultimately ground-breaking with our first entry into the Fear Street series. It takes plenty of inspiration from a handful of sources, but blends it wonderfully into something that is equal parts gruelling and entertaining without feeling like a complete mockery or rehash of what’s come before it.

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At the front of it all is a thoroughly engaging and somewhat refreshing story that will continue to spill over into the next couple of instalments. There were some moments that didn’t work for me. It raised a few questions that I’m hoping will be answered in the following episodes, and perhaps a couple of narrative beats that just felt a little cheap in comparison to what the rest of the movie was going for. But all in all, a solid and narratively competent entry that could almost stand well enough on its own.

From its opening neon soaked mall location, to the lurking villains dressed in cliched Halloween attire and the music references to the likes of Radiohead and Cyprus Hill, Fear Street Part 1 is willing to remind you of its era at every turn. The type of references that would pass straight over the heads of the Gen Z’ers. For us millennials however, it’s like a fun little time capsule into our roots as music and horror movie fans, and a love letter to the slashers that helped carve a new fan base for horror lovers.

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Director Leigh Janiak (who is also responsible for the second and third instalment releasing over the next couple of weeks) has crafted something rather special with her first outing. The gamble here is that with the two follow-ups already making their way to Netflix in the next couple of weeks, there was an awful lot riding on the success of part 1. Based on the overall reception of the movie thus far (and my own opinion), it is a gamble that could well and truly pay off.

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