Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
Plot: A circle of teenage friends accidentally encounter the ancient evil responsible for a series of brutal murders that have plagued their town for over 300 years. Welcome to Shadyside.
Review: Well invite me to the prom and dunk me in pigs blood! Netflix set out to make an 80’s style slasher for those of us who grew up in the 90s and wouldn’t you know it? It worked! Let’s take a walk down Fear Street Part One: 1994.
From the first notes of Only Happy When it Rains by Garbage, we’re placed squarely in 1994 and I’m smiling like a fool. Fear Street is packed to the hilt with 90’s nostalgia, something you don’t see that much of in movies. So for those of us who experienced our high school years around this time the movie instantly pulls you in, and all that high school angst of relationships ending or friends getting ready to move on to the next chapter of their lives might bring up some bittersweet memories.
What would not be as familiar (I hope) is the fact Shadyside is a small town with a very high body count, as every decade seems to bring about a massacre by someone who (until then) was considered a good person. Yep, Shadyside has a problem—a big one—in the form of a witch who has cursed the town and one who is out to use our lead characters to once again exact her revenge from beyond the grave. DAMN I had fun with this one guys!
I don’t think there are many horror fans out there who won’t find something to enjoy here. Firstly, the characters are surprisingly well-developed. It does take some time to do, but the writing for each of them gives us personalities that do more than just tick off tropes in your usual horror movie box.
On the surface we get a “pothead” (in this case it’s pills), a cheerleader, a nerd and our final girl, but director Leigh Janiak and writers Kyle Killen and Phil Graziadei, who adapted the Fear Street books by R.L. Stine, have gone the extra step in making each of these kids smart, fun and likeable in their own ways. By the final act I was so invested in them I was genuinely sorry to see certain characters get the axe (I’m not being figurative here, there’s an actual axe murderer in the mix). And if you can pull that off in a slasher horror, that’s pretty impressive.
Then we have the bloody heart of it all, the kills. Whoo boy! I did not expect that! Netflix horror movies tend to swing between bad and mediocre, and they also tend to be a tad tame (at least for me) but not Fear Street. This time around they pull zero punches as every kill was brutal and on full display. There was also a nice dose of practical effects added to the CGI stuff, plus great sound design made every kill feel even more impactful and hard to watch. The visuals and tone had me thinking of Stranger Things but with a strong dash of horror. And when you add the nostalgia of all those great songs from the 90s they kept throwing in, well it just made the journey worthwhile.
So if there are any negatives to Fear Street 1994 (which by the way is Part One of a trilogy) it’s they do take a long time getting to the horror meat of it all. But this comes from their need to develop the characters so it’s not too bad, but it does affect the pacing somewhat in the first two acts of the film.
Overall though, I had an absolute blast with this movie. With horror references to Night of the Living Dead, Jaws, Friday the 13th and more, characters who don’t feel like they’re just there to up the body count, and an intriguing story of a witch’s curse that triggers people into basically becoming Jason Voorhees, I was completely sold.
The horror movies this year have been a mixed bag and the truly good ones have been few and far between, but Fear Street Part One: 1994 is a winner. And with two more on the way (Part Two drops July 9 and Part Three on July 16) we might actually have ourselves an instant classic on our hands.
Sommer’s Score: 7.5 out of 10
So what did you think of Fear Street Part One: 1994? And you can check out more slasher goodness below:
Top 20 Best and Worst of Friday the 13th: A 40th Anniversary Special
LGBT Survival Horror ‘The Retreat’ is a Decent Slasher With a Hazy Message
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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