R.L Stine’s books were a staple in my childhood and adolescence. While the Goosebumps series were a big part of my primary school years, it was the Fear Street series that really made an impact on me. Not only was it my introduction into high school life, relationships and growing up, it was also one of the biggest inspirations behind my writing career (yes, I wrote original stories that were actually submitted for writing competitions by my English teacher during my high school years).
With such a huge impact on my life and an escape from reality through my struggles coping with having moved countries during puberty and adjusting to a new way of life, Fear Street meant a lot to me. So naturally, when Netflix announced that it was releasing three original Fear Street films based on R.L Stine’s books, I squealed in excitement, reveled in the nostalgia and jumped up and down for a short few moments in a way that was totally unbecoming of a 30 year old.
The best part of the announcement? All three movies were a trilogy released every Friday across three weeks in July. Why’s that the best part? Well, because Fridays are my favourite day of the week and July’s my favourite month of the year. It felt as if everything I adored and enjoyed were aligning and that was something to be excited about.
So how did the films hold up?
Set across three different time periods, Netflix’s Fear Street films were split in three parts – 1994, 1978 and 1666. Here, I explore the first two films, Fear Street 1994 and Fear Street 1978.
Fear Street 1994
The first film in the trilogy, Fear Street 1994 wasn’t just a fictional horror film for me. It was a trip down memory lane. Being a 90s kid, the entire film was a nostalgia fest right from the get go with 90s vibes everywhere. The opening scene itself was a dead giveaway, with an homage to the 90s horror cult classic, Scream. This entire sequence not only set the film up but truly solidified itself as a typical ‘scary movie’.
With little to no knowledge of the world the film is set in, Fear Street 1994 draws us in, introducing us to the towns of Shadyside and its rival, Sunnyvale, as well as the main characters who play an integral role to the film.
True to the Fear Street books, the film paints Shadyside as a town rife with trouble, where everything that can go wrong will go wrong. On the other hand, Sunnyvale is a perfect little town where one thrives and succeeds.
While the film appears to be typical of a 90s high-school film originally, all is not as they seem and what we believed to be a quiet yet unfortunate town quickly turns into a horror-fest as the main characters, Deena (Kiana Madeira), her younger brother, Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr. ), Sam (Olivia Scott Welch), Kate (Julia Rehwald) and Simon (Fred Hechinger) are thrust into a wicked plot involving yet another series of Shadyside murders.
With no real explanation as to the town’s history of serial killings, Fear Street 1994 chalks it up to being part of the Witch’s Curse, feeding us with a little taste of there being more to the story. In this case, one involving the execution of Sarah Fier, an early settler who was accused of witchcraft. Though the plot was fairly predictable, Fear Street 1994 utilised this predictability, along with many of the characters’ flaws to create an experience that is befitting not only of the 90s era but one that viewers today can be relatively entertained by.
Considering the film was part of a larger story, this predictability and pacing of the film felt easy to get through and left much to the imagination when it came to solving the ‘mystery’ behind the killings. Overall, Fear Street 1994 was a decent introduction to the trilogy and filled with many a gory moment and some mild scares. It acted more as a set up film,drawing us in for a bigger reveal by ending with an exciting cliffhanger, which requires us to delve back into the past – that is, in 1978.
Fear Street 1978
After an interesting set up to what feels like a massive conspiracy impacting the entire town of Shadyside, we’re taken back to 1978 to learn more about the ‘Shadyside curse’. Thus begins the second film in the trilogy, Fear Street 1978. Having been introduced to the overarching ‘problem’ in Shadyside and the possibility of surviving the ‘Shadyside curse’, the second film in the trilogy gives us a much deeper understanding of how the serial killings began.
Set at Camp Nightwing in the summer of 1978, we’re introduced to Ziggy Berman (Sadie Sink), her sister, Cindy Berman (Emily Rudd), and several characters who first encountered the ‘Witch’s Curse’.
Once again, the film plays on the nostalgia factor and is in many ways similar to yet another popular horror flick, popularised around the early 80s, Friday The 13th. Much like with Scream and Fear Street 1994, Fear Street 1978 seemed to have taken some inspiration from Friday The 13th in the sense of being set at a summer camp wherein a crazed, axe wielding man, goes on a rampage to murder camp goers one by one.
Unlike the first Fear Street film, which dived straight into the action, Fear Street 1978 allowed for more of a build up, with much better character development. We were able to genuinely feel some kinship with each of the characters as we watched them enjoy (and in some cases, rebuke) their camp experience.
Unlike the first film in the trilogy, this film managed to incorporate twists and turns, which allowed for more investment into the story, keeping me at the edge of my seat. Delving deeper into the lore of Sarah Fier’s black magic and the curse she had put upon the land, the Fear Street trilogy evolved from a simple horror flick to one that had supernatural elements built in.
It was this exploration into the supernatural that made Fear Street far more interesting. Though it didn’t answer all the questions, it certainly was much more satisfying a watch than the previous film. Each of the characters played a far more fulfilling role, helping steer the story. With some classic 1970s bangers thrown into the mix, the entire film felt leaps and bounds better than Fear Street 1994. It finally began to feel as if the mystery was being pieced together, revealing the need to delve much further into the past in order to better understand the reason behind the curse, and the solution to put it to an end.
If you’ve read this far, then you’re as excited as I am for the next installation of the Fear Street trilogy, Fear Street 1666, which aims to enlighten us even more as to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Shadyside and its inhabitants.
Stay tuned for my review on the finale of the trilogy.