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Fear Street Part One: 1994 #MovieReview

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.

Release Date: 2021 | Runtime: 1hr 47min | Genre: Horror | Source: Streaming

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Fear Street Part One: 1994 Review

This feels like a review where I need to open with how big a Fear Street fan I am and what my background is with the franchise so here goes – almost not at all and very little. I was huge into Goosebumps as a kid but only read maybe one entry from the Fear Street series. In the last year I’ve read five books out of curiosity and they did not hit for me. The cheesy R.L. Stine chapter cliffhangers are still good for a laugh (“It was then I felt the cold hand of death grab my neck….it was just my dog licking my neck. LOL! Anyway…”) but nothing else about them hooked me. So that’s my background but no matter what, if you tell me you’re making an R rated adaptation of a beloved 90’s YA book series, I’m going to watch your shit.

Fear Street Part One: 1994 is the first of a trilogy of Netflix films. Each will serve as a standalone story while also covering an overarching plot that spans hundreds of years. It’s a cool twist on the standard Netflix formula and it feels like it’s helping as the conversation around Fear Street has been ongoing all week, rather than fizzling out in a couple of days as is often the case when they do the standard episode dump. Though it also helps that 1994 is super fucking good and worth talking about.

Fear Street focuses on the town of Shadyside, a small town with a cursed history where bad shit is happening constantly. Their town is right by Sunnyvale, a blessed town full of rich assholes who look down on Shadyside because they can’t seem to keep their “bunch of people got murdered” problem under control. Shadyside’s unlucky streak continues when a guy in a skeleton mask kills a bunch of people in a mall and then from there, I’m not going to say a thing.

1994 avoids a problem I find affects a lot of the slasher sub-genre – filling the movie with characters you don’t give a shit about. Sometimes it can be great fun to watch a movie where a group of assholes get what’s coming to them, but here I found it refreshing to follow a group of characters that I wanted to survive. At first, it seemed like there wouldn’t be anyone to latch on to but time is taken to flesh the characters out and it really helps when the inevitable deaths roll in to make everything much more impactful.

The pace of this movie has to be commended because this thing moooooooves. While there is exposition here and there, things rarely slow down to have the characters sit in a room and talk. If they do, there is usually someone or something outside trying to break into that room and kill them. There’s consistent forward momentum as the central mystery is revealed surprisingly early. From there, it becomes less about what the characters are dealing with than how are they going to deal with it. It was refreshing to have something I expected to happen in the third act go down in the first twenty minutes. From there my expectations had been completely flipped and I was ready to go along for the ride.

I’ve seen people getting hung up on the soundtrack which is, naturally, 90’s as fuck. There’s no deep cuts here. Within the first half hour you’ve heard Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Garbage and others. This may be written off as pandering nostalgia but I think this is exactly what I want from any soundtrack for a movie that takes place in the 90’s. It’s like Dazed and Confused for the 70’s or The Wedding Singer for the 80’s. I want a soundtrack riddled with songs that turn me into that Leonardo DiCaprio pointing at the TV meme. Outside of the music, there isn’t a whole lot of 90’s nostalgia. Characters could easily spend the whole movie talking about needing to get home and watch Family Matters or spending their money on Orbitz and Gak but they don’t. It felt like a good balance.

I mentioned the R rating earlier and it’s worth reiterating that because this movie is shockingly brutal. The deaths are uncompromising and at least one immediately earns its place in the hall of fame of slasher deaths. I appreciate that they found a way to appeal to my age group who read them when they were young (well not me but…others like me), as well as those who are currently in that same age group (though the latter may be surprised if they switch to the books which, based on my experience, seem notably tamer).

Fear Street Part One: 1994 feels like a movie that I would have taped off TV and watched again and again when I was twelve years old. It’s a cinematic funhouse that does good character work and manages to pull a number of surprises out of what could have been a very clichéd story. “Scream” meets “Stranger Things” has been used to both praise and denounce the movie but if that description sounds awesome to you, absolutely check this out. I know I’ll be firmly planted on the couch every Friday for the next installments.

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