With only one horror feature “Honeymoon” on her belt, director Leigh Janiak offers three movies, shot back-to-back, based on R.L. Stine novel series “Fear Street,” rolling out with the first scarily good installment “Fear Street Part One: 1994” on Netflix on July 2. The second “Fear Street Part Two: 1978” will premiere on July 9, and the third “Fear Street Part Three: 1666” on July 16.

Full of 1990s nostalgia, bloodshed, and several good twists, “Fear Street Part One: 1994” is a call back to those influential horror classics like “Halloween,” “Night of the Living Dead,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “The Shining,” and “Poltergeist” just to name a few. It’s also like Netflix hit show “Stranger Things,” featuring some stars from the show also attached to this trilogy, in which a group of teens in a small town face deadly incidents and discover the town’s deepest secret. Despite these on the surface, Janiak’s adaptation is much more than that underneath.

Welcome to Shadyside, or some call it “Shittyside,” a notorious American small town infamously known for so many murders throughout decades that TV news named the place “Killer Capital USA.” Right next to the Shadyside is a wealthy neighbor called Sunnyvale, where the residents regard themselves as superior and look down upon Shadyside.

Our heroes live in Shadyside, including Deena (Kiana Madeira), Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.), Kate (Julia Rehwald), Simon (Fred Hechinger), and Samantha (Olivia Scott Welch) who recently moved from Shadyside to Sunnyvale. These teenagers find themselves accidentally involved in a bloody history of massacres, and various types of killers, back from the dead, are chasing after them. Unlike most of the slashers, the script by Janiak and Phil Graziadei surprisingly cares about its character. Some character arcs here are fascinating and compelling to watch. While these teenagers run away from the killers, they are also trying to figure out their own lives. As a result, one of the goriest deaths near the end is so emotional and heartbreaking just because you are already attached to these character from the bottom of your heart.

One of the film’s most obvious references is Wes Craven’s “Scream.” You’ll notice it from the opening scene in which Maya Hawke’s character answers a mysterious phone call and then gets stabbed to death just like Drew Barrymore’s Casey from Craven’s classic, the most famous star among the cast that everyone assumes was the lead but got killed right at the beginning (Netflix already released the footage on YouTube officially, so I don’t think it’s a spoiler). However, this time in “Fear Street Part One: 1994,” there’s neither self-referencing nor a nerdy teen knows everything about rules of the genre. There’s no Final Girl, and no sexy blonde who dies for her guilt of lust. Instead, the film treats these “stereotypes” sincerely, they don’t live or die simply because of the “rules,” and they are all just ordinary teenagers who are struggling and suffering from reality.

“Fear Street Part One: 1994” is rich with every good film supposed to be rich with: story and character. Genre-savvy fans will spot countless Easter eggs, and general audiences will be entertained by the adventure packed with scares and eye-arresting visual language. Janiak’s style is intensively sharp, and Rachel Goodlett Katz’s editing is clever. Every single suspense and action sequence is like a hard punch. Before the ending credits start to roll out, there’s a sneak peak of the next film which will premiere on July 9. Feel free to stay and watch or skip it for not spoiling the fun, but it looks like “Fear Street Part Two: 1978” is heading to the Crystal Lake setting, another familiar place for slasher fans. After enjoying the twisted “Fear Street Part One: 1994,” I’m counting down for the next and the third one to appear on my Netflix front page. Mark your calendars, and here we go!

GRADE: B-

Contact me at jiajinpin@gmail.com.  Follow social at @jjpin

  • Distributor: Netflix
  • Production: Chernin Entertainment
  • Director: Leigh Janiak
  • Writer: Phil Graziadei and Leigh Janiak
  • Producer: Peter Chernin, David Ready, and Jenno Topping
  • Cast: Kiana Madeira, Benjamin Flores Jr., Julia Rehwald, Fred Hechinger, Olivia Scott Welch, Ashley Zukerman, and Maya Hawke
  • “Fear Street Part One: 1994” available on Netflix July 2, 2021

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