Fear Street Part I: 1994 (2021) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Fear Street Part I: 1994 (2021) Review

Horrorific content by Christina Dee on August 01st, 2021 | Movie Review | Cursed, Supernatural Serial Killer, Anthology, Dangerous Exploration

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In 1994, a group of teenagers discovers that the terrifying events which have haunted their town for generations are all connected — and that they may be the next targets.

The Fear Street trilogy is based on R.L. Stine’s young adult book series of the same name, and the first installment of the series turns the clock back to 1994. The Fear Street Part I is directed by Leigh Janiak (known for Honeymoon) and it features a talented young cast that includes Kiana Madeira, Olivia Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Ashley Zuckerman, and Fred Hechinger.

Wanna hear a killer story?

Fear Street Part I Review

This summer was already shaping up to be pretty special for horror fans, thanks to new releases in the pipes from the likes of M. Night Shyamalan and Nia DaCosta. Then Leigh Janiak (Honeymoon) dropped a new throwback horror trilogy on Netflix for extra fun.

Fear Street Part I: 1994 is our first introduction to the sleepy little town of Shadyside. Unlike its idyllic sister town Sunnyvale, Shadyside’s biggest claim to fame is being the backdrop to several horrific unexplained murders across the decades. (Its low-quality standard of living, in general, has further earned it the nickname “Shittyside”.)

Shadyside is also home to the group of ‘90s teens at the center of the storyline. Scrappy Deena (Madeira) is in the process of getting over her ex Sam (Welch), who recently moved to Sunnyside with her family, while her internet-loving brother Josh (Flores) studies up on the grim history of the town. Meanwhile, Kate (Julia Rehwald) and Simon (Hechinger) make extra cash selling various pills to other kids in town.

When the group accidentally disturbs the grave of a long-dead witch, the next series of eerie Shittyside-style events begin to unfold. A group of creepy, mysterious, costumed figures begins to stalk the group wherever they go. However, they seem to be especially bent on targeting Sam for reasons unknown. Why are these ghostly mercenaries so interested in Sam, anyway? And, even more importantly, will the group be able to solve the mystery that’s afoot in time to save their own lives?

Fear Street Part I: 1994 is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a Janiak film based on an R.L. Stine series set in the ‘90s. It’s positively saturated in 1990s nostalgia right from the first scene. Unmistakable hits of the decade along the lines of Radiohead’s “Creep” and Cypress Hill’s “Insane in the Membrane” dominate the soundtrack. Nods toward the fashions, fads, and general aesthetic of the time are plentiful, present, and accounted for, as well.

This isn’t quite the ‘90s exactly as Generation X would remember them, though. It scans more like an idealized version slightly updated to appeal to today’s young viewers, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The fact that the source material was initially aimed at younger folks is apparent in the Stranger Things-esque way it’s up to the teens to handle the events of the story as they unfold, as adults are scarce when they’re present at all.

Fear Street Part I: 1994 also goes relatively light when it comes to trotting out all the usual slasher tropes horror fans will be familiar with. For instance, behavior like sexual activity or an association with drugs doesn’t necessarily red-flag the characters as inevitable targets for violence. It also takes its sweet time as far as racking up a body count, but again – not necessarily a negative by any means.

Worth Watching?

This film takes great care to flesh out each of the characters so that the audience becomes invested in them. By the time the terror does escalate up to full speed, you’re genuinely terrified for them and care whether they survive. This sense of personal investment is further underscored by fantastic performances from each member of the young cast. All in all, this is a film that’s well worth your time, not to mention a perfect set-up for the other two films in the series.

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