This review is spoiler-free.
I’m honestly quite surprised that Netflix haven’t made more of a song and dance about their Fear Street trilogy! Which is surprising given how much anticipation there has been online for it. Fear Street is based on R. L. Stine’s cult book series, which was meant to appeal to more of a teen audience than his Goosebumps books, aimed at a more tween audience. While I’m more familiar with Goosebumps than Fear Street (I don’t remember it being a thing in the UK), the premise and, partially, connected horror anthology setup immediately peaked my interest!
The film’s opening scene pays homage to a very iconic horror movie moment, (give me as much Maya Hawke as you can please!) and while I personally loved what they did, I can also see some people not enjoying it as much! And I think that will be the common theme surrounding this movie, it’s going to be a love or hate thing. What the film does well – it does it very well! What the film does badly – Well? Let’s just say it doesn’t help itself in terms of setting the film up for valid criticism. As for the rest of the movie, the middle act is the weakest, and while the ending is not a strong as the opening act, I think if you appreciate and enjoy what Fear Street 1994 is trying to achieve, then you are going to enjoy this movie and embrace the remainder of the trilogy.
The film is co-written and directed by Leigh Janiak, who I think does a fantastic job in executing a well-shot and fun horror film. This was something I expected, having previously watched her debut flick Honeymoon (I recommend you go check this out!). I don’t think there were any faults in terms of the presentation of the film, as for some of the story elements? As there are multiple writers it’s hard to say were the faults lie, but there were a few issues with some aspects of the narrative.
In terms of the cast, I think they have managed to put together a very strong ensemble. Kiana Madeira (Deena) and Olivia Scott Welch (Samantha) did a great job as co-leads, and their wonderful performances were enhanced thanks to a very strong supporting cast. Benjamin Flores Jr (Josh), Julia Rehwald (Kate) and Fred Hechinger (Simon) all had their big moments and more than enough development to understand and appreciate their characters within the context of the story. I also want to give a shout out to Jake Gyllenhaal and B. J. Novak’s lovechild, Ashley Zukerman (Sheriff Goode) who gave a very earnest performance and I’m excited to learn more about his character’s past in relation to the wider lore, which is tantalisingly teased throughout.
So, on to the negatives!
For starters, the first 20 minutes or so had way too many songs crammed in, so much so that made it feel like the film was screaming “Hey! Remember this song!?” every two minutes. Thankfully, this wasn’t a common theme throughout the rest of the movie, as it got old very fast!
While there is a lot of justified praise surrounding the film’s first act, it also helped to setup a faux notion that Fear Street 1994 was all about subverting your expectations. They made a big deal about this early on, but they soon fell away from this idea and from then on the film became a little too predictable. This didn’t stop me enjoying it, however I did lower my expectations for the rest of the movie as it just felt a little too ‘safe’.
And finally, and this is just my personal preference, while the main plot of Fear Street 1994 works perfectly fine as a standalone story, I found myself longing for more exposition in terms of the wider lore of the franchise. I never felt satisfied with the overall backstory and while this will probably come to fruition over the course of the next two movies, just a few additional nuggets of setup would have made all the difference.
If you enjoy the horror genre I think this movie, on the whole, will work for you! I’m very eager for the next instalment and to learn even more about the lore surrounding Shadyside and its cursed inhabitants.
Fear Street 1994 is a fun and entertaining teen-horror romp packed full of all the usual genre tropes that you’d expect as well as paying homage to some iconic horror movies. The film tries to subvert your expectations but ultimately, for the most part, fails to do so. With that said, the predictability does not ruin the overall enjoyment and there are plenty of shocks and gags along the way. A solid start to the Fear Street trilogy, with the promise of better things to follow!