After over 300 years of brutal slayings, a group of small-town teens find themselves in a battle against an ancient evil. R.L. Stine’s teen-horror series has made its supernatural debut on Netflix with Fear Street: 1994.
The first adaptation in the trilogy opens with a direct homage to Wes Craven’s Scream to the point that the role of the soon-to-be victim is played by the film’s most recognisable star. The similarities to Craven’s masterpiece are uncanny; from the framing to the behaviour of the characters, everything in the first five minutes is pure nostalgia and a thrilling journey back to the magic of Wes Craven.
It seems like a typical slasher from the get-go and anyone who has watched Scream could pinpoint exactly what should be anticipated. Only, it’s not that simple. Fear Street: 1994 does a fantastic job at honouring the classics of the genre but it also comes with its own spin that allows it to stand out from other features looking to convey post-modern horror.
Instead of a madman roaming the streets with a knife and an inexplicable vendetta, the town of Shadyside is cursed and plagued with mass-murders spanning over decades. On the other side of town is the squeaky clean Sunnyvale filled with jocks and cheerleaders and pretty much every high school stereotype you can think of. Amidst the spooky drama, there is a bittersweet love story between Deena (Kiana Madeira) and Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) as they navigate the difficulties of coming out and conforming to societal expectations.
In many ways, the characters are likeable because they’re relatable and deal with believable dilemmas – and there is far more diversity here than there is in any of the features that are referenced. Director and co-writer, Leigh Janiack, absolutely excels in showing her appreciation for the genre whilst creating a piece that adapts to the times.
On the other hand, there’s a couple of moments used for comedic value that didn’t quite hit their mark and sometimes, a homage felt a little too on the nose and was almost a replica of its source material but the movie is still enjoyable. As for the soundtrack, the songs are primarily indie anthems and only add to the nostalgia, making for another fun throwback to the 90s.
Fear Street: 1994 is a strong opener for Netflix’s trilogy and sets up the saga well. It leaves the question on how the three movies will tie in with each other but thankfully there isn’t too long to wait for the sequel – releasing on July 9th.