Synopsis: 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.
Stars: Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Fred Hechinger, Julia Rehwald, Jeremy Ford, Charlene Amoia, Noah Bain Garret, Ashley Zuckerman, Maya Hawke
Director: Leigh Janiak
Running Length: 105 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: If you suffer from severe bouts of nostalgia that only a well-worn VHS copy of The Breakfast Club or a dog-eared first edition of your favorite Christopher Pike paperback can cure, you’re the target audience for a rad new trilogy of films Netflix has cooked up to make this sweltering summer just a wee bit cooler. Inspired by the Fear Street series of novels written by R.L. Stine, the three films would each take place in a different time period, were shot back-to-back, and will be released one week apart starting with Part One, set in 1994. Timing-wise, I’ve seen the first two but will only be reviewing Fear Street Part One: 1994 here. Come back next week for my thoughts on Part Two and the week after that for Part Three. If the first two chapters are any indication, this is a trilogy where the suspense builds as you go along.
The fifth Scream film is due out in 2022 but those who can’t wait quite that long will get a fun little amuse-bouche in a pre-credit sequence set in the after-hours Shadyside Mall where one B. Dalton employee has a terrifying encounter with a masked killer. Sadly, it’s not the first such incident for Shadyside, which has a bloody history dating all the way back to 1666 when the townspeople killed Sarah Fier, believed to have been a witch. Every few years, seemingly normal people snap and go on a rampage, leaving a trail of bodies in their wake.
While the killing doesn’t go unnoticed, it hardly registers for teen Deena (Kiana Madeira) and her friends Simon (Fred Hechninger, The Woman in the Window) and Kate (Julia Rehwald). They’ve got their own problems to deal with. Deena is feeling the sting of a break-up after her love interest moved to neighboring town Sunnyvale while Simon and Kate’s side-business of selling prescription drugs is constantly being threatened by exposure. Coming face to face with her former flame, the still in the closet Sam (Olivia Scott Welch), at a sports event between the two towns leads to a prank that goes awry and stirs an evil curse from its slumber. With the help of Deena’s brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) and more of the town’s history under their belt, the teens bond together to stop an unrelenting force and a barrage of Shadyside’s most infamous killers from finding them.
Part One is a bit of a strange beast and I think it’s almost helpful to know there are two more chapters that come after it. Often I found myself wondering what purpose the other two movies would serve seeing that we already know what happens and even having footage of those two movies spliced in to prove it. It’s like watching Friday the 13th and having clips from Parts II – IV cut in throughout – if we know where it’s all headed then why continue to watch? Ah…but that’s where director Leigh Janiak and her co-screenwriters Phil Graziadei and Kyle Killen have some tricks waiting for you and, without any spoilers for this film or what’s to come, I’ll just say…keep watching.
While that bodes well for the trilogy as a whole, it does leave Part One feeling very much as the introduction it firmly is. I’d almost suggest waiting until Part Two is available so you can watch those back-to-back…or if you can wait then take in all three at once. I like that Netflix is doling these out one at a time and hope they do this with future movies with similar themes but for me personally, Part One didn’t feel fully complete to me without having something to compliment it fairly quickly. It also strains to make it past 90 minutes, with a number of conversations between Deena and Sam being stated and restated a number of times. I know, I know. Teen problems and all, but…there’s only so many times you can hear “I love you, but you moved.” “I moved, but I still love you.” and not want to scream “Geography! Get over it!”
These are also extraordinarily well-made films, with striking production values that don’t bop you over the head with period details (heck, they don’t even display any B. Dalton signage so the budget couldn’t have been THAT big) but instead focus on making things crisp and clean. The gore is gruesome (and often unexpected) and people you may not think will get sliced get diced just when you’ve gotten comfortable. The performances are good and, best of all, by the time it ends you’ll want to hop right into the next part…a sure sign that Fear Street Part One: 1994 is worth making a trip to.