‘Fear Street Part One: 1994’ Review

To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Fear Street Part One: 1994 is a teen horror film directed by Leigh Janiak, based on the R. L. Stine book series of the same name and the first installment in the Fear Street Trilogy. The film stars Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Julia Rehwald, Fred Hechinger, Ashley Zukerman, Gillian Jacobs, and Maya Hawke. The story follows Deena Johnson, a teenager in the fictional town of Shadyside, Ohio, whose residents are terrorized by an ancient curse that’s responsible for a series of brutal murders that have plagued the town for centuries. After her ex is targeted by the Fier witch she partners with her younger brother Josh and her drug-dealing friends Simon and Kate to stop the curse and save the town.

As a big fan of R. L. Stine’s work, it’s great to see his books being adapted into R-rated movies. The most we had seen before were a few PG television series and movies. The Fear Street books are perfect for this kind of adaptation due to the characters being mostly older and the stakes a lot higher. Also, the success of Stranger Things and It: Chapter One has paved the way for horror stories involving younger teen characters. As the title suggests, Fear Street Part One: 1994 is an amalgam of the typical 90’s horror tropes. Very similar to Scream, a masked killer is praying on a small town, but some mystical elements come into play later. The characters know what the rules are for surviving and use that to their advantage. This works well throughout the film, but there are times when it can get a bit too campy. When the jokes are subtle is when the film shines.

The opening of the film is done quite well and really sets the tone for what type of gore we can expect to see. Maya Hawke turns in a powerful performance as Heather in what is effectively a cameo. From the marketing I expected her to be in more of the film and it probably would have helped as no other actor was as memorable. The main cast is fine, but I was more interested in where the story was going more so than if any of the characters would survive.

That being said, things move at a quick pace with barely any time being placed on getting to know the characters beyond service to the plot. It would have been great to find out more about Deena and Josh’s relationship with their father and how it affected their relationships with other people. Speaking of which, Deena’s relationship with Sam is fixed rather quickly even though the other had clearly moved on and moved to a different town. Seeing that happen so quickly felt like lazy writing that could have easily been fixed by adding a little more time and backstory for the characters.

It would have better served the story for the viewer to know more about Shadyside. For a town that is the murder capital of the United States, it doesn’t make sense why law enforcement isn’t beefed up in that area. Or why more people don’t just move away. Even stranger that it borders the safest town in the United States. We get little details here and there, but nothing beyond exposition. Solving the mystery of the town and its curse would have given more depth than just running from monsters in the middle of the night. Though seeing as this was made with the trilogy in mind they will answer some of those questions in the sequels.

While it leaves more to be desired the horror elements are pretty good with a few bloody kills toward the end that you’ll want to watch through your fingers.  I give Fear Street Part One: 1994 a Solid 6.3/10. Interested to see what the rest of this trilogy has to offer.


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