Movie Review – Fear Street Trilogy
Review by Ray Schillaci
SOME SPOILERS PRECEDED IN BOLD – jump to the next paragraph
By now, we all know that streaming originals can be a hit or miss. Netflix’s Fear Street Trilogy – Part One: 1994, Part Two: 1978 and Part Three: 1666 is a big hit for the streaming service. On the surface it appears to be just another slasher film with teens in peril. But, going into it with no prior knowledge of the books by R.L. Stine, the author of the hugely popular Goosebumps series, I was thrilled to discover it is so much more under the helm of writer/director Leigh Janiak and her team of writers.
The first two films are full of fun nostalgia of the ’90s and ’70s paying homage to not just the slasher genre, but delivering a fun and edgier cross between The Goonies and Stranger Things while dipping one’s toes into Camp Crystal Lake of Friday the 13th fame. Janiak and her writers have captured the tone of Stine’s Fear Street books that were made for the YA audience rather than the scary children stories he was known for. It helps that Janiak and her writers have all dabbled in the genre successfully. Most notable with the writer/director’s first feature that was quite impressive, Honeymoon starring Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones).
The third feature throws us into the far past and reveals how the horror all began. Not only does the third part become more involving in its mystery, but the characters prove to be richer and the threat level much higher. The trilogy of movies is so cleverly orchestrated delivering thrills, chills and something I don’t recall ever seeing before – a lesbian romance that drives the whole horror story. Leigh Janiak is to be applauded for directing all three features and keeping up with the suspense and surprises.
Fear Street: Part One – 1994 focuses on a tale of two small town: the ever popular Sunnyvale filled with the affluent, winners and referred to as one of the safest communities to live in while just a hop-skip and jump away is Shadyside, where the less fortunate reside, those with low incomes. It’s considered the murder capitol of the United States. ***SPOILER*** We open with Shadyside about to chalk up another grisly homicide, this time in the local mall. A seemingly nice unassuming young man goes on a killing spree leaving no survivors. The sheriff kills him in the process of offing his victim.
Rumor is it that all the misgivings in Shadyside are due to the curse laid upon the town by Sarah Fier from the 1600s. A supposed witch, Sarah was hung after she cut off her own hand to sell her soul to the devil. Deena Johnson, her brother, and their friends will be swept away in the frights that follow as past killers from Shadyside appear to be resurrected to continue a murder spree while Deena’s ex-girlfriend becomes possessed by the witch and seeks to kill as well.
***SPOILER*** Through his investigation, Deena’s brother discovers only one person, C. Berman, survived the 1978 massacre because she had died and then was revived. The kids surmise the only way to save Sam is to have her die, bring her back and end the curse. But, all does not go as planned when C. Berman contacts Deena and tells her there is no way of escaping the curse. Yes, it sounds a bit convoluted, but I’m leaving a lot out so as not to ruin all the fun surprises.
Fear Street: Part 2 – 1978 has C.Berman relaying her story of her and her sister and how she survived the Nightwing camp massacre. And yes, nostalgia runs rampant with this campfire horror story and how one young person seemingly turned horribly violent taking out his wrath on counselors and campers. After Part One it was hard to believe the filmmakers would be able to top themselves, but they do by delving far into the supernatural and making it all the more suspenseful and exciting. It helps that we become engrossed in this backstory and what will come out of it as well.
Fear Street: Part 3 – 1666 is the topper, delving into the mystery that started it all and placing us in an age of superstition and persecution. An age where women had to mind their men and the only thing possibly worse than being accused of witchcraft was being branded as a homosexual. Deena is thrusted into the eyes of Sarah Fier and witnesses her secret love – a teenage girl. Soon, she is accused of all the bad things that have taken place in the village including a slaughter of innocents. But, all is revealed when Deena catches sight of the real culprit and she attempts to use her vision to right all the wrongs.
As mentioned before, I’ve left a lot out so as to not spoil all the fun. Production values are top notch and you may find yourself wondering why this never played theatrically. Well, Chernin Entertainment began development of the Fear Street trilogy at 20th Century Studios back in 2015. Writer/director Janiak was brought on in 2017 and filming began back-to-back March – September 2019 intending to release the first film in 2020. But, COVID hit and Disney purchased Fox with Chernin Entertainment deciding to end their distribution deal and instead selling it to Netflix which has been a blessing for horror hounds.
What makes the Fear Street trilogy so entertaining is the mystery, the magic the director and writers have weaved, and a very engaging cast. Warning: the trilogy does have its surprise splatter moments, but it’s also peppered with dark humor. Somehow, writer/director Janiak has developed an ode to slasher films while bringing overwhelming suspense with this tale of mystery and the supernatural all the while giving us a touching love story that we cannot help but embrace.
Visit Ray’s blog at themonsterinmyhead.com