‘Fear Street Part 1: 1994’ Review | Netflix Kicks Off Horror Trilogy with Blood and Gore

Amidst the mountain of books that I had in front of me back in secondary school, I can remember how I sweated profusely, looking for R.L. Stine’s books. During that period, I read over 30 R.L. Stine books, minus the “Goosebump” series, among which my favourite is the trilogy––”The Betrayal”, “The Secret” and “The Burning”, which covers the generational feud between two families, the Fier and the Goode. So, when I heard an adaptation of the famous R.L. Stine’s horror book series will be on Netflix, I guess you can picture my excitement.

One of the killers of Shadyside, ‘Skullface’
Image via Netflix

The first part of the “Fear Street” trilogy series, 1994, takes place in Shadyside, a small town that is repeatedly used by R.L. Stine in his “Fear Street” books. Directed by Leigh Janiak (Honeymoon), the movie unfolds with Deena (Kiana Madeira); her friends, Katie (Julia Rehwald) and Simon (Fred Hechinger); with her ex-girlfriend, Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) and nerdy brother, Josh (Benjamin Flores), fighting against zombie-esque killers. Apparently, Sam mistakenly awakens the spirit of a dead witch named Sarah Fier (Elizabeth Scopel), who unleashed an ancient curse on Shadyside 300 years ago. With a series of brutal murders that has plagued the town for hundreds of years, death smiles on ‘Shittyside’ once again as dead bodies begin to pile up. 

The first entry in the Netflix “Fear Street” horror series, 1994, tries so hard to bring in Friday the 13th and Nightmare in Elm Street vibe but could not seem to shake off its childish tone. For a movie that was adapted from a young adult novel series, the only part that seems to depict the horrific nature of the film are the gruesome killings. It has an alluring opening scene that will charm viewers to willingly participate in the mediocre horror series and an ending that will prepare them for the next instalment. However, there is nothing spectacular about 1994 beyond the gore and the 90’s set piece. 1994 is plagued with cheesy dialogue and annoying teenagers that rarely portray a realistic feeling of danger. 

Maya Hawke stayed out late
Image via Netflix

The characters show no shock at the sight of dead bodies that they encounter one after another and this removes the emotional weight these gory scenes ought to carry. I mean, why should any of the viewers be traumatised by any of the bloody scenes when the victims are already their fun-filled selves, five minutes later. Meanwhile, the character of the local sheriff, Nick Goode (Ashley Zuckerman), is a little bit overstretched and it is obvious that Janiak aimed to input a familiar character used in R.L. Stine’s books about the Fiers. The Sheriff goes about looking for clues, with a less worrisome look in a town filled with murderous maniacs. I can only hope he is important in the next instalment and not just an ‘insignificant’ homage used to attract fans of R.L. Stine works.  

Fans of R.L Stine should definitely see this movie; not as his finest work displayed on screen, but as a means to bring back the familiar evocative images that are reflected in his works. Moreover, R.L. Stine’s books vividly explain how characters are brutally murdered but I really did not expect a brilliant portrayal of these cunningly displayed deaths in 1994. For most part of the 1hr 47min movie, the series of murders that permeate the Netflix horror series steal the show. The end of the movie is the most exciting part after the last few scenes show that there is more to the story, since these teenagers supposedly think their ordeal is finally over. The sequel to the first part of the Fear Street horror series hangs by a thread and rests solely on how well the two subsequent films unravel the history behind these supernatural occurrences and I hope these teenagers look scared when they see a slashed throat or open skull in the subsequent ones. 

So for a fan of R.L. Stine books, did the movie strike the right chord and live up to my expectations? Well, I am kinda sitting on a fence because my answer will be based on the outcome of the next two installments. Next Stop, 1978 on July 9.

Rating: 6/10

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Side Musings

  • It is ironic that ‘death’ saves the day from the killing machines in Fear Street: 1994.
  • For some weird reason, adults are absent in the movie and we have a hospital with just one hospital staff. I guess they are on strike. 
  • I think there should be classes on ‘a thousand ways to survive with a killer on the loose’ and do not ever split up should be nailed to these teenage ears. To them, the best way to evade the killers is by separating–– an excuse for a bloody sequence which I thoroughly enjoyed.
  • Amidst the murder spree, they still have time for a romantic expedition–– a convention that makes me feel no pity for victims of crackhead in movies.

Fear Street Part 1: 1994 is currently streaming on Netflix.

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