Review by Camden Ferrell
R. L. Stine is one of the most prolific authors today, writing over a hundred horror books for kids and young adults, including the Fear Street books. Fear Street Part One: 1994 is a new movie based on his series, and it’s the first in a trilogy of movies releasing in subsequent weeks in July. While it doesn’t reinvent the horror genre, this movie embodies all of the genre’s best tropes while including some shocking R-rated elements to the story.
After a brutal murder in their small town of Shadyside, a group of teenagers learn more about how this connects to the town’s long history of murder. Together, they encounter this evil and search for a way to destroy it. It’s a simple premise about small town murder and possession, and it’s that simplicity that allows the film to breathe and be a fun teenage-driven horror film.
Taking place in the titular year of 1994, the movie does a great job of recreating that aesthetic without exploiting the nostalgia of that era. It doesn’t throw the period-appropriate props or elements in your face to make you bask in its nostalgia, but it rather uses it as environmental garnishes that elevate the ambiance and create a more immersive setting.
This movie has a strong cast of young actors at its disposal. Kiana Madeira does a great job of leading this film as Deena. It isn’t anything mind-blowing, but she plays into the genre and setting very well and is a compelling actress that’s fun to watch. The supporting cast also features some strong performances from actors like Julia Rehwald and Olivia Scott Welch who both show a lot of promise as young actors.
Leigh Janiak directs this film with confidence, and even if it hits a few snags at times, it’s clear she has a strong creative vision that is evident in the final product. This is her second feature film, and she demonstrates a mature ability to execute thrills and balance it with more character driven moments. The screenplay, written by Phil Graziadei and Janiak, is sufficient enough to provide a foundation to the movie. The dialogue isn’t especially fresh or compelling, but it has its moments.
One of the best things working in this movie’s favor is its R-rating. The movie doesn’t hold back, and it features many bloody moments throughout. They’re spaced evenly throughout, but the final half of the movie has some genuinely gruesome and shocking moments that elevate this past its contemporaries. It’s dedicated to adapting this story for an older audience who’s ready for more adult content.
There is also something quite refreshing in the representation in this movie. It features an LGBT lead character, and it is actually committed to telling such a unique story without exploiting it or virtue signaling. It balances these heartfelt and thoughtful moments with the blood and guts throughout to prove that this is a thematically progressive movie while still being aesthetically traditional.
Fear Street Part One: 1994 is a fun and refreshing new horror movie from Janiak, who is also directing the next two movies in the series. It doesn’t say anything too revolutionary, but it’s an enjoyable movie full of classic thrills and scares. It showcases some young talent while also getting you excited for the following week’s installment.
Fear Street Part One: 1994 is streaming on Netflix July 2.