A classic teenage horror fiction series gets an adaption in Netflix’s Fear Street Part One: 1994. The first installment of a trilogy, Fear Street Part One: 1994, is the second film by director Leigh Janiak. At the same time, the film’s script was co-written by Phil Graziadei and Janiak.
From the subtitle, you already know that the film takes place in 1994. A group of teenagers comprised of Deena (Kiana Madeira), her brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.), and friends Kate (Julia Rehwald) & Simon (Fred Hechinger) are living the everyday lives of nineties teens.
Deena is trying to get over a failed relationship with girlfriend Sam (Oliva Scott Welch) and deal with having to grow up quickly. At the same time, Josh has discovered the joys of AOL and spends his days in chatrooms discussing conspiracy theories. Meanwhile, Kate (Julia Rehwald) & Simon (Fred Hechinger) are working and dabbling in the side hustle of drug dealing. However, the group will soon find out that the terrifying events that have occurred in their town of Shadyside, Ohio, may be connected to each other and that they may be the next target.
As an avid reader who grew up in the nineties, when it came to horror for teens, two names set the standard; Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine. While the former never saw any of his work adapted for the film medium, Stine’s Goosebumps series became a successful film series starting with Jack Black. Given the popularity of the Fear Street books, I was always curious why the powers that be never attempted a film adaptation or anthology series. Thankfully, in 2021, we finally get to see one of Stine’s signature series as a movie.
One of the things that caught my attention immediately with Fear Street Part One: 1994 was the opening kill victim works at B.D. Dalton bookstore. The store was a favorite of mine while growing up. I liked the inside joke and the execution of the kill.
Janiak takes her time in building up the suspense, and while there are some standard horror movie clichés, it is all part of the fun. While the film takes place in the nineties, Phil Graziadei and Janiak’s script never overdoes the nostalgia references. Outside of a subtle hint to the cost of AOL at the time, the duo avoids easy META references to Kurt Cobain, OJ Simpson, or the show Friends.
I also commend the casting director for having a cast that looks like teenagers and has believable chemistry. I was not familiar with the previous work of Kiana Madeira. However, the actress is a real find, and it is always good to see a minority final girl. Fresh off his appearance in the hit series Your Honor, Benjamin Flores Jr also provides solid work as Josh. The script gives Josh a strong arc and avoids turning the character into an annoying little brother. The remaining trio of Julia Rehwald, Fred Hechinger, and Oliva Scott Welch, who make our lead characters are all-good.
Leigh Janiak’s direction keeps the film fast and avoids turning Fear Street Part One: 1994 into a run-of-the-mill slasher flick. Instead, there is a concrete story here, and while there is a decent-sized body count and some gory kills, Janiak spreads them out. I also liked the cliffhanger ending the film has. So, when the credits rolled on Fear Street Part One: 1994, I was ready to watch Part 2.
Fear Street Part One: 1994 does not break any new ground in the horror genre; however, it is a solid start to a promising trilogy. With solid performances from its cast and an impressive direction from Leigh Janiak, I anxiously await Parts 2 and 3.
Final Grade: B
Fear Street Part One: 1994 is available to stream on NETFLIX tomorrow, July 2nd. Parts 2 and 3 will arrive on July 9th and July 16th.