Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021)

I was born a bit too late for R.L. Stein, sadly. His Goosebumps books were a big deal with my wife, as are the Fear Street books. Written for older teens, these take place in the city of Shadyside, a place cursed by the Fier family. Unlike Goosebumps, these books were packed with more scares and plenty of violence.

There was an attempt to make a series out of the stories way back in 1997 with Ghosts of Fear Street, which aired on ABC Television on July 31 of 1998. Several years later and the books have finally become a series of movies.

Spoiler mode on if you haven’t seen this yet…

The film takes a page out of Scream by starting off with the death of its most well-known actor, Maya Hawke, who plays Heather, a B. Dalton’s employee who is killed by her Spencer’s employee friend Ryan with no warning as they close the mall. I really enjoyed this open, particularly the fact that every single one of the chains in it were dead stores. This isn’t a mall for the sake of a mall; this truly captures what it was like to close a store when the rest of the world is living a life outside your retail life.

Her death is just another massacre for Shadyside, Ohio, the murder capital of the United States. And yet, right across the tracks lies Sunnyvale, one of the richest and safest cities in the country. Nearly every teen in Shadyside has grown up believing that Sarah Fier placed a curse on their town before being executed for witchcraft in the incredibly foreboding year of 1666.

Our heroine is Deena Johnson (Kiana Madeira) and her life is in shambles. She’s pretty much raising a brother named Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) who lives in chat rooms. Her two best friends Simon (Fred Hechinger) and Kate (Julia Rehwald) make a living selling drugs and her closeted girlfriend Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) has left her behind in the move to Sunnydale.

At a vigil for the latest massacre, Deena and Sam reconnect just in time for a riot to cause an accident that sends her car into the grave of Sarah Fier, touching her bones and bringing the witch and every killer she has inspired after her, demanding to taste her blood.

Director Leigh Janiak made Honeymoon and some episodes of the series OutcastPanic and Scream: The TV Series, but this film points to her as being a director to watch. She also worked on the script along with Kyle Killen (The Beaver) and Phil Graziadei (who wrote Honeymoon).

I was pretty impressed with the intensity of this film, which I did not expect, much less its casual attitude toward drugs and how matter of fact the love story not being straight is. In short, this whole movie was a pleasant surprise for me, particularly how much you care for its characters, which makes the outright massacre of several of them to actually be quite shocking. If you liked Intruder, well, it seems like the makers of this movie did as well.

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 and Fear Street Part Three: 1666 will follow this month and I’ll be there for both of them.

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