Netflix’s Fear Street Part 1: An Interesting Storyline Wasted on Bland Characters
After the success of Stranger Things, Netflix has taken up ‘Fear Street’ as their next teen horror movie project. Fear Street Part 1: 1994 is the first movie of a trilogy.
Being a major R.L. Stine, Goosebumps, and Fear Street fan, I had a lot of expectations from this movie but it fails to live up to them on multiple levels.
Set in a small town, Shadyside (not subtle with this name at all), the very first scene of the movie introduces a skeleton mask killer who resembles Ghost Face from Scream (1996), a legendary horror movie franchise. The killer brutally murders people working late at the Shadyside Mall.
Turns out that the mall massacre was only a part of many serial killings that have occurred over the years in Shadyside. It is shown that normal people in this town often turn into brutal serial killers because a witch Sarah Frier had cursed Shadyside before she was burned during a witch trail. This story set up and the mall scene, were iconic and took me back to the 90s but unfortunately, that’s where the fun ended for me.
We then meet the main characters Deena, Sam, Josh, Kathy, and Simon. Deena is shown as a tough girl, mourning over her lost love Sam. Sam is a naive and sheltered girl who seems to be struggling with her bisexual identity. She moves to Sunnyvale, a richer and safer rival town to Shadyside.
Josh, Deena’s younger brother, fits into the horror nerd stereotype who has a literal murder board, noting all the massacres that happened in Shadyside. He has a crush on Kathy, a driven young woman who along with Simon sells prescription drugs for easy money.
To be honest, these characters disappointed me, they were clearly not from the 90s their mannerisms belong to 2021. There is no harmony between the 90s setting and these characters. In a horror movie, it is important for the audience to empathize with the characters and to care for them.
When it is revealed that all the past killers of Shadyside have been revived and are after Sam and her group of friends, I honestly tried hard to care for her. Sam was super bland, I did not know why I was supposed to root for her. The only characters who I managed to like were Kathy and Simon but they were killed off, leaving us with an irritating Deena carrying the story forward.
Josh’s nerdy character could have been done better, he was very underconfident and lacked passion for his town’s history even though he does all the research. He seemed to be fixated on kissing Kathy rather than finding solutions and fighting the killers.
This movie borrows heavily from R.L. Stine’s Fear Street book series but fails to maintain the source material’s nostalgic elements. It fails to feature the innocent, relatable, and fun characters these books have. Nickelodeon’s Are you afraid of the dark reboots are far better than a movie that’s trying too hard to be ‘woke’ by adding nudity, and overly sexual lesbian characters.
The storyline of this movie was strong and somehow manages to compensate for the bland characters. The main characters have limited resources yet they have to go up against, revived serial killers. They try to shoot them and blow them up but these killers rise up from the dead again and again. The strong villains and the smartness of the characters in finding loopholes make it an even match between the two. We are fooled into thinking that Deena had won, but just like in every R.L. Stine novel there is a big twist at the end.
All in all, if you are looking for a one-time watch, Fear Street 1: 1994 can be a good movie for you. Its impeccable visuals and plot will leave you curious enough to check out the next 2 parts. If you want the real 90s horror vibe, watch the Goosebumps Movie Series (2015 and 2018) or the Are You Afraid of the Dark Reboot (2020 and 2021) instead of this!