Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021) - Horror Film Review

The joys of being mostly up to date with my blog means I get the pleasure of choosing which films to watch for review for a time, rather than going entirely by what I have been sent. I was intrigued by the Leigh Janiak directed Fear Street for a couple of reasons. First, it was based on a series of horror books for young adults that was created and written by R.L Stine. I was a Point Horror fan myself growing up but I was interested to see what a film adaptation of this series would be like. Secondly, Fear Street appears as a trilogy of interconnected films released over the course of just three weeks. Each film in the series rather than proceed forward in time actually goes in the reverse. Starting with Fear Street Part One: 1994 you then get Fear Street Part Two: 1978 and Fear Street Part Three: 1666

This takes place in the fictional American town of Shadyside, a town with a dark history. There has been a bizarrely high number of massacres throughout the town's history, the latest one taking place at a mall by a guy wearing a skeleton mask (this part serves as the film's prologue). Deena (Kiana Madeira - The Night Before Halloween) has gone to the nearby affluent town of Sunnyside in order to attend a school vigil for the victims of the mall massacre, though the real reason is to have a face to face with her ex-girlfriend Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) who moved to the town not long after they broke up. An accident occurs on Deena's way home which results in a car Sam is a passenger in crashing in some woods. After bleeding onto some bones near the crash site, Sam sees visions of a witch from Shadyside's distant past. This results in the perpetrators of previous massacres from the town's dark history somehow coming back to life with the goal of killing Sam. Deena, along with her best friends, Kate (Julia Rehwald) and Simon (Fred Hechinger), as well as her younger brother, Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) must find a way both to protect Sam, as well as find a way to end the curse she seems to have gotten caught up in.

While I don't know exactly how much of this was based on actual Fear Street books it did give me a vibe of a more adult orientated Goosebumps. Both based on books by R.L Stine and both featuring monsters magically brought to life and hunting the main cast. While based on young adult horror series this has an 18 rating, frequent swearing and some joyously bloody deaths, such as the highlight of 'death by bread slicer'. The main adversaries here are made up of the skeleton masked killer from the prologue, as well as a Jason Vorhees style hulking axe wielding maniac and a razor blade toting suicide victim. The fact that they are invincible lessoned their impact on the movie. They were a constant threat throughout yet they always seemed easily escapable even if in an It Follows fashion they were able to relentlessly pursue their prey wherever they went. There was a body count but it wasn't evenly paced, there were fits and bursts of massacres but then nearly the entirety of the second act there wasn't a single death. As fun as the third act kills were, they came in such quick succession that you didn't really have time to appreciate them.

I have to say I am interested to see how the future films deal with the story. This ends with an unresolved plot and the words 'to be continued' on the screen, but by going back in time I don't see how this can be satisfactorily achieved. Maybe the next films in the series will occur as a flashback from modern day (well, from 1994 at least), something that seems possible from this film's epilogue that appears to suggest just that. What was cool was the history of the town that gets drip fed, mainly thanks to Josh who is an expert on that aspect. While a lot of past massacres are referenced there is a lot given about 1978 and 1666 in particular, going back in time to shed light on the present should be neat. The story here isn't anything majorly original. There are moments where it seems everything is resolved before the horror comes back tenfold which is a staple of the genre nowadays, there are moments that are direct homages to slasher films, such as the prologue that brought to mind Scream for instance. The 90s setting looked decent enough, a whole host of music from the time period is used, NIN, Garbage, Radiohead etc, the typical music you would expect, but its my favourite decade for music so I didn't mind, even when some music used in the film wouldn't have even yet existed in 1994.

I thought the main cast were all pretty decent, I found them likeable on the whole, and the early twist of Deena being gay was a nice touch. These characters never felt like they were from the decade they were meant to be from however, they felt like modern day characters in a past setting. Being a horror there are moments that are a bit unbelievable, such as romance scenes that take place at inappropriate times. Fear Street never takes itself too seriously with plenty of wise cracking, especially with Simon whose lines occasionally got laughs from me. I found it amusing for instance when he is talking about being attacked by the suicide victim killer he can't help but keep making references to the unimportant detail of how hot he thought she was. The antagonists were fine but they didn't leave much impact, especially when they were just puppets being controlled by a greater foe who didn't really appear at all.

Fear Street Part One: 1994 was a fun horror with some nice moments of bloody violence. I do think that how successful it will eventually end up being will depend a lot on the sequels, this feels like something that really needs to be watched as a trilogy, the very short windows between releases confirms this is intended to be viewed closely together. 


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