Fear Street Part One: 1994

Where to start with this one? Let’s see… I presume one target audience for this is people who loved things like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, back in the 1990s. I can’t speak directly to that because… I never saw them. Yep, at the ripe old age of 21 and 22 respectively, I saw films like that coming out and thought, yeah, I left my teenage years behind some time back, and I never bothered with them. Of course, as a younger person, I grew up with things like Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street, so I do get the whole thriller/slasher/comedy sort of vibe to films like this. I’m not a luddite, dear reader. And so, at age 46, I turned off the lights and settled down to “a young person movie”.

Oh! Another thing I knew before going in was that this was a script written by some guys… based on a story by some other guys… based on the writings of RL Stine. Now, this guy I actually knew from some Indiana Jones ‘Find Your Fate’ novels when I was a kid, as well as some other other books. I know he was also well-known for the Goosebumps series, but that was kicking off around the time I was leaving high school and going to university, so it wasn’t really “for me”. What I didn’t know, until I looked up his Wikipedia entry, was just how many other books Stine has written. There’s over 50 in the Fear Street series alone. Colour me gobsmacked. I really had no idea any of this existed at all.

Anyway… onto the show, and the first thing you notice is the (over) use of 1990s music in the first 20 minutes, or so. A scene will begin and some appropriate 90s hit will start, then fade out 10-20 seconds later. But don’t worry, some new scene will start anytime now, and a whole new 90s tune will start banging away. Over and over. I was starting to get a bit, “OK, this is the 90s, I get it… I was there… can we move on?” I guess it’s a bit thrilling to younger folk who weren’t even born in the decade, to hear all this great music. And it is genuinely a good soundtrack, although I have to comment that Only Happy When It Rains is a 1995 track, not that anyone but a geeky Garbage fan would realise. Fortunately, although the music motif exists throughout the movie, it dials it back a lot once the action starts.

Speaking of action, the premise that ‘a witch’ possesses people to cause murder and mayhem doesn’t feel ground-breaking at first and I spent the first 45 minutes or so recalibrating my brain to this style of movie, but once all the usual tropes start kicking in, and the black humour, and everything you’d expect from a film like this, it actually becomes compelling, ‘what’s gonna happen next?’ viewing.

Here’s the par where I sound like a prude, but I was surprised at the level of profanity in the film. The script feels only a tick or two above where I’d expect teenage books from the late 80s and 90s to be pitching (not that I ever read them), so when characters come out with a mouthful better suited to a Tarantino film, I was sometimes a little shocked. Am I watching a scary teen film (and by that, I’m thinking of younger teens), or something more? I guess more?! I was slightly discombobulated.

By the end of the movie, I was really happy with the cast and their performances and genuinely cared when some of them had to go the way of all slasher film teenagers. What was confusing me, however, was the knowledge that the next two films in the series are set in 1978 and 1666. How was this going to work? We’ve just been introduced to some cool characters in 1994, and now we’re going back to an era when they weren’t even alive. Are we going to time travel? Or will we just forget them and see other adventures in the same universe? I think I know how they will do it; I presume the next movie has the 1994 characters in it, but we’ll be flashing back to 1978 as they uncover more pieces of the puzzle at hand. I’m quite looking forward to that. Indeed, the 1978 film looks like it could be a bit of a Friday the 13th homage, with a summer camp and all the trappings. Hope there’s some 70s music!

So there it is; I watched a young person movie and survived. This probably isn’t for everyone. It’s trope-laden, knowing, black humour, violent, sweary, and pretty teenage. But it was also quite fun and compelling to watch, presumably if you’re in the right mood. And last night I was. This was fun.

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