Turn onto Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021) for Teen Horror Goodness
Updated: Dec 26, 2021
Title: Fear Street Part One: 1994
First Wide Release: July 2, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Leigh Janiak
Writer: R.L. Stine, Kyle Killen, Phil Graziadei
Runtime: 97 Minutes
Starring: Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Deena (Kiana Madeira) lives in Shadyside, a town where everything sucks and no one gets out. She recently broke up with her girlfriend Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) after finding out that she moved to Sunnyvale, the rich and prosperous suburb next door. Soon their teen angst will be interrupted by the news that another group of Shadysiders were killed by another Shadywside maniac. Deena, Sam, and their friends eventually learn the hard truth about their hometown and the curse that dooms their friends and neighbors to poverty or murder, and that they are set to be the latest victims of the next killer.
A kickass start to a sharp new franchise, Fear Street Part One: 1994 slices up 90s slasher realness.
Kiana Madeira is front and center as the driving beat of the film. Not only does she play her part well but Madeira is tasked with making Deena the ultimate final girl in the franchise, which is a hard burden to bare. This coupled with many viewing the writing of Deena’s character as being possessive and abusive, it makes her efforts even more commendable to overcome that. Furthermore, I don’t agree with that criticism of Deena. Her actions aren’t noble by any means, but they fall inside the realm of typical heartbroken teenager. I say this even if Deena’s character was changed to male, her behavior would still feel authentic and not worthy of more than a reality check here or there.
Julia Rehwald, Benjamin Flores Jr, and Fred Hechinger bring Cate, Josh, and Simon to life and do the same to the film. They are more magnetic and interesting than the leads and helped shape the first part of the series and serve as an emotional foundation for the carnage to come. Thankfully, even though they all don’t make it, they still pop up throughout the series in little ways. In addition to these great protagonists, the personalities of the resurrected killers shine through the never-ending umbrage of Shadyside. Thankfully this isn’t the last we see of them, but I’m very hopeful that some of their stories are told in subsequent Fear Street films.
While it never gets too deep, Fear Street Part One: 1994 does explore some underlying themes of division while delivering its young adult horror. We start off with a pitch-perfect opener and effective world building as we learn more about the current climate of Shadyside. There are multiple instances of class and racial division throughout the film with sprinkles of homophobia added for good measure. The privileged elite of Sunnyvale are disliked by the downtrodden teens of Shadyside. It’s never really dived in too deeply because the events of the film happen so quickly, but it’s important to note.
Even if you forget its fun characters or compelling story, Fear Street Part One: 1994 is a well-constructed film period. From neon-soaked visuals to inspired camerawork that puts the viewer right into the action, the visuals are an absolute treat. Speaking of treats, for those who are more sentimental, there are plenty of great needle drops with familiar 90s tracks to remind the viewer of when this all takes place. Another criticism the film faces for dropping a song a minute that others may find distracting didn’t bother me too much. It must be because I was born after the film takes place, so it doesn’t feel as pandering. Even pacing, great effects, surprisingly effective gore, and high stakes make this a great slasher overall.
The first entry of this trilogy is not without its issues of course. I am not a fan of Olivia Scott Welch’s performance of Sam. Her character never gets defined well and her acting doesn’t really do Sam any favors or the chemistry between her and Madeira. The editing gets a bit rough. Some cuts and scene transitions are bad enough to take me out of the experience. I also feel that it would make more sense to set it in present day, but in the end that’s fine with me.
Truthfully, these are most of my concerns with the film. It’s not flawless nor is it for everyone but Fear Street Part One: 1994 is an exceptionally well-made slasher that hopefully solidifies studio confidence in the wide appeal this type of film has along with other recent slashers of course i.e., Freaky, Happy Death Day, and The Babysitter. It’s Goosebumps meets Scream, what’s not to love?
Fear Street Part One: 1994 is a fun and nasty slasher that offers up unabashed teen horror palatable for even the most jaded adult horror fan. I love a good slasher flick and I greatly enjoyed the Goosebumps vibe of this R.L. Stine adaptation. Not only does it actively engage the viewer with winks and nods to horror goodies throughout history without sacrificing its identity, but it does this while still offering up some truly frightening moments and tense scenes. The first in the Fear Street trilogy, I am excited to see what’s next and recommend that you get on it as soon as possible.
Overall Score? 7.5/10