Dir. Leigh Janiak
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
Throughout the history of horror there is and will continue to be a legacy of icons that have held the weight of the genre on their shoulders. FRIDAY THE 13TH, HALLOWEEN, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, all have great starters and a mixed bag of sequels, remakes and restarts that question their longevity but one constant that they (mostly) all have is that they are fun. FEAR STREET looks to continue that trend and is already committed to a trilogy focussed over 3 time periods, the first of which in 1994.
Opening in a shopping mall, (is there any more iconic scenario to place a film in the 90’s) there is no lengthy wait to see where FEAR STREET is grabbing its inspiration from and we love it. After a masked killer stalks a mall after ours, he is quickly apprehended by an officer who puts a bullet straight through his head. It soon becomes apparent this isn’t the first time the town of Shadyside has been the victim of a massacre, in fact the town has had recurring nights of violence ever since the death of a witch in 1666 and a curse has taken over the town over since.
In 1994, a group of teens must do whatever they can to survive the night against the latest troublesome killer to hit the streets of Shadyside. The motley crew of victims teens see Deena (Kiana Madeira) and Sam (Olivia Scott Welch), Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.), Kate (Julia Rehwald) and Simon (Fred Hechinger) take on the killer in a cat and mouse survival that has bought us plenty of joy, and squirms, in the slasher genre before.
All of the leads really hold their own and even when the script takes away from the horror, the band of outcasts feel akin to the likes of URBAN LEGEND and THE FACULTY and yet always natural. Every heartbeat and tongue in cheek joke lands and the chemistry is real.
Directed by Leigh Janiak (if that name sounds familiar that’s because she directed the brilliant HONEYMOON and subsequently the SCREAM, OUTCAST and PANIC TV series) FEAR STREET ticks all the boxes to the openings of a fantastic series that blends slasher movie with witchcraft to great effect. While FEAR STREET is based on the R.L. Stine young adult novels, the film earns its 18 rating despite feeling much like a teen drama (think THE CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA meets FRIDAY THE 13TH) in what is the most fun we’ve had with a slasher film since SCREAM. Janiak has captured the essence of the 90s perfectly (there may be a few questions as to how some songs post ’94 hit the soundtrack but we’ll say they were early demos 😉). From the high school setting to the blistering soundtrack, FEAR STREET feels like a lost classic from the golden age of horror and doesn’t make it subtle.
So, put down that Sony walkman, grab a bowl of popcorn, take the phone off the hook and grab those cushions as we have a bonifide classic horror that will be to those born after 2000 what SCREAM, FRIDAY THE 13th and HALLOWEEN did to generations before. A high bar set for sequels; 1978 and 1666.