FEAR STREET PART ONE: 1994 Review - Queer Horror For A New Generation

In their 4.5 Bloody Knife review, E.L. King calls Fear Street Part One: 1994 a refreshing and nostalgic 90s era Slasher they loved so much they screened it twice within a day of it's release on Netflix.

Like every other rabid R.L. Stine fan, the Fear Street novels popular when in our formative teen years had us eagerly awaiting the arrival of Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021) on Netflix. In the early hours of the morning on July 2nd, we sat down with our snacks at the ready to settle for a screening of the first installment of the Fear Street Trilogy. We went in without any expectations, but an assumption that based on the trailer, this was going to be right up our alley, so we live tweeted the experience.

What we got was a refreshing and nostalgic 90s Slasher and a queer horror triumph the likes of which we'd never seen before. No one buried our queers! We enjoyed our viewing so much, we screened it again before sitting down to pen this review. As the first installment in the Fear Street Trilogy, 1994 introduces us to the town of Shadyside and it's dark history of blood-soaked massacres that all started with a witch named Sarah Fier in 1666. At least, that is what the townspeople have been led to believe including precocious younger brother, Josh Johnson (Benjamin Flores Jr.), "witch nerd" extraordinaire and conspiracy theorist, but we'll get back to him later.

The film opens at the Shadyside mall where we meet B. Dalton's bookstore clerk Heather Watkins (Maya Hawke, Stranger Things) selling a copy of R. L. Stine's 'Fear Street: The Wrong Number' to somebody's uppity stepmother. B. Dalton's was in fact a real bookseller established in 1966 that announced it's liquidation in 2009 around the time physical books and media purchases were declining. The fact that the film paid attention to these details really helped with our immersion. The nostalgia kicked in hard for us as the mall begins to close to the soothing sounds of 'Closer' by Nine Inch Nails. It was in this moment I was fully transported back to the early 1990s. Heather runs into buddy and fellow mallrat Ryan (David Thompson, Panic) who I can only assume is the clerk at a Spencer Gifts; those were wildly popular in malls at the time. The two arrange to ride home together before parting ways to finish closing up shop.

Spoiler alert! If you see a fly, consider it a significant moment to pay attention to. I caught on to the flies in this film from the moment they were introduced. The neon horror opener mirrors the famous opening sequence of Wes Craven's Scream (1996). Heather and her fellow mallrats become another tragic Shadyside headline before the opening credits roll with a full display of the Shadyside's sorted history of local massacres. It's a quick history lesson about Shadyside and neighboring Sunnyvale, so pay attention.

Memories of angst ridden teen years growing up in the 90s continued to wash over us as 'Only Happy When It Rains' by Garbage played while being introduced to main protagonist Deena Johnson (Kiana Madeira, Trinkets) writing a break up note to her ex-girlfriend Samantha Fraser (Olivia Scott Welch, Panic). Director Leigh Janiak, who also directed the body horror film Honeymoon (2014), doesn't give away the big queer horror reveal just yet. We meet Sam at a candlelight vigil in Sunnyvale, but we knew instantly that Deena was queer and that Sam was not a male love interest. Call it our fellow gay intuition! Every beat of the film from that point on focuses on their love story, circumventing what we queers and horror fans have become accustomed to in horror films. We're used to our underrepresented gays dying very quickly, not having compelling storylines or being tokenized.

"When this is all over, I am gonna take you on a date. We're gonna eat cheeseburgers and listen to The Pixies and make out and have the best night of our god damn lives."

Fast forward to the characters discovering Sam is cursed and they are all in deep trouble as Deena's younger brother Josh, an apparent true crime addict explains that the slayings all over town by the Skull Mask Killer are linked to the hanging of Sarah Fier for witchcraft in 1666. This includes the massacre at Camp Nightwing in 1978 which introduces the character of another central character C. Berman. Her story unfolds in the second installment of the Fear Street Trilogy on July 9, 2021.

The story of Sarah Fier is this, "She reaches from beyond the grave to make good men her wicked slaves. She'll take your blood, she'll take your head, she'll follow you until you're dead." It's up to this Goonies-esque band of misfits or Fear Street's very own Losers Club to figure out how to break the curse, save Sam and themselves. The group looks to Josh to help come up with a plan to stop Fier's henchmen. The showdown culminates at the local supermarket where the final survival plan unfolds.

"How do we not die? I'm looking at you, witch nerd!"

Fear Street Part One: 1994 has it all from thrilling blood-soaked kills and legitimately surprising twists, to a really compelling backstory. This film was the most fun we've had on Netflix since the release of Stranger Things (2016) and The Haunting of Hill House (2018), so the promise and expectations in store for the next installment are high. The film stars Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Julia Rehwald as Kate, Fred Hechinger as Simon and Ashley Zukerman as Sheriff Nick Goode.

The film definitely draws on several staples of the horror genre. We see that inspiration from its characters to its tropes. We were able to spot quite a few of these inspirations including Scream (1996) in the opening sequence, the Skull Mask Killer stalking his prey like Michael Myers in Halloween (1978) and the Camp Nightwing killer is a ringer for the true crime inspired killer from The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976).

With the trailer being teased at the end of the first installment for Fear Street Part Two: 1978 (2021), it's clear that the second installment pulls inspiration from Friday the 13th (1980) with Camp Nightwing looking an awful lot like Camp Crystal Lake. We're in store for an 80s era Slasher and can't wait!

Now playing on Netflix.


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