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Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021)

Based on the Fear Street book series by R.L. Stine, Leigh Janiak’s trilogy opener Fear Street Part One: 1994 stars Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Julia Rehwald, Fred Hechinger, Ashley Zukerman, Darrell Britt-Gibson and Maya Hawke.

The film is clearly a homage to 1990’s horror with clear nods to likes of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer among others, but is being a homage enough? No it is not, but Janiak is aware of this fact and is able to build upon Stine’s groundwork and build an impressive backdrop upon the forever duelling towns of Shadyside – poor, violent, dangerous, murder capital and Sunnyvale – one of America’s richest and safest cities; it is this town rivalry that becomes the central nervous system of the entire trilogy with a large number of Shadyside teenagers believing that this town is cursed as a result of the witch, Sarah Fier, who placed a curse on the town before being executed for witchcraft in 1666.

The film opens in a manner that fans of Wes Craven‘s Scream may recognise (with purposely recreated camera angles and actions). Maya Hawke is Heather Watkins, a bookstore employee. It was nice to see the bookstore shelves are filled with Fear Street books with the author listed as “Robert Lawrence”. This is what the “R.L.” in R.L. Stine’s name stand for. Like Scream, poor Heather is quickly murdered by her possessed(?) friend Ryan (David W. Thompson). Poor Ryan had no previous indications of being a psychopathic murderer but makes up for this by going on a killing spree across the mall. He is later shot dead by Police. The media report the massacre and note that this is normal for the people of Shadyside as it is “the murder capital of the United States.”

Next up we meet the newly single Deena Johnson (Madeira). Deena’s closeted girlfriend Sam (Welch) split with her and moved from Shadyside to Sunnyvale and Deena is angry about it. Even more so now that Sam has a textbook movie Jock boyfriend named Peter (Jeremy Ford). Deena’s brother Josh (Flores Jr.) spends most of his time on the internet researching the town’s history though Deena makes it clear she does not believe in the Sarah Fier curse; she spends her time with her drug dealing friends Simon (Hechinger) and Kate (Rehwald).

A vigil is held for those who were killed in the mall killings, but a brawl erupts between Shadyside and Sunnyvale students. In an act of retaliation Deena causes a car crash that injures Sam. Sam has a vision of Sarah Fier before being rushed off to hospital. The following evening Deena and her Scooby gang are being stalked! They believe it to be Peter so go to visit Sam at the hospital but soon Peter and a whole host of others are murdered by killers from Shadyside’s past!

Just why they are doing it is soon revealed – how to stop them is not!

Verdict: 7/10. A solid start for the trilogy. As far a horror goes you will have seen scarier, but Fear Street is more about solving the mystery. In Part 1 you have been given a bunch of jigsaw pieces – you just don’t know what the picture on the box looks like yet and you may not even have all the pieces. I recommend going back and watching Part 1 after you have finished the trilogy and you will appreciate it more the second time!

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