I’ll be honest, when I first saw the trailer for Fear Street, I was less than optimistic. As a child of the ’90s with an insatiable appetite for books, I loved Goosebumps (and its unspeakably cheesy TV adaptation) growing up, but the prospect of getting a new adaptation of R.L. Stine’s work wasn’t something that filled me with too much enthusiasm. Maybe it stems from an outdated 20 year old view of the author’s work as unsuitable for screen adaptations – the aforementioned series was iconic, but has not aged at all well, and the more recent Goosebumps movies left a lot to be desired – but I just couldn’t bring myself to be overly excited about Fear Street.
What I incorrectly assumed would be a clichéd mess of cheesy dialogue actually turned out to be a gloriously clichéd piece of horror with moments of unabashed cheesiness. My estimations proved to be somewhat correct, but honestly, the film itself, the first in Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy, is far, far better realised than I’d ever have imagined.
Its sleek visuals were mesmerising from the beginning, with the opening after-hours mall scene a neon-soaked nightmare, and the film’s overall presentation was consistently solid throughout.
Fear Street Part One combines slasher movie staples with supernatural elements, all told against the backdrop of a haunted town (very much in line with Stine’s book series). It’s all done with such conviction that the film’s more predictable moments (and yes, there are many) are played off almost light-heartedly, and despite the mortal peril and excessive gore, Fear Street still feels something like a family adventure.
(Side note: please don’t watch this film with small children. I’m talking about its atmosphere, it is in no way appropriate family viewing, and I refuse to be held responsible for the ensuing nightmares and wet sheets.)
The film’s 1994 backdrop offers some small nostalgia, although it’s a recent enough setting as to not encumber the film in any way. Its characters feel modern – as does Fear Street‘s general approach to its storytelling – and there’s never a point where it’s ’90s setting felt like a crutch used to cash in on nostalgia.
Honestly, I thought the film’s plot was very good, setting up an over-arcing narrative that will (presumably) be followed throughout the trilogy, with an ending that begs questions in the vein of the now-standard MCU mid-credits sequence.
While I enjoyed the general plot and the characters, I was able to poke one or two glaring holes in the story, which did ruin the immersion a little, but Fear Street has this vague tongue-in-cheek quality that dissuades you from taking it overly seriously – and while that might sound like a criticism, it actually works tremendously in the film’s favour.
Part One was a solid start to what I’m hoping will be an exciting trilogy, and it genuinely caught me off guard with it’s excellent presentation and well-written concept.
Summary: A disarmingly good spin on the young-adult horror genre, Fear Street borrows heavily from both traditional slasher flicks and Stranger Things, making for a visually satisfying and narratively engaging start to the trilogy.
Highlight: Hearing my favourite Pixies song playing over the bittersweet, fake-out, not-quite-the-actual ending – atmospherically, it worked brilliantly.
*SPOILER ALERT* Alternatively, seeing a main character be gradually pushed through a bread slicer was unexpected and gloriously digusting, and elicited a genuine laugh from me (I’m not a sociopath, honestly).